Hakuna Matata

8 January 2007 at 11:16 (Uncategorized)

It seems like a happy delusion to think that life works. Lots of people are unhappy. Our society aims to maximise happiness but it’s a misplaced effort. And ultimately, what does living achieve: as far as I’m able to see there is only an increase in unhappiness that results from life.

But it appears that some people have it right, it looks like some people are happy. There are several possibilities each of which I feel is unsatisfactory. They could be deluded, for example they may live under the premise that there’s a god out there who loves them. I used to be there. Or they might think that ‘everything works”. Well, there is no god and looking at the state of the earth, things do not work out (the eternal optimist speaking here). There are probably other people, the rich, the free or those who are in love, who feel happy with how things are. But these are simply just more delusions. Being euphoric is not happiness, liking life and enjoying the good things isn’t good enough by a long stretch. By taking this route all that you’re doing is running in the opposite direction from the problems of this existence.

Is there a point to the good times? Is there any meaning to the enjoyment and love or are you simply filling time? Does it simply make the waiting around more bearable? From the outside you look at the junkies on heroin or ice as living a pathetic life. You look at the kids on e and weed as wasting time and potential. But really they just seek the same things that you’re seeking. They’re looking for good times, enjoyment, dopamine release. WHY? ‘Because it feels good’, the very crux of your own existence.

Even just participating in life is problematic. You could set out to improve the world, but for what ultimate cause? What good could come about? Ultimately you’re only going to lose. If you push with society you’re part of this machine of destruction. By that, I mean, the whole of our society is set up to help the rich and screw the poor. It’s fucked up. If you go against the grain, stop working with society and push only for the greater good of humanity, of the world, your effects are miserable and you end up isolating yourself from those around you. Perhaps that is the way forward.

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59 Comments

  1. Nimeton said,

    “By taking this route all that you’re doing is running in the opposite direction”

    Really, really like that line…

    I suppose many people take the attitude of living in the moment for whatever reason. Guess that is sort of logical if one concludes that life is pretty pointless.

  2. D said,

    You’re talking about “delusions” as though you’re certain that’s what they are, but I’m guessing you’re not certain, you’re wondering – as you should be, trying to work things out for yourself, the Buddhist way and everything.

    I don’t know, there’s a lot in what you’re saying and who knows the truth, and whether there’s one way for everybody, or it’s a different path for every individual, or… who knows? But just in terms of the way you’re asking these questions – I’m not sure about this, but I think that questions can only be asked if you’re at some distance from the thing you’re wondering about. They suggest you’re trying to be objective and sitting outside the subject matter, and if what you’re considering is your life, then that’s impossible or deluded itself – you can’t get outside your life to ask a proper question, and if you’re asking questions, it means you’re not actually fully into what you’re doing, you’re kind of separated from your life or self or something. And also they’re entirely intellectual things, whereas maybe living is at least half about emotions and non-intellectual ways of living.

    Eewww, I didn’t explain that properly and haven’t got time now to fix it up, sorry. Best wishes though, Toto. Stay cool, sir.

  3. monototo said,

    I don’t know if i really understand what you’ve written there Dee. It looks like you’re making reference to that old joke about me trying to make sense of emotions.. Trying to understand emotions (like (un)happiness) may be a silly pursuit. But it’s one I feel the need to continue in.

    While reflecting on this post I wrote: “I’ve been happy before but at the moment I’m just left so bitter that I want to disregard other’s happiness as something of lesser value”. I can’t deny that my emotional state has motivated these thoughts but I don’t feel like my emotions have clouded my reasoning.

  4. phoenix said,

    I came to the conclusion recently that the most rational and sensible thing to do in life is to commit suicide, and it is keeping on living which is the strange and irrational thing to do.

    Life is pointless and the extremity of the pain outweighs the extremity of the pleasure – so why bother? That is how I am currently thinking.

    Part of me says that all I need to turn things around is to find someone who I love and who loves me, and then everything will be worth it. But I know this isn’t the case. Because all that that will achieve is more pain. Because relationships don’t last. They either break up, or one person dies. That is inevitable. Unescapable.

    The trick to living and not being unhappy is to delude yourself that it matters. For most people this is easy, and comes naturally. But for some of us, we are always asking the annoying questions – the type of questions that our parents and priests and all the rest of them just brush off and don’t like to think about. But we can’t stop thinking about them.

    And the more you think about them, the closer you get to that one conclusion; that its all pointless, so who cares anyway. But there has to be more to it than that – doesn’t there? So you keep looking.

    Recently I became a vegetarian. “Do less damage to the planet,” I said to myself, “then you will feel better about your place in things.” But it doesn’t work. What can one person do in the face of billions of people who don’t give a shit?

    I hate other people – but I need them. You can’t be happy on your own, but when you hate your society, your “culture” so much – what are you supposed to do?

    And what does it matter and who cares anyway.

  5. D said,

    My earlier comment was born this morning (despite what the timestamp says). That’s my excuse. It’s completely incomprehensible because it’s a morning comment, and mornings are evil.

    Changing tack, look at this: Nimeton mentions logic, monototo mentions reasoning, and phoenix mentions rationality. Are you all assuming that the meaning of life is logical, reasonable and rational? Because if so, why? There’s no “reason” it should be, and maybe you’re just looking for that sort of answer because that’s the way you think. You know that old saying: to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail?

    But monototo, if you do want to use the logical/reasonable/rational track, then how do you back up statements like:
    (a) living increases unhappiness;
    (b) society is a machine of destruction; and
    (c) “the whole of our society is set up to help the rich and screw the poor”?

