Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why is Suicide Wrong?

I'm not an advocate for suicide- other than species suicide perhaps, although I prefer to think of antinatalism as a proactive alternative to the need for suicide- but this morning's visit to The View From Hell has prompted me to do some Googling to find out why people believe that suicide is wrong. In my searching, I came across this tidy little list:

1.Suicide is FOREVER. You do not get to wake up. You do not get a second chance. You will not be able to say, "Wait, I want to stay." There is no turning back.

2.Think about the situation in grisly fact. Someone will have to find your body, and most likely it will be someone who loves and cares for you. They will bear this in their memory for the rest of their lives.

3.If you kill yourself at someone else’s hand, such as laying in front of a car or train or forcing a police officer to kill you, know that these people will bear the brunt of the emotional turmoil and will always wish that it could have been different.

4.There may be people standing on the sidelines, knowing that you are in pain and wishing that they could help you. These people will suffer forever in guilt, wondering if there was more they could have done or said to change your mind. They will blame themselves.

5.The repercussions go far beyond this. Friends or family members may grow so despondent that they, in turn, take their own lives.

6.Most newspapers will not even mention your name after death by suicide.

Here are my brief response:

1.Death is FOREVER. Everybody dies. There is no turning back, once you've been born.

2.Which speaks to the need of integrating suicide optionality into the cultural psyche in such a way that it becomes a viable, acceptable alternative. Irrational stigma is a HUGE factor here, and a little softening of societal denialism could work wonders in taking the edge off.

3.Ah, the old guilt trip rears its ugly head yet again. Remember, life was the burden foisted on the unfortunate chappy for the benefit of persons other than himself. Contrariwise, suicide is a gift he gives himself.

4.More guilting. On the other hand, an enlightened and sympathetic person might think "Wow, she's finally released from her pain. Though it hurts me to lose her, she is finally at peace. And, after all, I'm headed for the same destination in short order, one way or the other. God bless her!"

5.Yeesh! Guilt, upon guilt, upon guilt! I mean, really- at some point, you just have to say fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, don't you?

6.Is this a comment on social denialism reflected in the press, or are they merely pointing out that shortly after your death you're forgotten by almost everybody? If the former, then I'd say this simply reflects society's general immaturity when it comes to looking reality square in the face. If the latter, well...DUH! We are the future's dirt.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Parenthood- Reel Life vs. Real Life

The film 'Parenthood', a Steve Martin vehicle from 1989, has always seemed a case study for me about how people contrive to salvage overall positive value from negative situations. In this case (as in almost all cases when we're talking about the movies), the film maker sets up several conflictive scenarios within the framework of a fictional extended family. One brother feels pressured by having to maintain a job and lifestyle he loathes to support his children, with another on the way. At one point, he even quits his job, which threatens to bring down the whole house of cards. Another is on the verge of divorce because he and his spouse have different visions of how they should raise their offspring. Still a third brother is a flake on the run from creditors who ultimately runs off, abandoning his son to parents who basically hate each other. The fourth sibling, a sister, is raising a rebellious teenage daughter alone, and is having a very hard time of it.

Of course, since the film is ultimately nothing more than another blatant exercise in facile life affirmation, all conflicts are resolved in the last five minutes, and the film fades out with- ugh, this makes me cringe- more babies. Fade to black.

There's one particular scene near the end of the film, when everything seems like it's going to hell, that's particularly illustrative of the simplistic philosophical 'out' that almost everybody seems to crave in their disparate, desperate attempts to make real life fit their optimistic fantasies. It comes in the form of a little speech uttered by the aged matriarch of the family, and goes a little something like this...

Of course, the difference between a story about a roller coaster and real life is the difference between a 60 second up-and-down ride purposefully designed to imitate danger within the confines of numerous fail-safe mechanisms, and real life, where all bets are off and where too, too often 'downs' are just plain 'downs'.

For a more realistic take on things, let's posit a roller coaster built by an imbecile who never really had entertainment in mind, with rusty tracks and safety bars, where the wheels have the nasty habit of falling off unexpectedly, and a sizable portion of the riders die from heart attacks and brain aneurysms. A ride that people don't actually choose to go on, but rather find themselves inexplicably strapped into after waking from their naps, who soon realize that, even if they survive the shoddy manufacturing defects for a time, they're eventually going to crash headfirst into that brick wall that some idiot built at the end of the track. A thrill o' minute, indeed! Then of course, there's this...

Ah, the best laid tracks of mice and men, eh? I wonder, do you suppose there are some who might think twice before allowing their children on dangerous rides after this? And before you go getting cocky about merry-go-rounds, you might want to check this out

UPDATE: Wow, I just caught the last line on the tombstone there: 'One Day We Will Understand'. Yeah. Sure we will.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Antinatalism as a Dangerous Idea

I made a new video this morning, and have spent most of the rest of the day watching antinatalism material on YouTube, pro and con. Wow, the idea continues to slowly infiltrate public discourse; slowly, but (I'm hoping) surely. Not so surprisingly, the refutations are by and large empty rhetoric of the kind we're used to seeing. Lots of posturing on both sides, although I'll confess I don't mind the posturing if it's backed up with some salient argumentation. Gary's wonderful and devastating to his opposition (Consumption, Reprodution, Canabalism and it!), even though I'm aware that some are probably averse to his style. I love the guy, but then I have to admit I'm biased towards his side of the argument. But within the bluster he has a helluva lot of good things to say, and good points to make that nobody I've seen has refuted to any substantial degree.

Anyway, in my perusing I came across this fine, balanced take on the debate, and I thought I'd share it with you all here. I'm not aware of the guy's position on the subject, or even if he has one, but I thought he made a lot of sense. Plus there's no yelling :) Enjoy.

UPDATE: And even as we speak, a new voice has joined the chorus. Jeebus bless the youngsters!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gordian Not

For the transhumanists-

Lessons learned, and lessons lost-
neither can dispel the frost
accumulating on the pane
that looks in on this 'grieved quatrain.

The future is only logic and experience extended beyond the capacity for memory. Prediction is ridiculously easy in general terms: there will be oscillating periods of unraveling punctuated with oases of relative stability followed by calcification, fracturing, and the sound of broken glass. Magic touches are notoriously short-lived, frustratingly counter-productive, and while the pursuit of golden goose eggs is always temptingly close at hand, we often find ourselves dipping our heads into wells full of mirage water contaminated with reality. In other words, I wedged my hat down over my ears for eight hundred years, and when somebody finally managed to pull it off for me, what did I see?

A graveyard of flying cars in a desert of old, abandoned avenues.

Liposuction performed through easy access zippers with sharp teeth and very tight smiles.

Gluttonous bi-weekly reappraisals sweetened with almost universal lactate intolerance.

Shrines dedicated to Bostrom the Conqueror erected on endless plains of dragon guano.

And, of course, a reanimated Jack LaLanne towing five gross of corpulent corpses still in their berths for his 892nd birthday party.

Men in hats, running; the dream in anticipation
of the nightmare. A second sun swallowing yesterday’s

taciturn whimsies. No one looking, legs a blur on the treadmill
of prescience, without heroes or helmets big enough

to contain insecurity’s eruption. No standing up. No standing
down. Only a teeth chattering recollection of tidal pool

simplicity, and corporeality’s urge to return. The melt runs
far and deep, eating time, eating salvation, vomiting up itself

within itself, covering itself with thoughts of exceptions, and
redemptions, and little plans no larger than this. Transcendence

was never the motivation, always the excuse for patience. Men
die again. Others take their places while sunset beckons, unheeded.

I die, you die, we all die for the white lie! You know, a sleigh ride on a carpet of snow on Christmas eve, up on the mantle but tossed out on the 26th to make room for the bills and Aunt Sadie's urn (Wasn't it a shame? She had so much to live for!). Cordwood selling cordwood to cordwood, splinters being just the price of doing business, right? We learn our lessons and learn them well, eventually learning to ignore the smell. The cadaverous rot of fuels sequestered just below the surface, venting off the seepage to power the turbines of progress. But we need fucking gears, people, and THAT MEANS YOU! Have faith, and someday your leftover teeth will grind THRICE as long, and isn't THAT a comfort and recompense?

Entropy? We don't need no stinkin' entropy!

