Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Thanks, Axlotl Tanks

Over at TheViewFromHell, Curator has posted a story about an Italian woman, Eluana Englaro, who's been in a vegetative state for 17 years following a car accident. Her father would like to pull the plug, but after CONSULTING WITH THE VATICAN, the prime minister of that country has seen fit to disallow Eluana's right to die through removal of her artificial feeding apparatus. Here's some of the 'reasoning' behind his decision...

"Justifying his campaign to save Englaro's life, the prime minister added that, physically at least, she was "in the condition to have babies...".

Reading this got me to thinking about the technological side of the transhumanist movement, and about the fact that, while biotechnology seems to be advancing by leaps and bounds, the same can't necessarily be said regarding the moral state of the human animal, by whose hands this technology will be wielded. To tell you the truth, the idea that the state might one day have the ability to prolong my life indefinitely, and against my will, scares the bejesus out of me. And now there's this new little sci-fi twist to add to my nightmares.

I'm terribly afraid that at some point in the not-so-distant future, a window of opportunity is going to close on humankind's chances for extinction; barring, of course, some cataclysmic event, like a comet slamming into the earth. Or a much better scenario- some kind of viral or other sort of natural intercession that renders men and/or women sterile. Or, each of us can simply choose not to play the game of dystopian risk with our progeny. And if all of us did THAT, then there'd be nothing to worry about at all, now would there?


Sister Y said...

Reading John Leslie's The End of the World made me feel a lot better about the prospects for extinction soon.

Reverend Keith said...

Actually, I don't think there's anything to worry about either way. What is, is. And what is, is just fine. The present moment is the supreme and inexhaustible mystery and the fountain of bliss - even in pain.

My, did I take my happy pills today or what?

Anonymous said...

Hiya, R.K., and welcome to my blog.

This is the very reason I've come to reject all forms of transcendence. I see transcendence as an effort to cope with the horrors of life through changing the meaning of both the dialogue, and the interpretation of personal experience.

Firstly, when everything is defined as 'bliss', the word itself becomes meaningless; but I'm not so concerned with the semantics problems as I am with the particular experience of certain 'present moments'...

Starvation is NOT bliss. Evisceration is NOT bliss. Clinical depression is NOT bliss.
Rape is NOT bliss (except, perhaps, to the rapist).
Disease is not bliss.

The closest thing I can think of that comes to bliss is death; but of course, there are those left behind to consider.

To see things otherwise requires us to distance ourselves psychologically from the pain of the world, as well as from the pain within ourselves; which is REALLY the point of transcendence in the first place- to escape pain through context shifting, or cultivated ignore-ance, or fantasies about future states where everything winds up ultimately reconciled at the positive side of the ledger.

Of course, for most people this is an impossible task. You wind up with, at best, suppression; and at worst, sociopathy. An example of a little of both: My ex is a fundamentalist christian, and believes both her children are headed for the eternal torture chambers of hell. When the kids ask her how she'll be happy in heaven knowing her daughters will suffer eternal torment, her reply is, "Oh, that's ok. God will wipe all that knowledge out of my mind."

When you say, "What is, is. And what is, is just fine", I hear my ex talking, the only difference being that you're talking present tense, while she's talking future. I, too, spent many years seeking out that kind of self-consoling state of mind. But I came to see it as just another facile cheat; a way to make myself feel better in the midst of a miserable existence. The world is NOT just fine, and redefining 'fine/not-fine' into one big 'FINE' just isn't going to work for me. There may indeed be fountains of bliss scattered about the landscape, though I've as yet only found a trickle or two here and there, but in-between there are vast expanses of desert littered with carcasses and dry bones...and even fountains eventually dry up.

Reverend Keith said...

Well, I'd distinguish between avoiding pain and avoiding suffering. Suffering is avoidable and pain is not. But it turns out most of what people run from is suffering, rather than pain. In fact, the more one DOES actually come face to face with reality - the less suffering there is. It's distancing ourselves from the simple facts of reality that causes the suffering.

Or so it seems most days.

Anonymous said...


I'd agree that suffering can increase through avoidance of the issue, as repression sets in. But in avoiding one's own suffering through maintaining these various aphoristic mindsets (life is good, everything is fine, etc.), the truth gets sacrificed for a pleasanter state of mind. The 'simple facts of reality', as you call them, are often uncaring and brutal, and they remain so no matter how well you or I may manage to anesthetize ourselves against their effects on our personal consciousnesses.

As someone with a negative utilitarian bent, I hold the general belief that happiness is usually best expressed as the lack of suffering, most of the time. I also believe that when you pare down a lot of mysticism, you arrive at the same place. I tend to stick with the definitions 'extinction' and/or 'blown out' (as a candle) as best representing the conceptual bedrock of the supposed 'state' of Nirvana. That said, I believe the unborn already exist in that state, and that the dead also exist in that state (or 'un'state, as you prefer), and that this thing called life is an unfortunate little misadventure; a case of the hiccups in the midst of cosmic bliss that I wouldn't wish on anybody. Thus, I am an antinatalist.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps I should have said 'value' of Nirvana...I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

"in the condition to have babies"... HOLY SHIT! What does _that_ have to do with anything? And what do they mean by it? Are they planning to make these bodies available to infertile couples?

Time for a suitable supernova...

Anonymous said...

Why do a lot of Italians have very smooth,plasticky looking skin?Not that I disapprove,just curious.