  6. Nimeton said,

    all three statements are perfectly logical reasonable and rational.. we live in a capitalist society and it is set up in a way which advantages those with money, encourages consumerism therefore raping the earth and once you shed the innocents of childhood some progressively realise the realities of the world.
    Sure as a society we have many “good” token initiatives but that doesn’t outweigh the destruction.

    If there is no reason that society is logical then you may as well believe in god. we are like every other living thing. created, die, serve little purpose along the way.

    my take on things anyway…

  7. monototo said,

    (a) living increases unhappiness. I was talking specifically in our culture. We continue to push for more, taking resources from the poor and from future generations. The ‘more’ continues to satisfy us less. Mental health and divorce continue on the increase. I could continue or you could go and read ‘Essay One’ by Moby in the cover of Everything is Wrong. (you can also find it reproduced here.)

    I particularly like this bit: “I know tons of people who eat meat, smoke cigarettes, drive cars, use drugs, etc., even though they know that these things will ultimately hurt the quality (and length) of their lives.”

    That’s in our culture. But if you look elsewhere the objective is much the same, struggle to the top, ultimately look after number one. You can see it in the animal kingdom, all the other apes only want to look after themselves and their offspring, it’s the premise for how ‘life works’.

    (b) Society is a machine of destruction. See point (a). Furthermore, as long as we (as a society) are full of selfish ambitions we’re not going to succeed in anything but destruction. As far as I’m concerned America had 911 coming. If you act like a bully and hog all the resources eventually someone’s going to retaliate. And as a result there has been plenty more bullying and scraping/stealing of resources.

    (c) “The whole of society is set up to help the rich and screw the poor.” Okay, perhaps not the WHOLE of society. But there are still shitty wages and cheap labour available in poorer countries. In our own society you hardly get a fair chance if you’re born into the lower class.

    When I wrote that line about the poor being screwd over, I added a little anecdote which I later removed. It was about two of my friends, one that was born rich and the other who was born poor. Both screw up fairly royally. As a result of his screw-up, the rich kid gets a new car given to him from his dad (naughty naughty, don’t do it again). The other kid gains a bad reputation. As a result his neighbour blames him for a petty robbery he didn’t commit. Neighbour then tries to run the kid down with his car.

    Already seems unfair. But the poor kid, well his guardians ring the cops to report the incident. They are ignored three times before they go to the station where the incident is ignored for good.

    That’s what I mean by “It’s fucked up”. He’s just a kid born into a bad situation.

    ====

    but I can think of a few noble organisations and people, namely Amnesty International, The United Nations (in principal at least), Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. As I was saying perhaps that’s the way forward. These forces worked for the greater good. But that’s where it falls flat, because all of these forces only liberate people who then go out and live selfishly.

  8. D said,

    Damn! It feels like I have to argue in defence of life now. What a bummer.
    :)
    I’ll come back when I’ve found something to say. If ever.

    In the meantime, this illustrates what I was trying to get at about logic/rationality, etc. (Sorry, Nimeton, I didn’t mean society isn’t or shouldn’t be logical, I was talking about a personal meaning of life, which in my mind is something beyond social or cultural specifics, but of course there’s no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t take your meaning from the society you’re in. I just hadn’t thought about it that way.) From Joseph Campbell, who studied religious myths and drew comparisons between them. He’d just explained what his work was about, and then a reporter asks:
    “You’re talking about a search for the meaning of life?” I asked.
    “No, no, no,” he said. “For the experience of being alive.”

    That’s all I meant: the difference between thinking about life, and being in it; thinking v. feeling; analysing v. experiencing; hypothesising v. investigating. I wonder whether we only ask questions like “What’s the point?” when we’re in the “thinking about it” mode; deep in the “being in it” mode – totally entranced by what you’re doing, losing track of time, losing track of yourself and your worries – the thought, “What’s the point of this?” probably doesn’t occur. Or it doesn’t for me, anyway.

  9. monototo said,

    “You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.” -Mahatma Gandhi

    “The Rich must live more simply so that the Poor may simply live” -Mahatma Gandhi

    “To believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.” -Mahatma Gandhi

    Something which has given me hope in the past:
    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.” -Mahatma Gandhi (though quietly I think he misses the point. Sometimes Gandhi, you just have to do the right thing because it’s the only course of action. No matter what the outcome will be you still have to try. Doing anything else would just be wrong)

    and one for you phoenix:
    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” -Mahatma Gandhi

  10. Kent said,

    Stop the clocks. I agree with you Deirdre! Especially this bit…

    “But just in terms of the way you’re asking these questions – I’m not sure about this, but I think that questions can only be asked if you’re at some distance from the thing you’re wondering about. They suggest you’re trying to be objective and sitting outside the subject matter, and if what you’re considering is your life, then that’s impossible or deluded itself – you can’t get outside your life to ask a proper question, and if you’re asking questions, it means you’re not actually fully into what you’re doing, you’re kind of separated from your life or self or something. And also they’re entirely intellectual things, whereas maybe living is at least half about emotions and non-intellectual ways of living.”

    To which I’d add that the emotions and ‘non-intellectual ways of living’ are sometimes the happy part of living. For a while I hated being happy, too, which messed things up quite royally.

  11. Kent said,

    Also, following on from Deirdre’s second comment. Do you ever ask yourself the question ‘what’s the point?’ when you’re happy? And if you do, do you actually think about it as hard as you do when you’re sad?

