We are all born into the world destined to die. Our reality is one in which pain is far greater than pleasure: you can scream for days in pain, but not ecstasy: the heights of pain far surpass those of please, and have far more endurance.
If there is meaning in this world it is not obvious, and the multitude of religions and philosophies, with their myriad different answers to “why are we here?” that we just don’t know. The message of religion and philosophy is “find meaning”, not “there is meaning” because their very multiplicity states clearly “we don’t actually know.”
All around us there is degradation, cruelty, misery and hopelessness. People living lives they hate, working all week for a few hours, desperately waitng on the weekend when they can be themselves. TGIF, and the near-universal hatred of Monday speak to what work is like in our society. A few, vastly privileged in the way that matters most, love their work, but that’s not the world most of us live in.
Illness and suffering stalk us, everything we care about will eventually pass away, the victim of the world’s cruelest joke of all: time.
In this world, a world which exalts suffering, we seem to go out of our way to make the world worse for each other. We live in chains we ourselves have forged: societies which are far crueler than they need be. Societies where most of us spend our days doing work that doesn’t need to be done, that helps no one, and in many cases which harms other people. We are stuck in a cycle of abuse, where we hurt each other, and then go on to hurt others. We writhe in fear at the meaninglessness of life, and if we find our bit of meaning in religion, philosophy or our tribe, we are happy to hurt as many other people as necessary to cling to our single spark of light.
One response to this is to say, “and so it is” and to be brutal and heartless and care only for a few around us, if even them. Live life, take what you can, enjoy it while possible, and when you die, at least you lived. Life is nothing but endless cycles of eating and being eaten, so make sure you eat, till the inevitable day you die.
Another is to simply accept what is: it is ordained by nature or God, or Karma, and so be it.
Another is to seek transcendence through mysticism, a path those who have not followed should not readily write off. Perhaps there is something beyond, and perhaps it can be found through esoteric discipline. Billions and billions have thought so, many have enlightened, and they were no stupider than we are.
Another is to embrace kindness: to scream against Nature and God, to say “just because it is so does not mean I have to accept it.” If violence and rape and greed are part of human nature, endless selected for by mindless evolution, why then so are kindness and compassion, and we can choose the latter and strive to make our time in the world as good as it can be for as many of us as possible. We do not need to be complicit in cruelty and suffering, but can make a choice otherwise.
This can be taken further, “nature made us thus but we do not have to accept it.” There is nothing divine, or sacred about physical processes or evolution, and if there is a God who made this vale of suffering, to hell with it. As our mastery of science and reality continues, why accept suffering, why accept death, why accept loss? Oh, eventually the universe will end, but why not seek to change ourselves such that we rarely die, we are not cruel, and we suffer less? The cry of the naturalist that we should accept our nature is not convincing to me. Why? To accept is to be complicit in all the evils of our nature.
However it happened, we have the ability to choose. What we are, what our world is, does not ultimately define us. Our choices to be complicit in suffering and cruelty, or to work for kindness and compassion: those define us.
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