"Large invisible elephant in the middle of a small room. Many persons (incl.: BMcC[18-11-46-503]) are infected by their childrearing, schooling, commercial, patriotic and other advertising, etc., to not see what is obvious and most important in their living, and in their dying. Item: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."
People talk about living for the next generation. I find this a form of soul rape (as in: "The rape of Nanjing"); I am being pillaged for some next generation. If it is recursively true, then for all eternity each generation will just sacrifice itself to a next generation which will sacrifice itself... so there will never be a winner in this Crusade of infinite postponement. So why bother?
Alternative: The present generation is itself a next generation, esp., the next generation of its previous generation. Therefore: The present generation should get a pass to to live for itself becaue its previous generation has sacrificed itself for it, so let's not let its sacrifice to got waste. If we ourselves have any surplus, of course, we should pass that inheritance on to the next will-be present generation. Final alternative: In the whole of eternity and infinity there in some one special generation that will come one day and go the next. Call it: "Generation F" → "F" for Fulfillment of history. Isn't it a cliché of ethnography that different cultures have different Messiahs? Isn't it unfair for anybody who has, due to a GPS + UTC accident, not heard The Good News, to be SOL (Shit Out of Luck)? Dante assigned the best of these poor blokes, what in Israel would be called righteous men, to a sharashkra in Purgatory.
So let me, and anyone else currently alive who wants one, have a life, today and tomorrow and yesterday, too. Leave the dead to bury the dead. And do good deeds for the future that also bring straightforward joy to us (or at least to me) in the present. Let all human doings and not doings be win-win.
Meaning can only be an accidental consequence of accidentality, else we get into a Kantian Paralogism of Pure Reason, since the meaning from which any given meaning is derived must itself derive from a previous meaning else it derives from accidentality which, ex hypothesi, it did not.
If self-consciousness comes from anywhere, it must come from not-self-consciousness. Nobody can will themselves to will the willing they have already willed; the cat is already out of the bag. How could self-consciousness have arose then? I would invoke what I call Gordon Hirshhorn's first law;
Other than chance encounters, we can only encounter in reality what we have previously encountered in fantasy.
Since pre-reflective social beliefs, ex hyposthesi, are not self-critical, then self-consciousness must have been the result of a chance encounter (maybe a powerful cosmic ray that knocked some electrons out of their orbits in some dude's brain?). Moral of this story: Don't go looking in reality for meaning in life, because the only meaning likely to be found there is what grew into the meaning that's here, so we've already got better unless somebody forgot something. Want to ground speculative religion? Build a better God.
What has no value must have come from something that at least appeared to have some value, either positive or negative value, but not no value, for else why would it have mattered enough for anybody to notice it? Maybe some hunter had a bad wound that healed and he noticed scab specks sloughed off on the ground? Maybe some cave man was banging away at some rocks and noticed one that had an aspect that shined in the light and he hacked off some more of the dross and he noticed chips of the dross on the floor of his cave? What has no value (e.g.: administrivia) ultimately traces its provenance back to things that do have value, which value, of course, was not transmitted forward to these unworthy offsprings.
Daughter comes in door to outside of house and does not lock door. Somehow door gets open. I close door and quickly inventory cats (who fortunately are not hiding). By good fortune, all cats accounted for. I tell daughter that she needs to be careful to lock the door (I want to say: "Shape up! Lock the damned door every time you come in!" but that is Politically Incorrect and would get me cancelled). Daughter apologizes. What use are apologies for lost cats? Answer should have been:
"I was remiss. I will always do it right in future."
I have no interest in apologies, just, for each moment of time, whether each cat is lost or not lost at that moment. Effective action, not good intentions with which to road to hell is paved.
I propose the answer to the question of the meaning of life is not some deep philosophical casuistry but rather a matter of personal esthetic taste. If a person does not find the question interesting, then the question, and, a fortiori, its answer, means nothing to that person. If a person finds the question the most important thing they can do with their time on this earth, then it is a very important question, and may, indeed, for that person, lead to philosophical and theological deep diving.
I propose that instead of focusing on particular questions such as "What is the meaning of life?", persons (among them, myself and yourself, my reader) should focus on the meta-issue of how we each assess such first-order issues. We should cultivate enrichment of our esthetic sensibility: connoisseurship, to improve the quality of meaning in our living experience. Apart from the continuing loud machinations of my toxic introjects, I find self-styled ethical questions unpalatable. I find them largely to be causes of indigestion. As Bertolt Brecht wrote:
Student: Happy the land that breeds a hero.
Galileo: No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero.
We may be coerced by bad circumstances to concern ourselves with ethical questions, but we may also be required to eat our dinner off a disposable plastic plate with plastic utensils. Not, as I feel things, at all desirable; so, if not necessary, take it away and let us have some Pepcid for our souls! I prefer meaning in living (whch is felicitously experienced) to meaning of life (which is just a thought). Do you really like the meaning of your life? Satan get thee hence!
I have not read it in a long time, but I think Kant's "categorical imperative" says to act in such way that your behavior could be consistently universalized? I imagine the Marquis de Sade might agree he would be more than happy being treated like he would like to treat others, but might those others object to becoming part of his consistent universalization? How would Herr Kant respond to that?