  12. Nimeton said,

    don’t know about matty but i don’t hate being happy. still, i do tend to think that is about as pointless as being unhappy or any other part of existence.

  13. Kent said,

    Oh don’t take me the wrong way – I wasn’t suggesting anyone else does. Just speaking from my own experience.

  14. D said,

    I really wish I could think of something else to say now that Kent is agreeing with me. It mightn’t last long… :)

    But no, all I could come up with is a stolen chapter (posted in my archives) from Laurence G. Boldt’s Zen and the art of making a living. It seemed pertinent when I started typing but started to get into Uh-oh territory about the time he says, “Reclaim the bliss! Split the seam of your cellophane wrap!” but I’d gone too far and couldn’t turn back… Don’t know, maybe it’s all hippy nonsense, I can’t tell now.

    And phoenix, for you: a picture of an ultrahappy baby. Sorry it’s not more useful or meaningful or a key to the secrets of life or something – I don’t know if or why life is worth the effort, but I think there’s something in the occasional amazingness of humans which stirs hope.

    (Nice Gandhi quotes, Blog-person.)(And hello, Nimeton. I mentioned everybody else… don’t want to leave you out.)

  15. phoenix said,

    Ha ha Deirdre, that photo did make me giggle. But I also couldn’t help thinking: “Just you wait a few years, little baby, and then you’ll know better.”

    And I want to put on the record that personally, I don’t want to be unhappy, and I don’t think that I would feel bad or conflicted if I was happy. But we don’t really get that much of a choice about how we feel, do we?

    I agree that it would be better to be happy and to not worry about the point of everything. This is my ambition in life. But you can’t just flick a switch and make it happen.

  16. Deirdre said,

    phoenix, you know when drunk people are wandering all over and blabbing on and on about rubbish, and some sober person says, “Don’t listen to them. It’s the drink talking.”?

    Don’t listen to yourself. It’s the depression talking.

    You’re welcome to wander over to my place if you ever want to:
    Plodding along to glory – the new and uglier version. I need to fix it up.

    Not that I’m trying to sell it to you, I just saw on your blog that Link used to be one of your early bloggie friends. Same here. And I vaguely remember your former blog and also remember once leaving a stupid comment there and regretting it. Sorry about that. I should have said all this on your blog instead, but I was too scared of looking like an idiot. (Monototo is used to me looking like an idiot. It’s not scary here.)

  17. phoenix said,

    It so happens that I already read your blog Deirdre, but I’m not usually much of a comment leaver – particulalry at blogs where Kent frequents. Sometimes I think that I’m stalking him. I partially regret leaving the comments I have here – but I just couldn’t resist the subject matter.

    You certainly could have left a comment on my blog – comments brighten my day, and nothing you write could be stupider or more embarrassing than some of the things I’ve written there. The other day I wrote an awful emo-style poem.

    But here is fine I suppose. Monototo updates his blog so infrequently that somebody may as well make good use of it. :)

    I know that it’s the depression talking. I honestly do. I know that I’m sick and I need help. But sometimes I wonder whether the whole thing about depression isn’t that a depressed person is someone who has discovered the truth, and sees things as they really are. And the aim of the treatment – psychologists and all the rest of it – is to get people back into believing the lie.

    Aren’t the anti-depressants I’m on really just ignorance pills designed to get me back to feeling a false sense of bliss?

  18. Deirdre said,

    phoenix, I haven’t read anything stupid or embarrassing at your place, but maybe I just haven’t seen enough of it yet.

    Boom boom. Joking. I’ll go back tonight and hunt you down. (You’re joking about stalking Kent, I hope? Serious stalking behaviour would be A Big Problem, sir. But if you just mean you go looking for his comments elsewhere, I used to do that too. His damn blog kept disappearing and I wanted to know he was still alive. [You were a big poo back then, Kent.])

    Anyway, I don’t know whether you meant you read one of my blog posts and left forever, or you’re still reading, but please feel free to say something if the words ever form in your head. Comments are good. Plus some of what I read at your blog made me laugh, so maybe we’ve got the same sense of humour and that would be double good.

    As for depression, maybe it’s different for everybody. This is what I think (and fyi, I’ve never been clinically depressed, only various grades of unhappy). An enduring sense of bliss (if you mean elation or perpetual joy) is impossible, so if someone is leading you to believe that it is possible, then that person is idiotic. But a depressed view of the world is perhaps equally as unbalanced and equally as idiotic – instead of staring at eternal bliss, it’s staring at the neverending dark side instead. It’s negative, self-centred, short-term, and without hope, and if that was a clear view of the truth – if that was the essence of reality and the planet and of life itself – then I think everything would have ground to a halt before this. Something has kept everything going for milleniums (millenia? how do you say that? a very long time) and I’m assuming that whatever it is, it’s pretty central to “the truth” and resembles a will to life, and an energy for changing and growing. Depression doesn’t see that, it just glooms. So in other words, no, I don’t think depression sees the truth, it only sees one facet of the truth, one end of the spectrum. Boo for depression.

    What do you think of anti-depressants, by the way? Are they helpful or not?

  19. Deirdre said,

    This is why I should never leave comments anywhere, any time, ever. I’m supposed to be mowing, and suddenly out there in the wind I realise my previous comment is going to sound like it’s saying that depressed people are idiotic, but no no no! That’s not what I meant! I was talking about the thinking processes, the viewpoint itself, the way depression tangles with your brain. Damn it, I’m sorry.

