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.