How about this: Why should I expect my life to matter to you if I do not show you that your life matters to me? Why should you expect your life to matter to me if you do not show me that my life matters to you? I should not expect you to respect me if I do not respect you. You should not expect me to respect you if you do not respect me. If I do not care to honor what matters to you, why should I expect you to care to honor what matters to me? If you do not care to honor what matters to me, why should I care to honor what matters to you? If only lives in set X matter and Y is not a member of set X, then Y has been put on notice that if Y is noticed, Y will become a target of opportunity, and, if not noticed, Y is not a potential candidate for search and/or rescue. I, for one, do not aspire to be a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis -- men who did their duty and then nobody in their line of command cared that they went missing.
I think my rule should be universalizable, and it would handle M. de Sade's edge case, for if I want people to be kind to me and he wants them to hurt him, we can each get what we want without comprimising the other. It would also handle the other edge case of do-gooders who want me to sacrifice my self for their Good Cause; it shows their zeal for their Good Cause may not be universalizable. I once saw a universalizable principle on a bumper sticker on an automobile parked near the Washington D.C. Mall (1975):
I HATE YOU AS MUCH AS YOU HATE ME
Going up the Taconic Parkway one bright sunny day, an immaculate little chocolate Porsche zipped past me on an uphill with a very differently spirited vanity plate: "DERRIERE". (I've got one too, even if yours is in front of mine!)
As the characcter Gödicke of the Landwehr, who was brought back from the dead by two medics on a bet of a couple packs of cigarettes, says in Hermann Broch's novel "The Sleepwalkers" when a civilian is preaching about the story of Lazarus in the Bible: Only those who have risen from the dead have a right to speak on that topic. Everybody has a right to run their mouth off about anything they wish except to shout: "FIRE!" in an overcrowded soccer stadium when there is no fire and his words wlll cause the crowd to become stampeding mob killing one another in their rush to exit, etc. For my opinion, best metric for such "acceptable" semiosis by persons with no evidence for what they are talking about is that it and they can safely be ignored. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can hurt me only if they are also performative acts, among them, a boss telling an employee: "You're fired!" → especially when there is no other available employment and no unemployment compensation.
If you, whoever (including you, my reader), have not been subject to unbounded violation of your soul, then I propose you have only a formalistic right to speak about psychological boundaries. I will repeat my childhood memory here: For some reason I do not recall, as maybe a 4 or at oldest 5 year old, I had metamorphosed the word "mother" into: "mud". My parents did not like this and they did apologize for maybe having inadvertantly hurt me, nor gently ask me what was the problem and what could they do to improve the situation.
They (Better: "The them") staged a little drama: My mother picked up a little valise in one hand and opened the front door of the house with her other hand. My father interpreted for me that she was going to leave [permanently!] if I did not tell her I loved her. I was a small child. I did not have a bank account or a safe house to go to. I had neither been told nor figured out for myself without any outside help that I could leave and live happily ever after (I probably couldn't, anyway). It was, for me, what non-philosophers call an "existential" situation: my existence was being threatened by rhese people.
Of course I did not thematically know I existed, or even that selfs could exist. Again, nobody had revealed that to me and I had not invented it for myself. I did, however, have some sense of something not salubrious in my ambient surround. Today (December, 2020), if I had enough money, I would tell these self-appointed KGB agents to shove up it the termini of their alimentary canals, and I would push the b*tch aside from the door if she wouldn't voluntarily get out of my way. and I would exit the damned place and not look back, because I have no interest in being turned into a pillar of salt. But let me repeat: Only if I had adequate capitalization; otherwise I would still in December 2020 be forced to "eat it" because I do not wish to follow Jeanne d'Arc and Giordano Bruno's precedents. Terror "works" only if the victim does not have a viable exit path. Limits need to be drawn: limits as to how far "people" can penetrate into and rape a person's soul (I, personally, would stop them before they rip off male infants' foreskins, but some others who do not think of themselves as vampires appear to entertain differing opinion).
Limits need to be drawn. One thing which can justify the existence of a social institution is that it steps in to prevent limits from being crossed, not, as happened to me, constellating itself as an an agency outside the original situation abetting the abuse, perhaps unthinkingly advancing its own self-serving agenda through the proxy of the abusers. America should never have given rise to what was done to me in America. Please read my section (the present page will not likely go away in the interim): ASS, BITCH, WHORE.... Thank you.
The limits must not be violated. Persons with power must not cross the boundary of where the damage a person's body and/or soul even one iota! They all need to: Bug off! Institutions need to prevent not abet or conveniently ignore violations of individual human beings' minimal conditions of living not just meatbolizing! These crimes against humanity in the singular [individual persons] are crimes against humanity in general, because humanity exists only in each individual person's living existence. Thou shalt not even try to transform persons into obedient Zombies! A woman who was recorded on a surveillance camera being murdered, asked her murderers, in medias res: Why are you doing this to me? Joseph Welsh famously asked Senator Joseph R. McCarthy:
"Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?" (U.S. Senate website)
"From those who have little, what little they have shall be taken away."(BMcC[18-11-46-503])
"Just because a person happened to have been ejected into this world from a zillionaire grand dame's birth canal does not mean they will deserve to exist; just because a person happened to have been ejected into this world from a homeless prostitute's birth canal does not mean they will not deserve to live in a castle and be privately tutored by Aristotle; ditto the kid's parents: to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities." (BMcC[18-11-46-503])
Some persons do not like going thru life with a negative balance sheet. If you make them pay their dues [to whatever/whomever], they will erase the deficit by making the next generation pay their dues to them.