  20. phoenix said,

    Deirdre I knew exactly what you meant. Depression does give you an irrational and idiotic view of things. I’m very conscious of this. And I agree that it would be better to be able to look at life in a brighter way – or at least in a more balanced one. There is a lot of joy and happiness as well as all the misery and pain. I know that. And I am trying my best to be able to change the way I see things.

    But life still has no meaning; no point; no purpose. That is a truth, whether you’re depressed or not. But I totally agree that it is better to go through your pointless life being as happy as possible than being depressed.

    “Something has kept everything going for millenia” you say. This is undoubtedly true – but do you really think that that “something” has been a positive force? I think that on the whole the history of human beings is pretty negative. And our survival and growth can be put down overwhelmingly to mostly base and negative things.

    As for the anti-depressants, it’s difficult to know if they have any effect or not. I know they’re doing something – because the physical side-effects of taking them are hard not to notice. But as for what they do to my mind, I really can’t say.

    I have been better since I started taking them – but maybe it was just the fact that I’d seen a doctor and finally admitted to the problem that set me on course for improvement. Maybe if I’d left the doctor’s office without a prescription, things would have been just the same. It’s impossible to know. They certainly don’t make things worse, that’s for sure – although when I was on the maximum dose I did feel a bit doped up.

  21. Deirdre said,

    I asked about the anti-depressants because I’ve sometimes wondered whether they’d give me a kick-start of a sort, like a chemical rocket boost or something, just to get going. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the way they work.

    Maybe you’re beating yourself up over being depressed, and that would be more idiotic than the depressive thoughts are. You can only work with what you’ve got, and a lot of what you’ve got is down to luck, genes, and circumstances.

    But,
    :)
    (Don’t you love the pauses that always follow a “but”? You can just about hear the mental gears shifting.)
    …as far as a personal philosophy or credo is concerned, that’s all your own work. You say “…life still has no meaning; no point; no purpose. That is a truth…” but no, it isn’t, it’s a judgement, and you could just as easily judge life to be full of meaning and completely purposeful, or do what I do and just hope for the best (I can’t see any point to my own life either, but I keep hoping this is only because I haven’t found a purpose yet, not because there isn’t one). (Don’t you hate it when fuck-tards with overly-high opinions of their own opinions start advocating them for general use, especially in blog comments on someone else’s blog? Bloody hell – sorry, Toto. I seem to have colonised your space, Sunshine. Please forgive, etc.)

    Plus whether human history or the vast changes across the life of the universe have been positive or negative… that’s purely a judgement too. I’d say on balance it’s been positive, especially for humans. I know we mess up a lot, but also life for most people on earth (people, not the surrounding environment and non-human neighbours) is in most or at least many measures (eg. health, education, nutrition, political participation) better now than it ever has been before. Maybe the environment is beyond repair and now we’re all going to die, but maybe not, too.

  22. phoenix said,

    “Health, education, nutrition, political participation” all of those don’t mean shit Deirdre, pardon my language. :)

    I would trade them all in for a loin cloth and illiteracy, so long as the loin cloth came with a sense of family, community, love and acceptance. And with a more harmonious way of living with the natural environment.

    Human Beings have made great material advances at the cost of the health of the planet, our souls, and for people like me, at the cost of our happiness and mental health.

    I think that as for the purpose of life, it gets back to what was (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away)the original topic of this thread, and that is delusion. I maintain that there is no purpose to life, and “finding a purpose” is merely deluding yourself into thinking that there is one.

    Perhaps there are advantages to doing this. I have often noticed that the very-religious seem very happy and content with things. The fact that their beliefs are (in my opinion) total crap doesn’t change that fact.

    But I do state that there is no purpose to life as a fact. Not merely (like some of my other opinions) as the opinion of a depressed middle-class emo-boy. And if you dispute that it is a fact, I challenge you to produce any evidence to the contrary.

    Life is pointless, meaningless and inconsequential. Fact, fact and fact. All you can do is delude yourself into thinking otherwise. But just because you delude yourself into finding a purpose, doesn’t mean there really is one.

  23. Becca said,

    If life is ‘pointless, meaningless and inconsequential’, why do you value a sense of family, community, love, acceptance and a more harmonious connection with the environment? This seems… a bit inconsistent.

  24. Kent said,

    Hardly. It’s not inconsistent in the slightest. I think the burden of explanation is on you here.

  25. Becca said,

    It *seems* inconsistent to me, because saying family, community, love, acceptance and the environment is important implies *to me* that these things have intrinsic worth; that is, they are valuable in and of themselves (and may hold purpose even if we don’t know why, although this is not the point). And yet if all of life (which *includes* family etcetera) is utterly meaningless… then, to me the apparent meaninglessness cancels out any value that one has given to aforementioned parts of life.
    And I may have weird logic, but valuing stuff and then devaluing it (whether or not this was the intent) doesn’t make sense to me.

  26. Simply Dan said,

    Phoenix, you state that life is meaningless, and state it as undeniable fact…and then ask others for burden of proof, but, really, your ‘fact’ is also something that is basically unproven at this point. How can you know that life is meaningless unless you have some outside point of view on life in general? I’m not even trying to imply that that is a cause for a belief in any kind of religion or anything, but merely that you can’t objectively state that life is meaningless and put the burden of proof on someone else to prove you wrong, when you really haven’t ‘proven’ your own truth…it is merely speculation from your own point of view, and hardly something that can be taken as ‘cold hard fact’, since that would require you to be on the outside looking in on life in general.