The Last Men

Icebound, savage,
waving tattered remnants of national identity,
hunkered in their bunkers,
monkey division army men
playing Anarchy by Milton Bradley
until somebody steals the dice,
then howling for the National Guard
when their compatriots aren’t looking.

Just imagine Gilligan’s Island
without the Professor.
Who’s first on the spit?
Or, with the last vestiges of
civilization left to them,
hand in hand,
walking into the lagoon,
the geographically misplaced chimps
and screaming pihas
bidding them a fond farewell.

Or a comet!
Maybe Robert Frost was wrong for the right reason.

Indulge me, it's been a long morning :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From 'The Philosopher's Magazine'

Something fairly recent from Dr. David Benatar, being basically a re-statement and fleshing out of his premise that all lives fall short of a good justification for having started them in the first place. It's well worth a read or three, and any commentary from me probably isn't really necessary. I WOULD like to offer the final paragraph, since it sort of encapsulates most of what we talk about here-

What does follow, I think, from the conclusion that life is not good, is that we should not create more of it. When we bring new people into existence we start more lives that are not good – and we necessarily do this without the permission of those who will live those lives. We have no duty to create new people and failing to create people can do no harm to those we fail to create. Not having children might make our own lives less good, but starting lives that are not good, merely for our own gratification, is unduly selfish.

On this blog, we sometimes practice a bit of mind coitus, like 'what if I were king of the world?' sort of stuff, and in doing so often get into rather controversial conversations. You know, the stuff that the press would immediately fasten onto if we ever got their attention-

"So, Mr. Metamorphhh, your goal is to either forcibly sterilize everybody in the world, or just blow the whole thing up? Can I quote you on that?"

I just wanted to emphasize for anyone new who might drop in that the thrust of this blog is to promote awareness of the problems inherent in existence, and to offer what I and others here see as a fairly simple and elegant solution i.e. IT IS WRONG TO BRING LIFE INTO THE WORLD, SO STOP HAVING CHILDREN. Of course, when I say 'simple', I'm describing the essence of the solution, and not the practical applications in a world where the vast majority disagree with the basic premise. Thus, from time to time some of us here dally in the fringe arguments in the context of this or that hypothetical tomorrow when attitudes might be different, and political powers shift. But please don't be mistaken! Speaking for myself, the emphasis is and always will be on awareness and personal choice FOUNDED IN EMPATHY. Where that awareness takes us in the distant future is beyond my ken. Yes, if things go my way situations could, and probably will, get ugly; such is the nature of the collective human beast. On the other hand, the path of sympathy and peaceful acquiescence to the truth of antinatalism's position always lies open to us. Right here, right now, this generation could choose to end all human suffering and death, and the result would follow shortly.


Thanks to commenter Compoverde for the Benatar link. And thanks, as always, to David Benatar.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: The Living End

Dr. Guy Brown, a self-described 'research scientist working on the molecular mechanisms of cell death and degenerative disease...', has written a fascinating study on the history of death. Particularly, on human death and the diseases that precede it. Up until the advent of modern medicine, death was generally a swift affair, often striking with little warning and offering little hope in the way of reversal or postponement. To put it bluntly, until fairly recently people dropped like flies, and there wasn't much anybody could do about it.

Not so these days. Through the miracle of medical intervention a person whose physically degenerated condition would have doomed him to a mere few weeks or months of continued life, can now often be expected to linger on for years or even decades. This might seem like a good thing to the existential bean-counters amongst us, where all that ultimately matters is how high the final score's numbers can be ratcheted up. But to those under the care of the life extension community it can be hell on earth, trapped in various forms of decrepitude for an average of what's grown to be 10 years in the developed world. That average continues to grow.

Alzheimer's, vascular disease, organ failure and a host of other maladies are slowly losing their unique status, merging under the emblem of what's fast becoming a universal affliction- old age. This trend is what Dr. Brown addresses in the book. He's a talented, descriptive writer with seemingly a lot of expertise on the subject, and he's good at weaving detail into a medical-historical narrative that leads us up to where we are today. He also addresses the philosophical issues behind our attempts to stave off the Grim Reaper, including a nice chunk of the end of the book addressing the transhumanist agenda, of which he is rather quizzically pessimistic. Well, maybe not so much pessimistic as simply quizzical- you be the judge.

Of course, at the end he blows it. Big time! At least, from the perspective of antinatal philosophy and concerns. For instance, after going on for some length about the cognitive dissonance which allows otherwise rational people to believe in rather silly things- 'angels, gods, dragons, ghosts, elves, Father Christmas and souls', a state of affairs which he labels an 'asymmetry of proof'- he turns right around and writes this:

In practical terms, though, we accept that something does not exist if we (and all credible witnesses) never observe it. However, the truth of a belief is not necessarily the only good reason for holding that belief. It may be sensible for you to believe in something even though it does not exist, if believing it makes you happy. Thus if the non-existence of immortality, god, human goodness, or the greatness of the English cricket team made you chronically sad, you would be stupid not to continue believing these things, as long as this was psychically possible. Many apparently sensible people have made themselves miserable by only believing in things that were true. How stupid can you get! Indeed, there is evidence that depressed people generally have a more accurate view of the world than happy people (see Kay Jamison's book Exuberance). The implication is that having an accurate view of the world could make you depressed, whereas seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses may help make you happy. But how can you believe in things that are untrue? As the White Queen informed Alice (in Through the Looking Glass), believing impossible things is not itself impossible, it just takes practice.

I probably don't have to tell you that I was EXTREMELY pissed off at this utter piece of crapola once again being passed off as sage philosophical advice, ESPECIALLY as it leads to an unrealistic worldview that justifies bringing new life into this horror of an existence. And there's more! At the very end of the book, Dr. Guy offers a nine-point prescription for our existential ills. Some have to do with practical medical approaches and solutions, and one is a rather benign if new-agey sort of thing about seeing ourselves as 'waves' rather than atoms. For purposes of this review, I'll only mention three of his points here:

1. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." The beginning of a nice poem by Dylan Thomas, but not very practical, or even consistent with a lot of what Dr. Brown had to say throughout most of the book. Then again, I suppose we can just wish away the need for consistency when it suits us. Wouldn't want to be 'stupid', after all.

8. "Face the fact that we are going to die, and prepare for it." See what I mean? However, further on here the good doctor offers a nod in the direction of legalized euthenasia, so hats off there.

9. "Live life to the full- spread your memes and genes...Leave something really worthwhile behind you- build that dream, write that novel...and have lots of sex." And babies, which is what's obviously being inferred here. Ugh! But with this concept in mind, I thought I might end this review with a bit from the book's opening paragraph:

My grandmother leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially: 'I have been wanting death for the last five years.' It seemed like she was letting me into a profound secret, but I knew she had been telling the same to anyone who would listen for at least the last ten years...I didn't want to know about her relationship with her own death; that was private- something to be faced alone amongst the terrors of the night. But her confession also had an edge of fearless complaint-damning the world and her allotted fate of suffering and boredom.

Seems like rose-colored glasses only work in the dark.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dead Cats and Philosophers

So, I was out and about on my bike this morning, pedaling to one clinic to get some blood samples drawn, then to another across town to pick up my blood pressure meds. Pretty nice ride early on, though it got really friggin' hot later in the day. However, I survived. I can't say the same for a certain cat I passed, though, lying in the road with its head caved in. Hopefully it was sudden and painless, considering the alternative of slow and painful. Either way, the sight was a real punch in the gut of my moral aesthetic sense, not to mention a wet blanket on my general mood.

It's no secret that most people believe life is generally a good deal. And even though their reasons for bringing children into this world are basically selfish ones, they tend to justify their actions by telling themselves that they've really done their kids a favor. On the other hand, they are faced with the problem of dead cats on a daily basis. Dead cats, and canine parvovirus, and sickle cell anemia, and ethnic cleansings, and tsunamis, not to mention big mortgages during economic downturns, and violent husbands, and bitter, vitriolic wives, and let us not forget the biggie- death. We are all future dead cats of one stripe or another, and everyone knows it.

