Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Confessions of an Antinatalist- Excerpt

Well, it seems we've reached that point. The book is in its final editing stages, and so I guess it's sample offering time. Thanks to those who've shown interest for your patience, as well as for your support. I'll probably do a couple read-alouds on my YouTube channel as well, if I get a chance. And of course, many thanks to Chip Smith for for instigating all this, and for seeing it through to fruition. On with the show...

At one time or another I suppose we all get sucked into the
argument over whether TRUE altruism exists. Well, I’m not so
innocent as to believe in unadulterated selflessness. But neither
am I so cynical as to suspect every motivation behind apparently
genuine munificence.

Here’s the way I see it. In the beginning, all of us are like
tightly wound balls of string (I’m speaking of consciousness
here; or maybe awareness is a better word, with the emphasis
on ‘self’ awareness). In the physical sense, we’re just as much a
part of the larger environment surrounding us as we’ll ever be.
But our perceptive pointers are all turned inward, and everything is about us. Actually, everything IS us! The summer sun is the heat of our skin. The bottle of milk is the feeling of a full stomach; and so on.

Time proceeds. Slowly the little ball of string, jostled and
batted about by the everchanging flux of circumstance, begins
to unravel. Tendrils of perception wander outwards, reconnoitering and telegraphing their discoveries back down the threads via diverse sensory pathways, altering the patterns at the core. Evoking responses. Years go by, and eventually our psychic‘selves’ become more or less tangled up in the larger world. A subtle shift has occurred. Where once the whole world existed in a ball of string, now the ball of string has become the whole world! This entanglement, especially as it pertains to other lives, is my metaphoric description of what has otherwise come to be understood as ‘empathy’ or ‘compassion.’ Or even pity, if you prefer.

I should emphasize that what I’ve described here are the
polar extremes of a situation. Ultimately, all of us are both ball
and entanglement. Selfishness, and selflessness. Desire, and
generosity. Lust, and abandonment. The degree to which we
are one or the other (an imprecise dichotomy, I’ll grant, as we
are always both), is determined by the initial state of the ball
of string, as well as by the subsequent impact of the greater
environment upon it. Put another way, the limits to which we
psychologically extend ourselves to include others mark the parameters of our empathetic selves, the capacity of which varies from person to person. I suspect this process continues somewhat farther down the food chain of the lesser sentient creation, though perhaps it’s not so easily recognizable.

We care, or we don’t care. We put out feelers and move forward,
or draw back. And there is conflict. Between ourselves.
Within ourselves. Yet somehow, out of this morass of fallible
and vacillating emotional states, there has emerged what I like
to think of as a universal humanistic sensibility. An internalized
set of values spanning time and cultural boundaries. A substratum of shared feeling informing our laws and customs, and lifting us above a purely mechanical utilitarianism. Some may choose to label this phenomenon a ‘moral compass,’ though the term ‘morality’ is fraught with so much dogmatic hairsplitting that I’m loath to employ it. Be that as it may, it all comes down to what we think, or perhaps more the point, what we feel, about what’s right as opposed to what’s wrong.

Concerning that last bit, I tend to believe we’re a lot closer
to each other than we often let on. I also hope to demonstrate that most of us, each deep in his/her heart of hearts, knows that bringing new life into the world is wrong.

So very wrong.

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