meaning

‘Of Course We’re Doomed’ (Video Transcript and Expansion)

LOGOS I (SoundCloud / YouTube)


I’ve been itching to reboot my YouTube account for a while now. I used to do some sparse reviews and music video mashups and all that. I figured, I’ve still got it on there, and decided to start uploading again.

THIS is my most recent yammering. An impromptu monologue in line with « Forever and Ever (and Ever and Ever and…)—a Little Rant… », on the collision of value and virtue. Part of a new and ongoing series with the provisional name of LOGOS:

I’m not a bona fide philosopher. But I like to talk my ass off.

Gustave Doré: illustration of Lucifer falling from Heaven (1865), for Milton's Paradise Lost.

Gustave Doré: illustration of Lucifer falling from Heaven (1865), for Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The transcript:

“Of course we’re doomed. That’s a given. But, I think we often wonder how and when… I mean, you can’t honestly expect the human race to survive, say, the heat death of the universe; and, we know in all likelihood that it will be much earlier than that, that the species meets its demise. I mean, I think it was said [that] that would occur in something like 10 to the hundreth power (10100) years or something—some wildly ridiculous number like that… the heat death of the universe… the “degenerate era,” or whatever. But I guess the problem boils down to one of infinity and immortality… you know, this idea that we need to preserve something… Why? I mean, you see monuments and statues and all sorts of things erected all over the world all the time in honor of so and so or such and such; and you do have to wonder, you know… several billion years from now the Sun is going to engulf the Earth… and you have to wonder exactly what people are thinking. Like… this is being left for posterity? [I mean] it’s short-sighted. If you’re long-sighted you realize none of it lasts, and there’s no point in doing anything with a sense of I’m preserving something… [That] I’m preserving some kind of artifact, especially… that, you know, is really ultimately a product of my ego. And I think this is where we boil down to a lot of moral philosophy… that here and now, what can we do to alleviate the suffering of sentient creatures? I think that ultimately that’s what we care about, even if we don’t realize it. “We all want to be happy.” I think that’s what the Dalai Lama said, right? But… “what can we do to make ourselves and other people [truly] happy?” Not, “what can we do to gratify ourselves and make us feel like we’re somehow memetically (sic) immortal?” Because, we won’t be, and none of this—none of the grandiose structures… none of the art, the literature, the music, the philosophy—nothing that humans have ever done is going to be a lasting thing in the universe at large (sic). So, what do we do now? Here and now? I think that’s the real question.”

~

I think that if we take this view to its logical conclusion we realize the general importance of empathy and compassion. Now, there are moral relativists, and solipsists, and other types who think that morality, generally speaking, doesn’t have a set state, or that suffering is either non-existent (and thus a non-issue) or dulled for other minds. (If there even are other minds.)

Anyway, there are a lot of different ways of looking at morality. But I think that most of us can agree that, if there is such a thing as morality or virtue, it ties into our sense of empathy and the existence of suffering for both ourselves and others. Poor old Schopenhauer had this in mind when he, in his On the Basis of Morality, wrote:

“If an action has as its motive an egoistic aim… it cannot have any moral worth… the everyday phenomenon of compassion… the immediate participation, independent of all ulterior considerations, primarily in the suffering of another, and thus in the prevention or elimination of it… Only insofar as an action has sprung from compassion does it have moral value; and every action resulting from any other motives has none.”

Now, that being said, I will say that pity is something I think should more often than not be avoided. I mostly agree with Crowley’s assertion on this issue, as presented in his article “On Thelema” (c. 1926-1927):

“Pity implies two very grave errors…

The first error… is an implicit assumption that something is wrong with the Universe, and that moreover one is so insidiously obsessed by the Trance of Sorrow as to have completely failed in the task of solving the riddle of Sorrow, and gone through life with the groan of a hurt animal—”All is Sorrow.” The second error is still greater since it involves the complex of the Ego. To pity another person implies that you are superior to him, and you fail to recognize his absolute right to exist as he is.”

Crowley was, of course, speaking from the perspective of Thelema, a rather (I would argue) Nietzschean occult system which promotes the divine sovereignty of oneself and the primacy of joy over suffering (“Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains…”—Crowley, Liber Legis sub figura CCXX), putting it somewhat at odds with Schopenhauer and Buddhism (which I will mention further down). Schopenhauer and Buddha both seemed to have as their emphasis the nature and problem of suffering (“Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance…”—Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism), whereas Nietzsche promoted—in his disagreement with Buddhism, Stoicism, and Christianity—amor fati, the love of one’s fate (despite pain), and Thelema seems to have a vaguely similar idea of things. (“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”—Nietzsche, The Gay Science.)

Frankly, I find all four—Gotama Buddha, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Crowley—to be incredibly wise in their own ways, and it is difficult to “side” with any particular one in terms of ethics and value. We’re talking about some very profound thinkers and articulate writers and orators here.

Anyway, true compassion, to my mind, does not involve any kind of power exchange or other faulty dynamic. It must be a recognition that what is within oneself is also within another.

Despite Crowley’s admonishments of those who are “obsessed by the Trance of Sorrow,” the Buddhist view (particularly in line with the Mahayana) is one very close to my heart on this issue. As is noted by the Buddha of the Diamond Sutra, in speaking to his disciple Subhuti:

“…Subhuti, in the practice of compassion and charity a disciple should be detached. That is to say, he should practice compassion and charity without regard to appearances, without regard to form, without regard to sound, smell, taste, touch, or any quality of any kind. Subhuti, this is how the disciple should practice compassion and charity.”