So, how do we deal with this problem of dead cats? Well, most people don't deal with it at all, really. Their stomachs clench. They make a face, and mouth a silent "Ewww!" They tell their children in the back seat "Don't look! Don't look!" or "Play with your Gameboy!" or "Jesus loves the little kitties, and this is how He brings them home." But mostly, they try to sweep it out of their consciousness just as quickly as possible, so that life can go on being good just as before. Because deep down, everybody knows he's a dead cat in the making, and he really doesn't want to think about that. This is why people get so mad at pessimists, and especially at pessimistic antinatalists, because we keep rubbing dead cats in their faces. Nobody likes that. Can't blame them, I suppose.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the people I've read over the years who've actually tried to deal with the problem of dead cats instead of simply ignoring them. And you know what? All their answers that fall short of antinatalism are ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LAME! The theists tell us that all good little cats go to heaven, while the bad little cats are consigned to alleys-turned-gauntlets filled with eternally thrown boots and catcalls, with no clean litter boxes to be found. The Buddhists tell us that cats are illusions, including the pain they feel when the Atman lights their tails on fire. The dumbass existentialists encourage us to fuck the dead cats and pretend their silence is purring acquiescence. Alan Watts, god love him, posited that if life were REALLY so abhorrent that the universe would simply stop producing cats and close the curtain for good. And Will Durant, my favorite synthetic historian, only managed to salvage a shred of optimism by maintaining that even though a cat's life is generally a miserable one, and always ends poorly, each one can find some solace in feeling that he, and he alone, is the King of the cats!

I guess that's enough for meow.

Fly-ridden kitten
Ear to the ground
One with the pavement
Rockin' with the sound

Waitin' for the chariot
To come and take you home
Away from all this busyness
Of rubber tires and chrome

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cataclysmic Astral Phenomena Are Best Viewed With Your Head in the Sand

From the 'watercooler conversations' thread. This interchange between commenters filrabat and CM highlights the disconnect many opponents of antinatalism experience when reason collides with a cherished belief i.e. that bringing new people into the world is a good thing:

Last Days on Earth, about ten disasters that could render humanity extinct or nearly so. @ 2:32 a woman's answers the question "What would you do if you learned a giant asteroid were about to hit the earth soon?" that she'd have kids, even if she acknowledges there'd be a certain selfishness in it. Most of the video posts commenters REALLY tore into her! Still, I think the only reason they did so is that the consequences were immediate and staring in our face. Apparently, most of us are good at taking the ultimate good step ONLY when the threat is imminent and obvious. Even so, it shows we CAN choose if we're sufficiently motivated.

By filrabat on Watercooler Conversations on 4/26/11

filrabat- the comments on that video are a gold mine! "bring one more person into the world to suffer and selfish" "so you are going to bring more life into existence just to expect death?" Apparently, these people think their children will be immortal and suffering-free. Priceless. But I suppose if push really came to shove, everyone would quickly "realize" that a life that lasts for several years in a collapsed society followed by burning to death is better than no life at all...

By CM on Watercooler Conversations on 4/26/11

Each person inhabits a world whose particulars are unlike any other, a world unique in terms of space, time, and all the subjective moments which serve to delineate one from all the rest. World after world, rising out of the dust of chaos. Patterns of force deriving their energies from the entropy of the universe, formed of the last gasps of stars that once burned brightly, but are no more. Vortexes whirling like dervishes in the midst of flux and decay.

For each of these worlds, there's a giant asteroid on the way. Its path is straight, its target is clear, and its existence is absolutely undeniable. What's the difference between placing a child in front of a loaded gun, and bringing it into a world where it must one day face the giant asteroid? Deniability. Psychological distancing. Ambiguous, ungrounded feelings of hope that "oh, everything will probably turn out alright."

Then again, we put our children in front of loaded guns all the time, don't we? There's that national/cultural/species vicarious immortality rearing its ugly head once again. Stand up for what's good and true. Defend the dignity of the human spirit. Always buy savings bonds. But whatever else you do, for crissakes- DON'T LOOK UP!

There's a giant asteroid coming with your name on it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Call for Papers

An opportunity for the academically inclined amongst you. Thanks to commenter Rob for the heads up!

Comfortably Numb

The epitome of artistically rendered angst, and a damned good listen. Enjoy.

Try to catch the whole album sometime, for those youngsters who haven't heard it yet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Doing Time on Planet Earth (or, I know no Godot, only the waiting)

When you kick back and listen to all the sounds around you, you get the sense it's all just a cacophony of static. The sirens blaring by. The neighborhood dogs responding. The background of crickets and rustling leaves. Your stomach gurgling. Your heartbeat drumming softly on the inside of your eardrums. Tires on asphalt. The tiny whir of insect wings. Skin respiring. Toenails growing. The crackle of cigarette paper. A slight creaking in your right elbow. And all those thoughts, one after the other and in bunches, your mind a kaleidoscope of random, mostly unconnected clips that you nevertheless try to spin into a workable haversack in which to tote your sense of self around. But, wait a minute! Who is it doing the spinning, the hearing, the dreaming? Nobody, really. Watch the coffee grounds circling the drain. Did you glimpse a face there, just for a moment? Or a flash of scenery that took you back to an earlier time?

As far as I can tell, there are no selves. No you. No me. No he, nor she. Just stuff, whirling around and interacting according to very basic impulses, drawing rather wiggly pictures on what amounts to a quite sizable Etch-A-Sketch screen. All random within the confines of its limited nature, but reflecting upon itself in such a way as to confuse partially memorized patterns with a belief in order. In place. In time. However, while there is no self per se, there IS a sense of self, a complex of feedback loops feigning isolation in the midst of flux. This is what's generally referred to as 'consciousness', a hall of synaptic mirrors with the peculiar ability to adapt to its own generated illusions. And so, in this way, chimera becomes trapped within walls of pseudo-solidity, a nexus of reflection caught in the Narcissistic delusion of false light, praying for simultaneous change and endurance under a sky where the stars are going out one by one, shitting its pants over the encroaching darkness and coping the only way it knows how. By imagination, and replication. Think Hilbert's Hotel, only replace 'Hotel' with 'Prison Block' and you'll get the picture. On the other hand, my gratuitous/necessary use of pronouns, including all the implied ones, probably negates a lot of what I have to say here. Ah, language.

Feeling Lucky?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Never Keep Your Eggs in One Basket- A Vicarious Immortality Tale

So, I'm imagining this guy who's been condemned to death for making unauthorized shadow puppets of the Pope, or some such thing. The method of execution is decapitation, in the days before the relatively clean implementation of the guillotine, when the axeman sometimes had to chop away at the neck for awhile before the head eventually dropped off. The axeman raises his weapon, and the guy immediately soils his jodhpurs and starts shrieking in terror. The axeman, who's really a decent sort of bloke who is, after all, only doing his job (everybody has to make a living), feels sorry for the guy. And so, he whispers below the clamor of the bloodthirsty mob viewing the proceedings-

"Not to worry, my friend, for I happen to know that your children have been secreted away to a place beyond the reach of your enemies. And so, you see, you will live on through the lives of your children, and their children, and so on, and so forth."

Then the call is made- BATTER UP!- and the axeman takes his swing! Once! Twice! Thrice! Um...Quatro! until the head finally falls loose into the basket. And I'll be damned if the guy's head isn't wearing a smile, face down, there at the bottom of the basket.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Triablogue- My Final Word

I initially tried to post this reply here, but I guess it was too long, so here's my final word on the matter for now:

“This is a fallacy of question-framing. Jim acts as if a “yes” or “no” answer settles the question in favor of antinatalism. But that’s grossly simplistic.”

Actually, a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ pretty much covers what I was looking for, with perhaps the added codicil in place (which I also posted)-

“Question: Do you believe that for a child who ultimately ends up suffering an eternity of unceasing, hellish torments forever and ever, it would have been better for that child never to have been born?

Answer: Yes, but because of a, b and c (fill in the blanks) I am justified in overriding my concerns vis-a-vis my child's possible hellish fate.”

“ Notice the blatant equivocation. On the one hand he denies that his argument was predicated on “objective” or “universal” moral standards. On the other hand he appeals to “normative” moral sensibilities based on empathy.”

That’s because ‘normative’ in the context of the reply falls short of ‘objective’ or ‘universal’, a fact I expanded on by saying “ If your personal standard is that a child is better off being tortured for eternity originating in your decision to procreate, then any of my arguments simply don’t apply to you.” It was always a question of personal standards; thus, no equivocation. Normative simply describes a moral position that (I believe) most people subscribe too, a position that I feel stands against the desire to procreate.