  27. phoenix said,

    I accept that in a scientific sense, my theory on the meaninglessness of life can’t be considered a fact. But I am confident that the likelihood of any evidence to the contrary ever appearing is so remote that it’s barely worth considering.

    As for the apparent inconsistency of me valuing things like family, community and love, I have already said that even though life is pointless, it is my ambition to have the best and happiest pointless life I can. And having things like love and acceptance would make for a less painful life. Still a pointless life, but a less painful one.

    Just because there is no grand plan or purpose to life doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get the best out of what time we have. The thing about the pointlessness of life is even though in an intellectual sense – like when we write in lengthy comment threads on blogs – we can accept that life is meaningless, in reality our brain, for evolutionary purposes, does a quite convincing job of making it appear to us as if our life is of the utmost importance. That is why committing suicide is so hard to do – even though as I said earlier, it is quite a sensible and rational thing to do in many respects.

  28. Deirdre said,

    WordPress won’t let me post this comment. I’ll try posting in instalments – maybe there are too many links.

    PS. Phoenix, your latest comment just appeared as I was trying to publish this one, but I haven’t got time to read and change my comment if necessary. This is from before it, in other words.

    phoenix, I suspect you might be fibbing just a bit when you say that social advances don’t mean shit. I know you’ll know that often they’re necessary for the kind of things most of us hope for: community respect and legal recognition, for example. Half the world’s human population (ie. women) couldn’t expect such things until quite recently. But anyway, here’s a little community which might suit you and your loin cloth – where health, education, nutrition, and political participation don’t mean shit; I’m guessing everybody is illiterate; the people have a harmonious way of living with their environment (in the sense that they manage to fit in wherever they go and make hardly any demands on resources); and their survival depends on maintaining a strong sense of family, community, love and acceptance within the group: big picture here and source details here

  29. D said,

    I wasn’t having a go at your reasoning, because (a) I can’t, and (b) you’re perfectly entitled to think whatever you want.

    I agree with Becca and Simply Dan though, and I think Becca’s point about intrinsic worth is so important, it could have wiped out this whole comment thread if she’d just got here first. It’s really central to everything, and right at the foundation of the difference between old ways of thinking about the world (eg. that natural resources are valuable because we humans can make use of them) and the new (that each thing is one part of a larger whole, and that each part has intrinsic value, not because it’s useful or productive, but just because it exists). For example, see the principles at Church of Deep Ecology (but beware: these are people who intend to “re-wild” themselves :) )

  30. phoenix said,

    Deirdre you’re probablyy right about me not really thinking that all of the social and scientific advances of modern times don’t mean anything. I did overstate my case.

    The sensible thing to say would probably be that there is a middle-way that can be found betwen making progress and retaining the things which really matter in life and which have been lost in this disgusting, exploitative jungle we have the misfortune of existing in today.

    P.S. I’ve got that stupid “Hakuna Matata” song from the Lion King stuck in my head now.

  31. Simply Dan said,

    Hah, I have it stuck in my head now too.

    I have no problem with the hypothesis of the meaningless of life, though, I’d have to counter on the rationality of suicide. Even if life has no grand meaning, at the very least we would be ‘living in the moment’, and if we commit suicide, there would be no more moments to have. Even if there is nothing after this life, just the very fact that there *is* nothing would seem to at least make ‘living’ better than ‘not living’. As I’ve heard before, ‘I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all’.

  32. phoenix said,

    The issue of the rationality of suicide is an interesting one Dan. I have decided that I am going to do everything I can to try and get better – this includes taking anti-depressants and seeing a psychologist. But if this fails, and if every day in the future I feel as I have been feeling for the last two years, I don’t think it is such a clear case of “any life is better than no life at all.”

    Obviously it is a very personal decision which each individual makes for themselves, and many thousands of people make the choice that nothingness is better than the pain they endure from living. I’m not one hundred percent sure which decision I would make, but I certainly do understand why some people choose suicide.

  33. toto said,

    If it’s any constellation, I also have Hakuna Matata stuck in my head.. I’m a naturally cheery person and I can’t help but whistle or sing it as I bound down the sidewalk, which is a weird thing to do while you are contemplating the pointless and hopeless ambitions of society.

    Yes, sorry Dee, your comments were sitting in my email waiting to be validated (stupid email, you’d think it’d at least be able to distinguish you (Deirdre) from spam after all this time).

    And Simply Dan, I was in much the same boat up until the last paragraph of this post.. The whole first part of this post was exploring the idea that ‘the things that most people live for aren’t meaningful’. After reaching this conclusion I was quite content to ‘live in the moment’ and just ignore it. Sure life’s pointless but that’s a fairly neutral motivation to do something drastic about ending it.

    However, suicide is brought to the table because ‘just living’ in our society isn’t a neutral act. We continue to pay taxes, to buy products and to consume resources. By just living we continue to support “machine of destruction”. We, the consumers in western society, continue to empower the rich who continue to make evil decisions. They continue to treat the earth and the third world without respect. They continue to wage wars. They continue to keep the poor downtrodden. While at the moment everything is wrong they are making everything worse.

    But, as I said, there are other ways to eject yourself. Join the red cross (or the UN or Amnesty International), work in an orphanage, or move to Thule to live as a goat on the mountainside. Or join a commune, you don’t have to go far to find people living self-sustainably. I don’t know if any of these avenues work, but suicide offers a reasonably few opportunities down the track.