In this context, compassion is something that must exist without regard to condition—the condition of ourselves, others, or the world at large. It must be self-existent and be provided to all beings.

But this brings me back to my original point: In a world so transient (as the Buddha, speaking of Buddhism, was so eager to point out), suffering and happiness must be our chief concerns. Looking to impermanent objects or projects for a lasting sense of meaning, security, or peace of mind is ultimately folly and is destined to fail. We are very much “doomed,” both as individuals and a species. We will not and cannot go on forever, and the idea that we persevere through objects/products/creations is a trick of the ego. Plus, considering the current state of our little planet’s climate and ecology, there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t be around much longer anyway. Given that, it is time to afford ourselves and other creatures a perfect measure of respect and love. I think that, despite any philosophical debate, we must come back to the fact of suffering and do something about it. What can we do otherwise?


» Check out the LOGOS! podcast on Soundcloud and the video series version on YouTube.

logos

Forever and Ever (and Ever and Ever and…)—A Little Rant on the Arbitrariness of All

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(Source unknown.)

“Profound boredom, drifting here and there in the abysses of our existence like a muffling fog, removes all things and men and oneself along with it into a remarkable indifference. This boredom reveals being as a whole.”

—Heidegger

~

A little rant:

What’s the point of being famous if humanity won’t last forever? Who will remember you? What’s the point in trying to do anything with the hope of it being remembered? I mean, look at gravestones. Ever see the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington? Headstones as far as the horizon. A lot of people put a lot of effort into getting those countless blocks in the ground. And yet, when the sun expands into a red giant, every grave on the earth, whether ostentatious or cheap, will be destroyed, along with every other monument and fragment of human civilization. Supposing we create a database that holds all the information about planet Earth and human history, and install it into a generational ship and carry that information to the stars and beyond? What, then, is stopping this monolithic supercomputer from being spaghettified in a black hole or dissolved in the event of the universe’s eventual heat death? I suppose if we have figured out inter-dimensional travel by that point, we can just tunnel into parallel universes for the rest of eternity, escaping the imminent death of each one. Maybe we’ll even find a world where entropy doesn’t exist. Then we can just kick back and enjoy the rest of forever. (And ever and ever and…)

But, anyway, this seems incredibly unlikely. So why do people care about being remembered, or becoming famous? The universe is 13.7ish billion years old. It will continue to exist for billions of years. And yet, even knowing this, so many of continue to squabble over pieces of dirt and pennies on the dollar, neither of which will be here in a million years. Plate tectonics and rising sea levels, globalization and cultural degredation, the modification of language and the unfathomable future we are all beset with… Entrust oneself to change!

So where, exactly, is the human race going, in the end? Will we just continue to exist for existence’s sake, on and on until we go nuts or blow our brains out? (Will there even be brains then?) What happens when we run out of new things to do and try? Will we off ourselves out of pure boredom once every song is written, every painting painted, every book published, every poem heard… every experience experienced?

Science fiction always provides a thought-provoking, albeit outlandish, backdrop: Perhaps the answer is to put humans, or their evolutionary descendants, into flotation tanks of some sort. Then, we can keep them on (what’s assumed to become) eternal life support, and pump them full of feel-good drugs, so all they ever experience is pure bliss. E.g. A strange panacea that, say, mixes the effects of MDMA and heroin, and never causes tolerance. Addiction wouldn’t have to be worried about, since these individuals wouldn’t have to function in society. You’d just have to find space for them in a broom closet or warehouse is all. They could just be butt ass naked floating in these tanks…

Or how about something akin to The Matrix? Rather than Tom Anderson’s dead-end office job, have the denizens of this cybernetic universe live in an eternal play-land, a Cartesian dreamworld-utopia, full of the greatest delights imaginable. How would that be?

I realize that there are many philosophers who have tackled the overarching problems of purposelessness and dissatisfaction in some way or another: Buddha boiled it down to suffering, whereas on the more existential, Western side we find Heidegger, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Sartre, and so forth. It is largely an individual issue. As such, I’ve never really seen it put into the context of humanity’s long-term existence, eventual fate, and function in the universe. So, anyway, I broached the topic.

I’ve also seen the obvious mystical leanings. I like them… I do. The idea of it all being about “knowing thyself” or simply the experience of pure being, or non-being, or whatever way you formulate soteriology, etc. For religionists this may be Nirvana, or Heaven, or Jannah, or gnosis, etc. And, as I’ve implied, the existentialists tackled this issue, but only on an individual level, really. (“What is MY purpose in this world…?”) My question is, what is all of humanity eventually going towards, and what happens when we ultimately run out of things to do? Do we erase our memories (with whatever lightspeed gadgets we’re assumed to have at this theoretical point in the future, or just some kind of hyper-barbiturate, yada yada) and then just start over, ad infinitum? How is it that we avoid nihilism, or even a concomitant antinatalism, as a collective? Does this differ from the way that we give meaning to individual lives?

I know this may come off as a little silly or outlandish. Granted, I wrote this pretty quickly, so pardon a lack of articulation or elaboration. In any case, I think it’s really a pertinent question of how we value the world.

(SEE THIS ALSO.)