“Even on its own terms, the appeal to empathy is a double-edged sword. What about empathy for those denied the opportunity to enjoy eternal bliss–a la antinatalism?”

Imaginary people don’t require empathy. Isn’t that rather obvious?

“Underlying this objection is Crawford’s systematic failure to distinguish between harming someone and wronging someone.”

This and all that follows seems irrelevant, since if a child is never born, she neither is harmed nor brings reason for punishment upon herself. Again, the whole exercise here isn’t meant to question the veracity of your God’s form of justice, but simply to point out that, from their own ideological standpoint, Christian procreationists are automatically exposing their offspring to the threat of eternal Hell, and to explore their justifications for doing so.

“Crawford is attempting to generate a dilemma for Christians. But he’s also generating a dilemma for his own argument. To generate a dilemma for Christians, he must grant Christian theological assumptions for the sake of argument.”

Granting a disagreed-with position for the sake of a hypothetical argument is pretty standard fare in argumentation, and certainly presents no dilemma for me. The ‘given’ is, after all, part of the argument.

“However, those theological assumptions include the assumption that God is trustworthy. Therefore, on Christian assumptions, it is not an unacceptable risk to procreate, even if (ex hypothesi) one of your kids will be damned. On Christian assumptions, it is never an unacceptable risk to trust God’s providential wisdom.”
This is a SUPERB example of how people can disassociate themselves from feelings of guilt for doing terrible things, simply by saying “Oh, well, God told me to do it, so it must be right.” It’s the crossroad where religion and pathology meet. Empathy short-circuited by edict.

“Crawford also assumes, without arguing the point, that children of Christians are at risk of hell. Since that’s a key assumption of his argument, he needs to argue for that assumption. As I noted in my previous reply to him, that’s not a given.”

Yeah, I did assume that, didn’t I? Naturally, I’m aware of the apologetical backflips contrived to somehow fashion a feeling that all the children of Christians are automatically saved, all without quite coming out and saying it (because, after all, that might be going TOO far). However, since this isn’t a critique of Christian doctrine, even farfetched doctrine according to most orthodox understanding of the matter, I’ll just say that if you think your children are automatically saved via the efficacy of your own salvation, my argument doesn’t apply to you. Just another example of cut-and-paste bible reading in my book, but so be it :)

“Even if Christians have a child who will go to hell, it doesn’t follow that they must be forever inconsolable. Even in this life, our feelings about our “nearest and dearest” are subject to dramatic change.”

Yes, it’s quite comforting to realize we can eventually be hardened to the knowledge of our children's suffering, isn’t it?

“It is a deprivation to miss out on the prospect of eternal bliss. That’s an incomparable lost opportunity.”

When you can demonstrate how an imaginary person can be deprived in any way that actually impacts that imaginary person, would you mind getting back to me? I’m more than curious.

UPDATE: Reading back through this, I can't help but be tickled by the utter lack of shame some of these apologists have. Or perhaps more kindly, their ability to pull pat answers out of their backsides to fit any occasion, even contradictory premises. I'm reminded of a post I wrote on my anti-apologetics blog exploring the 'why doesn't God heal amputees?' problem. Invariably, the answer from the apologists came in two parts:

1. Who says He has to?
2. Who says He doesn't?

Talk about covering your bases with a load of nothing! LOLOL! Steve of Triablogue does something similar here regarding the children of Christians who go to hell:

1. Who says they DO go to Hell?
2. Even IF they DO go to Hell, their parents will eventually come to not give a damn about it.

This is equivocation of the highest order, and is fashioned to blunt the harshness of my premise (some children of Christians will go to Hell) by hinting at THE POSSIBILITY of an escape clause, while at the same time offering (a rather lame) option for those who just can't buy the 'Christian Parent Exception' as being scriptural. Actually, the 'immunity' question is floated around quite a bit amongst Christians, for obvious reason. Everybody wants an edge, it seems, and if they have to procure it through rather imaginative exegesis, so be it :) Again, Christian parents, you'd better keep your fingers crossed.

DOUBLE UPDATE: Now that I think more about it, this 'all children of Christians are saved' means that, once one person is saved, all his progeny, and his progeny's progeny, and his progeny's progeny's progeny on down the line from 2000 years ago up to today, are one and all and without exception, Christians! I wonder how that premise holds up to analysis. Quite poorly, I'd wager.

TRIPLE UPDATE: It ALSO means that the parents of a child who dies a heathen were also always heathens themselves. Oops!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Follow Up Post to Triablogue Dialogue

I recently challenged Christians to answer a hypothetical in order to demonstrate the logical validity of the antinatalism argument. I was planning on waiting awhile before I posted this follow-up, but I think I've gotten enough of a response to proceed. To anyone anticipating a point by point rebuttal of all the apologetical fare that's been offered, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. While I appreciate all the fervor and straining at gnats you've poured into your replies (in a perverse sort of way, I'll admit), my motive was always a very simple one, that being to wrest an admission from the opposition that there are indeed times when it would be better for a person not to be brought into existence. Naturally, by 'better' I meant for the person in question, and not for those who might exploit that person's existence for their own ends- be they God or man- all the while justifying that exploitation along the way. And ultimately that's all religious apologetics boils down to in the end, justification for questionable deeds and things gone wrong. At least, that's my perspective on the whole rigamarole.

In what I hope turns out to be a relatively brief argument, I purpose to limit my talking points and extrapolations to one strain of the antinatalist argument, having to do with risk. We begin with the very basic proposition that there are indeed times when it would be better not to bring a child into existence. Better against whose or what standard, you might ask? Namely, by anyone's standard who grants the basic premise, and for whatever reason inside themselves they feel justifies their opinion: Compassion, moral outrage, empathy, God's edict, God's hidden agenda...what have you. As long as you have a reason for accepting the baseline proposition, my argument will apply to you. All others feel free to stop reading now.

Ok, then. Is everyone on board? We begin.

1. We believe existence operates in such a way that, at least sometimes, it would be better not to bring a child into existence.
2. Since none of us have complete foreknowledge, each choice to bring a child into existence is to expose him/her to the risks that would justify ACCORDING TO OUR OWN STANDARDS not bringing him/her into existence.
3. Therefore, it is better not to bring children into existence.

LOL! Did I just hear the sound of an Christian apologist's body hitting the floor in an apoplectic seizure? No matter, there are more where he/she came from. But on a more serious note, since point 1 of my little syllogism has already been stipulated as a given, and point 2 is simply a statement of fact that I doubt anyone would seriously contend, then what we're left to debate is point 3, the conclusion. Of course, this is the real meat of the issue, isn't it? Does the conclusion necessarily flow from logic? I believe it does, but let's consider some challenges I've paraphrased for the sake of brevity:

Your conclusion takes an extreme form of risk aversion. After all, almost everything we do involves some measure of risk, from mountain climbing, to driving a car, to putting our socks on in the morning.

The kinds of risk you're talking about are of the post facto persuasion, occupying a spectrum of degrees of necessity which are, indeed, endemic to the life process. However, no such existential necessities abide in the non-existential realm of potential states, including that most fundamental act of manifesting those potential states in the form of new life, which is what we're talking about here. And consider if this were not so! There are already an uncountable number of human beings queued up at the potentially existent ingress point, and the numbers are growing as fast as we can wield our imaginations. Is the universe forever destined to sink into a black hole of deficiency under the weight of those who might have been, but are not? Thus on the one hand, we take risks as part of the process of daily living, but these risks result from the desires and necessities of people who already exist, while the non-existent have no desires or necessities, thus no reasons to take risks. Or perhaps I should say, have no need for others (parents) to take risks for them in the name of their own desires and necessities.

As in gambling, there is a cost/benefit aspect of the argument that's being ignored here.

Fine and good, as long as you're gambling with your own money.

God says be fruitful and multiply, and I choose to do what God says.