  34. monototo said,

    I just changed the options to allow up to 5 links per comment. Any more and they will still be sent to purgatory (my inbox) for an indefinite amount of time.

  35. D said,

    Thanks for the new linkability. I feel like throwing a few links in to test it out, but haven’t got any.

    Every time I see someone say something like “Everything is wrong” I want to hit them. (I don’t want to hit you, you’re just quoting it.) Some things are wrong, not everything. And not everything would be right in a less material lifestyle, either. For one thing, you would never have read Moby’s monologue, would you? And nor would anyone other than the people he knows in person. Instead of millions of people reading it and maybe being influenced by it, let’s say 20 people might have been. How would that have been an advantage? I don’t see it. There are some fantastic things about modern living, and one of them is our amazing ability to communicate across distance and languages, the capacity to unite people around the world instantly and as one, and at the same time, to link those with very specific and unusual and possibly revolutionary interests – allowing for political agitation and so on. This is not possible without the “evils” of electricity and computer systems and all the other associated systems. I think we’re really lucky to live now.

    That’s not to say the goat option isn’t a better one, though.

  36. Kent said,

    I agree, again (this is scary). I’m increasingly thinking that absolutes are the real evil of living. Saying that things are absolutely good, or “all bad”, &c. doesn’t really help anything. Yes, some of life is bad. Yes, sometimes life is (very) depressing and pointless. But sometimes life is pretty good, and not depressing at all. Same goes for things like paper technology. Yes it involves the cutting down of trees, but yes it also allows ideas (good ones and bad ones) to be spread.

    I often think while bushwalking (especially on the Fleurieu peninsula), that it’s a pity all this land has been cleared – it must have been extraordinary to see it when it was largely covered with scrub and forest. But then, the thought occurs to me, we would almost never have a spectacular view. Eyre had the same problem when crossing to Western Australia. After leaving the Nullarbor and nearing what is now Perth, he would climbs hill only to find himself staring at the branches of the impenetrable mallee, finding it impossible to see where he was going or what was around him, even upon summits. Clearing has its bad sides, and its good sides.

    A wonderful childrens history book I have says, after commenting that technology is morally neutral (radio for broadcasting music or directingy armies), that “that the higher men [sic] can climb by the use of their knowledge, the lower they can fall through its misuse. It is up to us to put our growing knowledge to good use”.

    It reminds me of the environmental fanatics who would ban mining altogether (specifically the “unknownsa” website). These people own websites, sophisticated digital cameras, travel to the remote areas they photograph presumably by the means of a 4WD. Where do they think they would be without mining? They’d be without everything. No digital cameras, no cameras at all, no cars, no bicycles, no unicycles. And if they think that’s okay, I’ll walk, well how will they get the rubber they need for their shoes? Presumably they’ll harvest it in a sustainable way in the Amazon and ship it across the pacific on a balsa-wood raft. Good luck with that.

    I don’t think that just a few things are necessary evils – *most* things seem to be necessary evils to me. Everything has a bad side. But indeed, everything has a good side, too.

    The only thing I disagree with D on is the goat thing. You cannot live in isolation from all this – commune people are kidding themselves. Yes, you can reduce your impact, of course. But you can’t remove yourself from modern society. You have to come to terms with it – or most of it. Which reminds me, one day I really must visit an abbatoir.

  37. Kent said,

    And just to pre-empt the Moby response to my points about the environment. He says we should do without “destructive” use of things. Well, we can’t. You can’t get metal out of the ground without “destroying” the ground. Say goodbye to metal. You can’t get plastic without oil wells.

    Destruction is inherent to life. If I wanted to get all philosophical, I’d say that so is ‘construction’. Life is neutral. We can’t have everything our wrong, unless we all kill ourselves, or follow VHEMT, in which case there’ll be no ‘we’ to appreciate the lack of destruction, and the whole thing will be pointless.

    I agree with Moby that we shouldn’t gratitiously indulge in destruction, but then so do most people! Even mining giants don’t do it, although perhaps nobody will agree with me there. I agree that people in power have seriously distorted ideas about the world. That is very sad indeed, and I’m not sure what to do about it (it extends, as a certain chemistry teacher once said, down very far to humble positions of power, and all the way up to Mr. Bush).

  38. Kent said,

    That should be “We can’t have everything our way*”, and it’s full of spelling mistakes, I didn’t look back over it.

  39. monototo said,

    Kent, my point wasn’t that everything is evil. there are definitely non-evils out there. My point was that as a whole; when you weigh the good against the bad, we come out on bottom. I feel like our society isn’t making the world a better place. I don’t feel like, on the whole, we are increasing peace, love, happiness, health or the health of the environment. And I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    Okay, ‘everything is wrong’ may be a little misleading. but ‘the nett-sum of everything is wrong’ doesn’t have the same ring to it and would make a lousy title for an album.

  40. Kent said,

    Well, I respectfully disagree with your first paragraph. When I weigh things, they come out in the middle. And I think, on the whole, peace, love, and happiness have been the same in historic times. And can you seriously say health – as in public health – is getting worse? You’re the one who did the subject.

  41. Phoenix said,

    It all depends on how you judge health. If you judge health solely by how long we live on-average, then Kent is right, and we (in the developed world, at least) have never been better.

    But if you consider other things like preventable and lifestyle illnesses. And if you look at mental illnesses as well, then we don’t look so good. When you think about all of the obese children (and adults) and all of the suicides and depression and all the rest of it then the picture isn’t so good. And then there’s all of the people who destroy their lives with drugs.

