Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Find Today a Fine Day to Exist

Can flocked wallpaper be so bad it's good? Well, ahem, someone (I'm pointing down the page) doesn't see it that way. Things do seem black and white to him, I guess. But definitely not a groovy swirl of overlapping and constrasting moments, just unrelieved black mostly. The black of nonbeing so unbeen that it might even be lavender.

Sure, it's just my opinion, but I do prefer being to the alternative, now that I'm in the swim of it. However, not every deeper thinker feels that way. Prompted by an article on odd book names, the crack team (or meth, whatever makes the links quiver) at James Taranto's Best of the Web for the Wall Street Journal did further investigation on one particularly prickly title: "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence"

This tome was written by David Benatar of the University of South Africa at Cape Town, and I'm sure if I had a sister that rockin' and popular, I might feel so insignificant as to prefer the winking-out. To his credit, rather than becoming a bitter suicide, the professor's decided to plod on, contributing to the intellectual content of our unthinkingly cruel species with his philosophical treatise against being. That's right. Being At All. Yes, you too. The WSJ's link is www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009777 (personal html skillz not mad today), and I think it's a freebie, but in case not, I will extract freely and tell you how darned interesting and funny the column in total usually is, so you should subscribe yourself, blah....or just pluck the book's description from Amazon like they did.

Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence--rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should--they presume that they do them no harm.

Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence.

Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence.

I'm quite sure I'm missing the brilliant subtlety of the "anti-natal" argument: No one will ever experience suckitude if there is No One to know what sucks, but I don't know how he could attest that non-existence sucks less. All of us doing the arguing are too late to the party to know, pre-birth memories being widely faulty for other than a few bestselling hosts of costly weekend seminars and consciousness props. To my unsophisticated perception, life strains everywhere to be fecund, whether in blossoming flowers or the mold on leftovers, whether in termites, kudzu, or those fish that hibernate under mud flats for years. Mayflies. The lengths to which life will adapt (most unattractively) just for the briefest, longest-shot to make more life from itself seems to show that living must be cool, or at least preferred. Otherwise, why would so many vile and perfectly natural things from plague viruses to deadly bacteria keep trying so hard to make it here in LifeTown. I'm a crude instrument for philosophy, I'll admit, but there's one other refutation I can make.

A bestest friend of mine is having a birthday today, and I'm extremely pleased not only that said friend ever existed, but that many suckfests were able to be shared and survived together, as I find that surviving long enough to laugh, sometimes just a second or two past the sucking, is half the fun. And so I praise this one laudable existence by sharing a gift of unalloyed happiness with you. Dare I say, it may even serve as healing balm for your existential harm.
Hopefully, what will quickly load below is The awesome Wallpaper video of Do What you Want by OK GO.

Just for a nanosecond of your intrisically-harmfilled slog, I dare you to dodge the sweet lightning of joy. Go on, try.

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