It seems that God has lots of things to say, including investing different people with different interpretations of what He has to say. But don't tell me that every decision you make has God's seal of approval writ in stone and hanging about your neck. And when He says to be fruitful, is he speaking particularly to you, or indeed to every Christian? If so, how do you know when to stop...being fruitful, that is? Are condoms condemned? Does the intra-uterine coil really represent a spiraling down into Dante's inferno? And how about them rhythm methoders? Sneaky bastards, and as if God can't read a calendar! Also, can you really tell me that more mundane matters regarding issues such as money and free time in the life of most Christians you know don't impinge on the fulfillment of God's Official Fertility Commission? I'd also like to know if ANYBODY believes they'll receive more than a slap on the wrist for negating the chance of an extremely uncomfortable eternal existence for a child who was supposedly conceived in love. Don't we owe our potential progeny more than this existential crapshoot where, if you lose, you lose BIG TIME, and FOREVER?

And, of course, there's that little problem of exploitation rearing its ugly head, creating children and with it risking their eternal souls, simply to suck up to a deity who could raise them up out of the dust Himself if He really needs the accolades that badly.

Maybe having a child is selfish, but so what as long as the child also benefits?

Making children is ALWAYS selfish, and ALWAYS exploitive for one reason or another. I defy anyone to name an instance where this is not so, either consciously or as a result of thoughtless consummation. And after the deed is done, all that's left is a baseless hope that things work out reasonably well along the way, and for theists and other brands of dualists, in the hereafter. Also, there's the question of whether or not a non-existent entity benefits by being dragged out of its potential state into the world of experiential ups and downs. Does a stone benefit if we grant it the 'gift' of hunger? Sure, there's Thai food to be had, but there's also indigestion, not to mention starvation and food poisoning. How much corn could a rock upchuck if a rock could upchuck corn?

Ok, that's about it for now. I realize lots more can be said, but I can expand on these ideas via comments and challenges in the thread. Thanks to my Christian visitors for their comments. I hope none of you feel offended that I didn't delve more deeply into your apologetical misgivings/mitigations, but I'm an old hand at those conversations and am well versed in the non-utility of chasing epistemological rabbits down those particular holes. If you bring up some relevant objections or point out things I've missed, I'll be glad to address them as I find the time. But be warned! If your justifications come window-dressed with point-by-point refutations of Calvinist doctrine, or pontifications on how Hegelian synthesis merges flawlessly with Jesus' teaching on the efficacy of pinhead dancing, you should know that I nod off rather quickly. :)

Be well, one and all.

P.S. I might also note that death, that most dreaded of realities which both Christian and heathen alike do their best to avoid for as long as possible, is not a risk taken on the behalf of those with no mouths yet to scream, but a certainty. And while there's always hope for a brighter ephemeral tomorrow from some quarters (keep those fingers crossed), the absence of death, with all its concomitant anxieties leading up to it as well as the possible sanctions for having your 't's crossed wrong, is guaranteed to all those who were never born in the first place.

P.S.S. Try to limit your points and challenges to one at a time, so as to avoid convolution. It's really easy to get off track in these conversations otherwise.

Thought for the Day

On the one hand you have the optimists, those worshippers of animate matter who believe pain equals gain, love conquers all, and life is what you make of it, sluicing chance's current for flakes of confirmation with nary a glance downstream, who sometimes hedge their bets with candy coated kingdoms come to assuage that nasty little tic fluttering behind their implanted Leibnitz’s Doctrine. They walk the land garbling contradictory phrases like ‘intrinsic worth’, ‘subjective reality’ and ‘God has a plan for your life’, sprinkling confectioner’s sugar behind them in the footsteps they leave in the mud, as the peasants rejoice for the sweetened muck, trampling over one another for a taste of it; for, after all, some kinds taste better than others. The world turns under their feet, and entropy be damned!

On the other hand you have the pessimists, shrouds without coffins, prophets who cry doom from the center of the tilt-a-whirl at all the gritting teeth behind tightened smiles, warning of the meteorites falling from the sky where others see only space and possibility, preaching portents scried from everyday watch crystal with analog sensitivity, unheard in the digital silence of mocking regularity and good will. Morose, ashamed, feared for their ability to transfer fever by touch, pariahs of unwelcomed lucidity who grapple like heathenistic Davids against stone monoliths the size of history with the shape of upturned thumbs. Spoilsports, sad sacks, melancholic crepehangers hanging porkchops from the Prom Queen’s entourage for effect, inured to champagne bubbles and babies’ coos, who look out Schopenhauer’s window and see dead people sitting at desks, plying their trades and otherwise prostituting themselves to earn quick cash for their own gravestones.

Who sees the state of things more accurately? The answer lies in how one determines risk and necessity. If I throw a sleeping child into the air I might catch it, and I might not. But who will catch both of us when the ground opens up and we are swept away into the void of our origins? When the land closes above our heads, what will have been the point? The grass will grow back, the rain will fall, the sun will parch, and all will be as it was before until the earth shakes again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thought for the Day

Antinatalists are considered monsters simply for applying sensible principals of family planning- those types of principals specifically conceived for the sake of the children- across the board.

By Popular Request (well, a couple, anyway)

Didn't have a lot to say, but just wanted to wipe the cobwebs off the camera.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thought for the Day

Since it'll be tomorrow soon enough, and motivated by certain comments made today, here's another:

Never judge a person for disagreeing with you, but by the quality of his disagreement. Rhetoric is cheap, sophistry is easy, and bon mots are a dime a dozen, but authentic thoughtfulness shines through.

Thought for the Day

Mourning the infinite number of potential souls who never existed nor will ever exist, and mourning the potential extinction of the human race by means of voluntary, universal non-procreation are, at their core, one and the same idea. And yet, most people will find the one ludicrous while sacrificing their very lives, as well as the lives of their children, to prevent the other.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Homer Simpson says "D'oh!"

Well, I'm just about off to work, but I thought I'd share something I find relatively amusing. I recently noticed in my blog's tracking options that an old article entitled Troy McClure Speaks Out on Peter Singer consistently snags a lot of hits, no doubt through Google searches by 'The Simpsons' fans. So, what do you think? Should I go back and re-title? I'm thinking something along the lines of-

Homer Simpson says "D'oh!" to Richard Dawkin's Blindspot
Marge Simpson Nags Homer to Not Have Any More Children.
Bart Simpson Wishes He'd Never Been Born.
Lisa Simpson Lost Her Saxophone in Mrs. Neutron's Garage.
Maggie Simpson Sucks the Pacifier of Vicarious Immortality.

I'm thinking my hits should soar through the roof! D'oh! But then I'll need to build a new roof, which will probably make me have a cow, man!

Hell or Non-Existence?

I've been leafing through forums this morning where the participants are discussing the preferability of an eternity in Hell over non-existence. Now to me, it's a no-brainer, but surprisingly most of the respondents tend to lean towards Hell as the more desirable option. How in the world can this be so? One person said something like "Yeah, Hell's really bad, but then non-existence is like, wow, you don't exist! That's pretty scary too!"

I think what we're dealing with here is some very primal, primitive brain stuff that has to do with FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN, something that's cutting right past the logic circuits and stabbing straight into the matrix of inchoate fears reinforcing (or entirely making up, perhaps?) our self-survival mode of being. It's a very personal thing, almost untouchable by abstract thought. For instance, if you were to ask one of these folk whether or not a potential brother or sister who was never conceived is in a bad place, they'd probably find the suggestion ludicrous- which would be the fitting, logical response. However, if they are then asked to hypothetically take the place of their imaginary sibling, suddenly the palms start to sweat and the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. They are at once taken back to the primeval wilderness, peering into the mouth of a dark cave, filling the silence with imaginings of undefined monsters and demons; or even, loneliness. And so, they accept the horror of the kind of torturous existence they at least THINK they can partially understand, and for what? Basically because they're afraid of the dark.

Of course, this preference for Hell over the lack of experiential existence is incredibly simple-minded, as I think I can demonstrate with a simple thought experiment:

Imagine that one day you wake up, and find yourself in bed in a prison cell. The moment you sit up, your jailer appears. He informs you that you will be locked up in this prison for the rest of your life. You then are given 2 options. Each morning, you will be offered a pill that allows you dreamless, undisturbed sleep until the next morning. If you choose not to take the pill, you will be savagely beaten, raped and otherwise humiliated without interruption until the following morning, when you will again be given the option of taking the pill.

Now, honestly, how long would it take you to learn that taking the pill is the better option?