    Plus what you need to consider is our health in practise against how much we know about health in theory. i.e the “We should know better” factor. People in the past used to think that smoking was good for their lungs. They used to use lead in their cooking utensils. They used to use mercury to polish their hats.

    We know better – but people still feed their kids on fish fingers and chips and McDonalds and KFC 99% of the time. And people still smoke and don’t exercise. All when they have absolutely no excuse for not knowing better.

    And that’s the difference between today’s health problems and those of the past. We know better but choose unhealthiness anyway – and that is a symptom of the broader general sickness of our society.

  42. monototo said,

    I’m ahead, I’m a man
    I’m the first mammal to wear pants
    I’m at peace with my lust
    I can kill cause in god I trust
    It’s evolution baby

    (do the evolution – pearl jam)

    Well Kent, the other day I sat down and read ’50 Facts that Should Change the World’ by Jessica Williams. I highly recommend it. The facts on face value aren’t all that amazing but the essays which accompany each fact, make strong arguments suggesting that there are things that are wrong with the way things are going. In there are these gems:

    3. One in five of the world’s population – 1.25 billion people – is undernourished.

    8. Every cow in the EU is subsidised by £1.40 a day – three out of four Africans have less than that to live on.

    11. There are 27 million slaves in the world.
    (more than at any other point in history)
    
12. A third of the world’s population is at war. In 2002, 30 countries were fighting in 37 armed conflicts – a combined population of 2.29 billion people.

    14. One in five people live on less than 50p a day.

    15. There are 44 million child labourers in India, some working 16-hour days.

    20. There are at least 300,000 prisoners of conscience, often held in appalling conditions, sometimes tortured, simply for peacefully expressing their own beliefs.

    22. The US owes the United Nations $1bn in unpaid dues. Yet it spends the same amount on its military programme every 23 hours.

    27. More than 150 countries are known to use torture.

    28. Americans spend £5.6bn on pornography every year – the same amount their government spends on foreign aid.

    35. A quarter of the world’s armed conflicts of recent years have involved a struggle for natural resources.

    38. More people die from suicide than in armed conflicts. In the past 45 years, suicide rates have grown by 60 per cent worldwide.

    42. There are 300,000 child soldiers fighting in conflicts around the world.

    And that’s just talking about the abuse that we are inflicting on other humans. The book is written with an air of hope. It’s written to help inspire activists to make a push against the things that they see as being wrong. I don’t really think it’s worth the effort, it’s only going to get worse. The problems exist because of inequality; the powerful (and their children) only aspire more power, more wealth.. and this results in more inequality. But there is nothing that is going to stop it, typing this is a waste of electrons. Continue as you are, fitter, happier, more productive.

    Back in regards to ‘the meaning of life’ which was being debated earlier… at the end of chapter 38 (there are more suicides than deaths in conflict) there is this: – “The poet and philosopher George Santayana once wrote: ‘that life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.’ If we are serious about suicide prevention, then reaffirming that ‘assumption’ and not judging those who through whatever circumstances have come to doubt it – is what we must do”. hmmm

  43. Deirdre said,

    Hope is a resource too, you know, and it needs proper management, especially in public. Nobody can or will try to change something for the better unless they hope a solution is possible. Squash hope and you’ve squashed all solutions.

    Your comment reads like you’re saying we should have no hope whatsoever, and I’m hoping that’s just because of the way it’s written, not because it’s the way you’re thinking. You say that the Williams book is written with an air of hope, but then you didn’t actually mention any of it. The “I don’t really think it’s worth the effort, it’s only going to get worse” line reads like you think it’s not worth the effort and it’s only going to get worse (strangely enough). And the “hmmm” at the end reads like scepticism, as though you’re rejecting the “life is worth it” assumption and the need to be non-judgemental of others.

    Is that what you meant?

  44. monototo said,

    you’ve read it right dee, I’m rather pessimistic that things can change for the better. The way I see it is that the ‘good efforts’ of people who hope to change things for the better are never going to come close to meeting the damage caused by greed/inequality/power. It’s evolution baby.

    So, by ‘I don’t really think it’s worth the effort, it’s only going to get worse’, I mean that I think it’s not worth the effort, and that it’s only going to get worse. Should I fight/ignore this line of reasoning? I guess I have to. As Santayana was saying, we have to assume that it’s worth trying, I don’t think we can support hope with logic, we just have to assume that it’s going to work.

    Although you read the rest of my comment correctly (I was very negative about the whole thing) the ‘hmmm’ was just because I thought it was an interesting quote. When I read it, I hear Santayana agreeing with me: you’re all assuming/deluded that life is worth living, a necessary trait and something which society reaffirms. And I feel the activists are in some ways the most deluded.. it’s funny how delusion and hope go hand in hand. But (like Santayana was hinting) it rubs off, and their delusion that they are going to make a significant improvement somehow gives me a temporary feeling of hope.

    clear as mud.

  45. Nimeton said,

    In many situations things are probably not going to change until they are forced to change by drastic circumstances. Water for example. Many people are probably not going to realise/care/be stuffed changing their habits until their taps run dry. At this point many may see the benefits or more to the point necessity of recycling sewerage.

    It’s the sort of analogy that can be applied to a heap of situations. Subtle pressures don’t really work and nor does activism because while it may influence some its really not going to be effective on a large scale.