I DID find one guy who 'bravely' chose Hell over non-existence just so he could join in making it rougher for some of his fellows. Which only goes to show how much internet tough talk is really worth.

A Challenge to the Author and Readers of Triablogue

A response:

Specifically, to those who adhere, more or less, to the version of Christianity which posits a place of everlasting torment for those who reject or otherwise don't believe in the biblical God (actually, I assume that rejection and non-belief are synonymous in this regard).

A Christian couple bears a child. They love her, nurture her, and otherwise provide her with the 'good life'; including an indoctrination into the religious concepts which, if cleaved to, will ultimately secure her a place in God's everlasting Heaven.

However, when the child is 15 years old, she becomes enamored of another faith, and leaves the Christian fold. Unfortunately, on her way to the train station to meet up with her 'guru', she is hit by a car and killed.

Now, leaving aside your personal regrets and/or righteous condemnations (I TOLD you so!), as well as those of the god you serve, let me ask you- Would it not have been better if the child had never been born as far as the child's welfare is concerned? I think this is a very pertinent question, since any Christian who has a child is taking the risk of something like the above hypothetical situation happening. Moreover, it seems to be a very GREAT risk, since 'narrow is the way, and few there be that find it', and with the stakes being so incredibly high and at someone else's expense, doesn't forbearance seem the wisest- and indeed, the kindest- course? After all, if this life is merely a short episode in which a single wrong decision might possibly damn your child to an eternity of unimaginable suffering with absolutely no hope of surcease, wouldn't it have been better FOR THE CHILD if she had never been born in the first place?

I look forward to your participation in this discussion.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Chickens in the Yard

A response:

Yes, the world IS a chicken farm, and we're all just chickens. But, once in a rare while, a chicken takes her beak off the chalk line, looks up, and wonders what the hell she's doing here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Aging Gracefully?

Even now the vast majority of people in the developed world (and increasingly in the developing world) die from degenerative diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. These diseases are caused by age, and dying from them is slow and is becoming slower, so that the processes of death and aging are merging into one. Death is currently preceded by an average of 10 years of chronic ill health, and this figure is rising. But aging starts much earlier. Many of our physical and mental capacities peak at around 20 years of age and then undergo a long, slow decline. Few people survive until death without significant physical and/or mental disabilities, extending over decades. Death is no longer an event, it has become a long, drawn-out process.

Guy Brown- The Living End
The Future of Death, Aging, and Immortality

Also, I've just finished an incredible sci/fi series by Stephen Baxter I'd like to talk about in the near future. However, I'll relent until I've tied up a couple of loose ends first.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's a Golden Handshake Hanging 'Round Your Neck, as You Light Your Cigarette on the Burning Deck

Thanks for all the song recommendations this morning. Here are a couple pieces which highlight our existential plight without being overly ponderous about it. Enjoy.

I was planning on hitting the gym this morning, but with only a couple hours of sleep under my belt, I'm afraid I'd just suffer lethargy and some probable muscle cramping. So instead, I think I'll hang out here today, and try to get some writing done. So much to get down before I fall down...sigh.



Since I'm doing poetry and Tull this morning, I thought I'd post, IN THEIR ENTIRETY, what I think are the best song lyrics EVER!

Thick As A Brick

Really don't mind if you sit this one out.

My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT.
I may make you feel but I can't make you think.
Your sperm's in the gutter -- your love's in the sink.
So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away in
the tidal destruction
the moral melee.
The elastic retreat rings the close of play as the last wave uncovers
the newfangled way.
But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
your suntan does rapidly peel and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

And the love that I feel is so far away:
I'm a bad dream that I just had today -- and you
shake your head and
say it's a shame.

Spin me back down the years and the days of my youth.
Draw the lace and black curtains and shut out the whole truth.
Spin me down the long ages: let them sing the song.

See there! A son is born -- and we pronounce him fit to fight.
There are black-heads on his shoulders, and he pees himself in the night.
make a man of him
put him to trade
teach him
to play Monopoly and
to sing in the rain.

The Poet and the painter casting shadows on the water --
as the sun plays on the infantry returning from the sea.
The do-er and the thinker: no allowance for the other --
as the failing light illuminates the mercenary's creed.
The home fire burning: the kettle almost boiling --
but the master of the house is far away.
The horses stamping -- their warm breath clouding
in the sharp and frosty morning of the day.
And the poet lifts his pen while the soldier sheaths his sword.

And the youngest of the family is moving with authority.
Building castles by the sea, he dares the tardy tide to wash them all aside.

The cattle quietly grazing at the grass down by the river
where the swelling mountain water moves onward to the sea:
the builder of the castles renews the age-old purpose
and contemplates the milking girl whose offer is his need.
The young men of the household have
all gone into service and
are not to be expected for a year.
The innocent young master -- thoughts moving ever faster --
has formed the plan to change the man he seems.
And the poet sheaths his pen while the soldier lifts his sword.

And the oldest of the family is moving with authority.
Coming from across the sea, he challenges the son who puts him to the run.

What do you do when
the old man's gone -- do you want to be him? And
your real self sings the song.
Do you want to free him?
No one to help you get up steam --
and the whirlpool turns you `way off-beam.

I've come down from the upper class to mend your rotten ways.
My father was a man-of-power whom everyone obeyed.
So come on all you criminals!
I've got to put you straight just like I did with my old man --
twenty years too late.
Your bread and water's going cold.
Your hair is too short and neat.
I'll judge you all and make damn sure that no-one judges me.

You curl your toes in fun as you smile at everyone -- you meet the stares.
You're unaware that your doings aren't done.
And you laugh most ruthlessly as you tell us what not to be.
But how are we supposed to see where we should run?
I see you shuffle in the courtroom with
your rings upon your fingers and
your downy little sidies and
your silver-buckle shoes.
Playing at the hard case, you follow the example of the comic-paper idol
who lets you bend the rules.

Come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't you rise up from the pages of your comic-books
your super crooks
and show us all the way.
Well! Make your will and testament. Won't you?
Join your local government.
We'll have Superman for president
let Robin save the day.

You put your bet on number one and it comes up every time.
The other kids have all backed down and they put you first in line.
And so you finally ask yourself just how big you are --
and take your place in a wiser world of bigger motor cars.
And you wonder who to call on.

So! Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?
And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you though?
They're all resting down in Cornwall --
writing up their memoirs for a paper-back edition
of the Boy Scout Manual.

See there! A man born -- and we pronounce him fit for peace.
There's a load lifted from his shoulders with the discovery of his disease.
take the child from him
put it to the test
teach it
to be a wise man
how to fool the rest.

We will be geared to the average rather than the exceptional
God is an overwhelming responsibility
we walked through the maternity ward and saw 218 babies wearing nylons
cats are on the upgrade
upgrade? Hipgrave. Oh, Mac.

In the clear white circles of morning wonder,
I take my place with the lord of the hills.
And the blue-eyed soldiers stand slightly discoloured (in neat little rows)
sporting canvas frills.
With their jock-straps pinching, they slouch to attention,
while queueing for sarnies at the office canteen.
Saying -- how's your granny and
good old Ernie: he coughed up a tenner on a premium bond win.

The legends (worded in the ancient tribal hymn) lie cradled
in the seagull's call.
And all the promises they made are ground beneath the sadist's fall.
The poet and the wise man stand behind the gun,
and signal for the crack of dawn.
Light the sun.

Do you believe in the day? Do you?
Believe in the day! The Dawn Creation of the Kings has begun.
Soft Venus (lonely maiden) brings the ageless one.
Do you believe in the day?
The fading hero has returned to the night -- and fully pregnant with the day,
wise men endorse the poet's sight.
Do you believe in the day? Do you? Believe in the day!

Let me tell you the tales of your life of
your love and the cut of the knife
the tireless oppression
the wisdom instilled
the desire to kill or be killed.
Let me sing of the losers who lie in the street as the last bus goes by.
The pavements ar empty: the gutters run red -- while the fool
toasts his god in the sky.

So come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year and join your voices in a hellish chorus.
Mark the precise nature of your fear.
Let me help you pick up your dead as the sins of the father are fed
the blood of the fools and
the thoughts of the wise and
from the pan under your bed.
Let me make you a present of song as
the wise man breaks wind and is gone while
the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose and
the nursery rhyme winds along.

So! Come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year and join your voices in a hellish chorus.
Mark the precise nature of your fear.
See! The summer lightning casts its bolts upon you
and the hour of judgement draweth near.
Would you be
the fool stood in his suit of armour or
the wiser man who rushes clear.
So! Come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't your rise up from the pages of your comic-books
your super-crooks and
show us all the way.
Well! Make your will and testament.
Won't you? Join your local government.
We'll have Superman for president
let Robin save the day.
So! Where the hell was Biggles when you needed him last Saturday?
And where were all the sportsmen who always pulled you through?
They're all resting down in Cornwall -- writing up their memoirs
for a paper-back edition of the Boy Scout Manual.

So you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

Big Sky

So, it's now almost 3 in the morning, and I STILL can't sleep! I took a couple of aspirins awhile ago hoping to alleviate a headache as well as a crik in my neck, but that upset my stomach so I got back out of bed and ate no less than THREE 99cent tv dinners, then went outside and had a smoke and stared at the big dipper for a long time, and thought about how cool it would be if we could turn this whole situation around in our heads, and accept with gladness this very brief interlude of living in purgatory against the knowledge of an eternity of silent bliss waiting for us right around the corner, and that got me to thinking about Ikkyu and how he went about with skulls hanging from his belt to remind himself of the true nature of reality, and that made me feel a whole lot better, on top of which there's been a cricket loose in my room for the last 2 nights whose chirping is a delight beyond measure, and remembered this poem-

Only One Koan Matters...You (for Ikkyu and Mori)

Sad, boisterous, lecherous, drunk, suicidal-
Ikkyu embodied the flux of human existence.
He found transcendence in the dung of his master, Keno,
and spiritual release in the mouth of a 19 year old blind girl.
What wisdom coats your dead tongue, Mori?
Does he carry your skull on his belt, as he walks the fields beyond the moon?
Give us a kiss, sweetheart, and then another round
on me.

I'm also thinking about you, Plague Doctor, and hoping your condition is cutting you some slack. Get some rest for the both of us.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pre-Post: MST3K and Me

This isn't exactly the post I'd planned on writing today, but I'm sick and tired and blasted on NyQuil, so I guess it'll have to do. Plus, I think it'll be somewhat relevant to the extended conversation in the threads this morning.

As some of you know, I'm a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. For those of you who aren't familiar, MST3K was originally a cable access show in Minnesota that went national on Comedy Central, was canceled for a couple of years, then was resurrected via fan write-in campaigns on the SciFi channel for a few more seasons. All in all, a ten year run in which the show garnered several awards as well as almost universal praise from the critics.

The premise is simple, though rather ludicrous: A couple of mad scientists send a maintenance man (Joel, later replaced by Mike) up into space. There, aboard the 'Satellite of Love', he is forced to watch bad movies as the 'mads' monitor his reactions. To stave off loneliness, Joel builds some robot friends who share the ship's theater with him, where they while away the hours, days and years making wisecracks at the screen and the cinematic titanics displayed thereon (Cinematic Titanic is Joel Hodgen's new enterprise, pretty much the same as before, but without the sci-fi premise).

Anyway, through much diligent searching I have come into possession of pretty much every episode ever made- close to 200 in all! And since I've recently moved and most of my other movies and tv shows are in storage, I've been watching them a LOT lately. Fact is, I've already seen a couple today, and will be watching another as soon as I'm finished here, IF I manage to not pass out. But lately, I haven't been watching them straight through. Instead, after I've become somewhat familiar with the characters in the particular movie I'm watching, I pause the dvd or tape, go to my laptop, wiki the film, then start researching the backgrounds of the characters. I've been doing this so much the last couple of months that I THINK it's become an official hobby of mine. In fact, my younger daughter insists that I call her to fill her in on the details of my searches (she's a movie buff).

And OH the things I've learned! The joys and sorrows! The intrigue! The heartbreaking love affairs. As well as all the other tidbits and trivia that have made my little hobby such an interesting endeavor. Did you know that the Professor from Gilligan's Isle was a war hero? Or that a very minor character in a forgettable 'B' motorcycle movie called 'Sidehackers' later spoke the first Klingon word on that most famous of Star Trek episodes 'The Trouble with Tribbles', and that the Klingon word he used was actually a form of the actor's own last name? Or that another staple actress from several Roger Corman pics almost became the queen of a middle eastern country, but was ultimately rejected for being Jewish, or that she later gave birth to a son afflicted with dwarfism who later beat her to death in her own home with a weightlifting bar? I even found an entry in a woman's personal blog about a brief and bitter tryst with a young actor from 'LaserBlast' who died of a heart attack brought on by cocaine use, detailing a night where they stole into a warehouse of Hollywood memorabilia and tried on the famous outfits of stars and films gone by.

Now I'll actually get to the point I wish to make. You know, I watch these MST3K episodes, and they make me smile, and laugh, and cringe at the sometimes VERY bad writing, direction and acting. I laugh, but my laughter is a reaction to a story whose circumstances and context is limited solely to fiction. But outside that context, there's nothing to laugh about. Well, strike that...sometimes there really are things to laugh about, but there is no one to laugh AT. There are two kinds of absurdity here. Actually, I think there are three, which is what I hope to write about after my head's a little more clear. But what I wanted to point out tonight is simply that there's a difference between artistic absurdity and existential absurdity. The first plays off the second, and in that sense can be appreciated for the insights it provides. But the second, the absurdity that defines the meaningless and ultimately futile struggle of life against life; well, that's a different story in my book, and certainly not something that an empathetic person should either value OR appreciate, no matter how one chooses to parse those two terms.

Anywho, hopefully I'll be up to expanding on this idea tomorrow or the next day, depending on my
oh-so-variegated temperament and my dizziness-to-typing ratio. Until next time, may all of you rest well and be rested.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Friendly Reminder!

I've been sitting here this morning perusing posts and comments from recent months, and have re-discovered a plethora of relevant and interesting links. I urge everyone to duplicate these in the ever expanding Link Library. Don't be shy! There's plenty of room :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Book of Job

Sister Y. has written an article entitled The Empirical Nature of "Meaning" that everyone should check out. One particular comment in the thread so resonated with my own feelings that I thought I'd post it over here:

Chuck G. said...
Regarding the book of Job: I've been in three separate classes now wherein the professor or TA mentioned that there was once an alternate version of Job floating around in which the eponymous main character gets nothing at the end save for being left alone with his festering boils and ruined estate. God doesn't even give him a pat on the back for trying to figure things out - he just leaves. Of course, that kind of honesty doesn't sell, so the *real* book of Job didn't make it into the final cut.

It's too bad that this alternate version of Job, the one that didn't make it into the Tanakh, is probably the only honest take on monotheism that there ever was. If anyone dives deeply enough down the spiritual rabbit hole, the only thing they get in the end is crushing surrender, the absolute and final end of all hope, period. Disillusionment is the only gift one should ever expect from God. Thus I think it's interesting that, at the end of the alternate version, Job still retains his faith. Why, aside from the faith of the author sneaking in, should he still believe in God?

Absent a translated reading copy of the text, I can only speculate as to what exactly Job's retention of faith in the alternate version looks like - it seems wholly implausible that it would be the kind of faith one sees being sold like a drug at the tax-exempt megachurches that hawk drive-thru salvation. I imagine Job would feel something like the Zen master who finally woke up one day and burned all his scriptures and cursed the day he heard the Buddha's name, after wasting decades trying to square the spiritual circle. Your enlightenment may come, that is for sure, but it won't be the cheap dopamine perma-fix you thought it would be. Happiness is a high, but Truth is Truth. And the handmaidens of Truth are disenchantment, disillusionment, and death-awareness.

I say that for the truly faithful, God must be seen as nothing other than a yawning void in place of an answer, an untouchable mystery which for no reason at all churns out gasping life, then drowns it in final eternity. This is not the God that anyone would ever go looking for, but the ones who look, who *actually* look instead of just trying to trap their cognitive dissonance in yet another layer of spiritual nonsense, will find this one. Only seek this God if, like Job, you have absolutely no other choice - if you're not ready to throw your entire terror management apparatus out the window, with all the suffering and despair that entails, you're better off at the megachurch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Short Note on Moral Judgement and Misanthropy

I'm really trying to separate my sense of moral outrage from human agency these days. After all, a clinical study of life from a strictly deterministic viewpoint reveals that true moral agency is an illusion, anyway. This is something I've believed for a long time, but internalizing the concept is something else entirely. Emotions cloud the fact that there's really nothing else besides the process as a whole to blame; and not even that, since the process itself is automatic and insentient. Sentience itself is merely a descriptive term for a certain complex of biological and chemical feedback loops, feeding the illusion that 'individuals' experience a sort of status that exists somehow apart from the flux of existence as a whole, so as to 'reflect'; a misnomer which, if dwelt upon adequately, might be more revealing than a lot of us would care to contemplate.