  46. monototo said,

    cheers Nimetön

  47. D said,

    Monototo, I respectfully and grumpily suggest that you’re looking at things through depression at the moment, and shouldn’t give your most negative thoughts too much weight. A lot of what you’re saying just doesn’t sound like Toto-like.

    It’s not the point of your argument, but I had a look at that Santayana quote in context (p. 103 in the Project Gutenberg online reader) and it comes from a passage in which he was talking about “ideals” – a term which I think refers to foundations of belief or action which can’t be proved or disproved, they can only be assumed (accepted) or not. In other words, he wasn’t talking about life, he was talking about philosophy.

    Here’s a quote (p. 517 in the reader) which I think seems more relevant:
    “If a drop of water contains a million worlds which I, in swallowing, may ruin or transform, that is Allah’s business; mine is to clarify my own intent, to cling to what ideals may lie within the circle of my experience and practical imagination, so that I may have a natural
    ground for my loyalties, and may be constant in them.”

  48. Kent said,

    Afraid I must join you in the respectfully and grumpily disagreeing stand, Deirdre, though for a different competitor.

    “It’s the sort of analogy that can be applied to a heap of situations. Subtle pressures don’t really work and nor does activism because while it may influence some its really not going to be effective on a large scale.”

    There is a whole ocean of situations that completely contradict that claim. Women’s liberation (and I mean suffrage more than 60s feminism), for a start. As I was trying to say earlier, extreme generalisations like what you said are simply that: generalisations, extreme, and plain wrong at worst or misleading at best.

  49. Kent said,

    To be fair, I respectfully and grumpily disagree with your comment too, mr toto, although I know you knew I would and I’m sure you just made it to make your point and stir me up. So I’ll give in and let you win :-)

    And in case anyone’s irony-meter is finely tuned, as mine sadly is, I am aware that my statement about generalisations being mean and nasty is indeed a generalisation about generalisations, and thus rather leaning to the paradoxical. Oh well.

  50. monototo said,

    Hey, no grumpiness in the comments! Any form of depression or despair is well tolerated but grumpiness is out of the question!

    d^_^b

    okay let’s agree to ‘whatever’ *shrugs*

    (I’m going to go and do something else now, but you guys can continue to hang around here if you want…)

  51. Kent said,

    What makes you think we aren’t already doing something else? ;-)

  52. Deirdre said,

    Well, I’m still hanging around here, though I want to lodge an official protest at the banishing of grumpiness. Not fair! Why can’t we keep grumpiness and get rid of respectfulness instead? Have a heart, boyo. Don’t be so mean.

    Anyway, do you realise this is the 52nd comment on this thread? Is that a record here? I think we should play for the century, really.

  53. Deirdre said,

    Plus something I meant to add the other day and then forgot: an idea I’m not sure about. Negativity might be like a virus. It spreads from person to person, and somehow we either manage to innoculate ourselves against it, or we get negatitivity-sick (can’t think of a name for it). In the same way that you should be able to ask someone to stop coughing over you if you’re afraid of catching their cold, maybe you should be able to ask someone to stop being so negative around you if you’re afraid of catching their misery. It sounds mean though, doesn’t it? And I can’t be sure it’s not just a REALLY stupid idea anyway :)

  54. Nimeton said,

    happiness is also like a virus if you follow your logic deirdre.

  55. Deirdre said,

    I guess so, yes. True. Maybe that’d be a good thing, though. We could all be walking along, minding our own businesses and a cloud of happy-viruses could move in and infect everybody (if viruses can travel by cloud). We might all be struck down by happiness… Hospitals might be overrun by an epidemic of human smileys, and the government would have to activate emergency powers to close off traffic because of all the uncontrollable dancing in the streets…

    Beats bird flu, anyway :)

  56. Kent said,

    Sure does. With happiness and negativity we are dealing with morality at its very plainest. So unless you claim to be totally amoral, in which case you have issues, the happiness virus is either good or bad, and the opposite applies to the negativity virus. If you decide the virus part itself is bad, then you’ve got no hope.

    So even if happiness is like a virus, what matter? Like Deirdre says.. it’s a good virus!

  57. Deirdre said,

    That should be the negatitivity virus, Kent. Get it right, please.

  58. Deirdre said,

    If happiness is right and negativity is wrong, what happens when the negativity is really just an accurate presentation of facts, as in Toto’s list from the Scary 50? It’s not wrong to present those facts, in fact it’d be wrong to NOT present them if he thinks that we need to know about them. The fact that some squeamish individual like myself might feel distressed by the horror should only be the squeamish individual’s problem, shouldn’t it? This is what I’m thinking now, basically because I read something today about personal boundaries and it being unhealthy to take on the emotional atmospheres created by other people. I was suggesting with the whole negatitivivity virus idea that somehow we have little control over whether we share such atmospheres (viruses) or not, when in fact (according to the book I’m reading) a mentally healthy person can be responsible for their own feelings and thoughts, no matter what’s going on around them. Obviously I wouldn’t know. I can’t even hold fast to one single thought for longer than a day ;)

  59. D said,

    And that just wasn’t confusing enough, so here’s a different point of view about personal boundaries from Helena Norberg-Hodge:

    “I find Buddhist philosophy a very useful system here. It teaches that the self does not have absolute boundaries. We are not separate or disconnected entities: everything in the universe exists in relationship. Everything has a living, flowing connection with everything else. Of course, that does not mean that there is no self in a relative sense. Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy. It emphasizes the inter-relatedness of everything. We are not isolated entities.”

    Self-realization and society

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