Long story short: I am the universe kicking against its own pricks, and yelling "Ouch!" And so are all of us- sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.

Goo goo g'joob.

P.S. Perhaps not so much a misnomer; instead, a misapplied euphemism better understood as a literal condition. You know, Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

Or, to put it another way.

Whatever Works

An excerpt from this Woody Allen interview:

Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it’s what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament?

The question is, how does one do his part in alleviating the 'agony of the human condition'; especially when one is aware, as Woody also seems to be, of the universal futility inherent in the system?

I always felt that the problems of the world would never ever be solved until people came to terms with the deeper issues—that there would be an aimless reshuffling of world leaders and governments and programs. There was a difference, of course, but it was a minor difference as to who the president was and what the issues were. They seemed major, but as you step back with perspective they were more alike than they were different. The deeper issues always interested me.

It's obvious to me and many other contributors to this blog that when all is parsed and digested, what's left is antinatalism. Of course, preaching it is probably the ultimate futilistic gambit. However, the futility lies not in the exercise of it's precepts, but solely in people's willingness to understand that procreation flies in the face of their own- and dare I say 'higher'?- moral sensibilities. To step back and gain the perspective that Woody Allen is talking about reveals, it seems to me, a certain moral responsibility to speak up. This seems doubly true for those who have access to mainstream media.

You intimate that you're looking for solutions to the 'deeper issues', Mr. Allen. Antinatalism is such a solution. I challenge you to tell the world.

Heads up to Karl for the link.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thought for the Day

I've been told that I'd see things differently if only I held to a higher perspective. Meaning, they say, makes all the difference. This is patently absurd. I suspect that if I did discover some deeper purpose behind the ubiquitous tragedies of this world, I'd probably be against it, anyway. After all, even proponents of genocide find meaning in what they do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thought for the Day

Sometimes maintaining a mental equilibrium in the face of this terrible existence is a very hard thing to do. All it takes is a little contemplation, a seeing into the horrible, built-in exigencies of life on this planet, this tooth and claw world where everything ultimately comes to nothing, and all that's left to do is scream or throw up. Or to weep.

Personal Testimonies

I've noticed some new faces popping up here and via emails, and I thought this would be a good time to introduce a new feature to the blog, 'personal testimonies', which I'll link to in the left-hand column. Tell us how you found us; and, if you're an antinatalist, how you came to your philosophical position. Was there a particular turning point for you? Share your stories.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thought for the Day

Every affirmation of the continuance of life on this planet is a philosophical acquiescence to literally billions of incidences of debilitating illness and disease, of maiming, of torture, of rape, of murder, of pestilence and starvation, of mistreatment and indignity, of crippling incapacitation through accident or willful offense, and of every other crime or mischance that falls upon the heads of living biological entities who were never given the chance to say "No! I choose not to exist." Make no mistake- whenever we say "yes" to life, we ineluctably affirm suffering and death, as well.

John Gray Podcast on His New Book 'The Immortality Commission'

Thanks to commenter Rob. Another nice download for the mp3. Thanks!

About halfway in, he makes a passing remark that what some call immortality is more aptly named 'indeterminate longevity'. I think this is an appropriate distinction, especially in light of the Becker excerpt from the previous post. Where death denial is concerned, aren't any advances in longevity mere postponements of the inevitable? Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, other than the possible negative manifestations- through time and technological advancement- of the dark side of mankind's cumulative psychological repressions. I'd hate to think my personality might end up loaded into the guts of a laptop stamped 'deSade Inside'.

The Downside of Transhuman Transcendence Schemes

Experiencing a bit of insomnia tonight. Reading. Thought I'd share an excerpt from Becker's 'The Denial of Death'...

Again, the modern utopians continue the one-sided Enlightenment dream. Condorcet had already had the identical vision in 1794:

...a period must one day arrive when death will be nothing more than the effect either of extraordinary accidents, or of the slow and gradual decay of the vital powers: and that the duration of the interval between the birth of man and his decay will have itself no assignable limit.

But Choron offers a caution on this vision that goes right to the heart of it and demolishes it: that the "postponement of death is not a solution to the problem of the fear of death...there still will remain the fear of dying prematurely." The smallest virus or the stupidest accident would deprive a man not of 90 years but of 900-and would be then 10 times more absurd...if something is 10 times more absurd it is 10 times more threatening. In other words, death would be "hyperfetishized" as a source of danger, and men in the utopia of longevity would be even less expansive and peaceful than they are today!

And a little farther down-

Utopian man might live in the same "eternal now" of the primitives, but undoubtedly too with the same real compulsivity and phobia. Unless one is talking about real immortality one is talking merely about an intensification of the character defenses and superstitions of man.

How might people act in a world of greatly enhanced longevity where there is even more at stake, more to lose? Might the fulfillment of this ploy to alleviate death anxiety actually magnify the problem? What horrors could be unleashed upon the 'new human' whose lifespan encompassed centuries-or millennia!-instead of mere decades, all in the name of personal security, or even for the attempted relief of ever-increasing ennui amongst the uber-set? Who the ants scorched under the magnifying glasses of eternity's children?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Studies in Pessimism

Anyone interested in the subject of this blog should probably have at least a passing acquaintance with the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, the granddaddy of modern pessimistic thought. I just bought a cheap little mp3 player to listen to audiobooks on my bicycle commute to work, and this was my first download.

SHORT CRITIQUE: The first 4 or 5 chapters were my favorites. After that, he wanders (rather uninterestingly, at times) into what I see as his personal prejudices, culturally induced and/or otherwise. Sir S. wielded a heavy hand of polarized rhetoric, to be sure, which might put some folks off. But where he's right, he's bloody damned right! A must read (or hear).

The book is in the public domain, and the download is free as are all the books at the site I've pointed to. Comes in a zip file; just pop her open and slide the individual chapters over into your player's folder. Voila!

Btw, listening to books is really nice on the bike. Less overall noisiness than music, and doesn't drown out the sound of the traffic bearing down on you. I've listened 3 times now, and am moving on to an old scifi novel by Robert Silverberg. If anybody knows of some good podcasts or audio documentaries, feel free to share.

When I work up the nerve, I'm planning on listening to Gibbon's 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire'. Always meant to read that, never got around to it. I'll also be searching for H.G. Wells "History of the World" pts. 1 and 2. Did read that once upon a time, but am thinking it would be a great listen.

PROGRESS REPORT: Outlining, researching and working a bit on chapter 1.

P.S. The guy doing the voicework on this book is VERY good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Recommendation- The Denial of Death

I thought the little disclaimer at the end of this little review was kind of amusing:

This book is highly recommended for both therapists and those interested in existential thought. However, it is not recommended to be read when life is looking overly bleak.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is Life Worth Living?

Originally posted by commenter Karl:

This may be of interest to some people here. Debate with Clarence Darrow (the guy who defended the teaching of evolution in American schools) on whether life was worth living or not. Darrow spoke against the motion! Features a great quote from Arthur Balfour below the link.

"We survey the past, and see that its history is of blood and Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the Heaven descended heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident, his story a brief and transitory episode in the life of one of the meanest of the planets. Of the combination of causes which first converted a dead organic compound into the living progenitors of humanity, science indeed as yet knows nothing. It is enough that from such beginnings famine, disease, and mutual slaughter, fit nurses of the future lords of creation, have gradually evolved, after infinite travail, a race with conscience enough to feel that it is vile, and intelligence enough to know that it is insignificant tears, of helpless blundering, of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations. We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared with the individual life, but short indeed compared with the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a long space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer. "Imperishable monuments" and "immortal deeds," death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that the labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of men have striven
through countless generations to effect."

Sunday, January 9, 2011