Joseph Stalin did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was a very intelligent man, but not very nice. As an adult, he acquired nuanced appreciation for classic opera, and he sent a lot of people to forced labor camps. The only person in Adolf Hitler's family whom the father did not abuse was the family dog. And, even then, had the young Führer-to-be been admitted to the Vienna Art Academy, he might never have got into politics. Theodore Kaczynski started out as a happy baby, but after a traumatic infantile hospitalization and later at Harvard being subjected to a psychology experiment the secret purpose of which was to study how persons reacted to being humiliated, he because The Unabomber.
After the thoroughly kitsch and almost unrelievedly insensitive childrearing and perp schooling to which I was subjected, I sometimes find myself even today, some 50 years later, wanting to destroy something (anything), because of how inappropriately I had been "rear[end]ed"; an orchid, I had been cultivated as a weed.
When Jesus Christ's parents found him discussing serious issues with the teachers in the temple and they demanded to know why he had not come home on time, and he told them he had to be about his father's business, "they did not understand what he was saying to them." (Luke 2:50). The main difference with my case is that i did not know what business I should have been about, but my parents (and my "masters" at school, but I was not a slave) equally did not understand.
"You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." I can never experience straightforward graciousness in daily living, such as I imagine persons like George Steiner were blessed with, and I will never forget the massive WASTE and losses, starting at latest with a medically unnecessary infantile circumcision which I daily ever more infuriatedly resent. I have been violated, many times.
"Oh, come on, it's no big deal...." Every little thing is a big deal for a person who is sensitive to subtleties. Mies van der Rohe: "God is in the details." ("Who's that? Maybe you mean Karl Rove?") Frank Lloyd Wright: "Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities." Of course he was wrong: no mammal can make do without O2 and H2O. But his heart was in the right place.
Both a mind and a body are terrible things to waste. Been there, done that. Harsh conditions do not make for pleasant people.
Meaning, by coming into being, becomes fact, and therefore, becomes meaningless, because facts are just things which happen to be there.
The solution to this problem should be obvious: The newly created fact must be transcended to new meaning, which in its turn.... An art work, for instance, must have richer appearance each time one looks at it, else it is just a stolid lump. The dialectical motion can advance here in either (or both) of two ways: (1) The person experiencing the object can change so that what is experienced is integrated into a richer horizon, or (2) the perceived object can change so that the perceiver's horizon is consequently enriched.
The duck can become a rabbit, or the duck and the rabbit can become a duck-rabbit, or the person examining the picture can become more knowledgeable about the nature of perception. peregrinatio in stabilitate (you can go on a pilgrimage without getting off your chair).
What is education, if not this? Isn't the alternative: homogenous agglomeration, which merely appends something to what already exists while leaving both the perceiver and all that previously perceived material unchanged but stilt "there". Since all meaning degrades to fact, this latter condition would be a lifeworld of fact with at most one item of meaning in it, which, in its turn would reduce to yet another fact, so that the only meaning is a momentary scintillation, like sunlight glinting off a piece of fool's gold. As Heraclitus wrote:
The meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice but that some things stay the same only by changing.
"The same", in this case, being that the thing is meaningful, which it is always ceasing to be. A real conservative, say, conserving Heraclitus or Diogenes of Sinope's spirit, would be a, perhaps dressed in a pin striped suit, revolutionary, for he or she or other would be preserving -- better: conserving -- the eternal renewal of all things. "Wake up, little Suzie!"
In school, I did not do badly on the SAT's , but I wish I had done better. I wish I had got 800/800. Why? Because then I could better have told them to: "Shove it!" When a loser carps about losing everybody says: "Oh, just sour grapes. Man up, loser! Face the fact that you just weren't good enough...."
But if a 9 gold medal Olympics champion said: "Winning is shit!", then "people" wouldn't know what to do or maybe they'd try to get the person banned for life?
Winners are dependent on losers. It's no fun to win if you're the only person in the race. Actually, that's not true. Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Period. There was nobody else in that race. Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Period. There was nobody else in that race. These were contributions to civilization that even Joe Sixpack can appreciate, and there were only winners, no losers. Or am I wrong here?
What does winning mean? It means the winner did less worse than all the other people who showed up to compete. What honor is there in that? Do we remember Roger Bannister because he won a race or because he broke the "4 minute mile" barrier? Did he win by lass than 0.6 seconds?Or did he? If that had been the case, would we not also hear about the also-ran who also first broke the 4 minute mile barrier? Let's give all the people who may have helped motivate Roger Bannister awards for being motivators. On the other hand, are we sure they really helped? My friend Tom Gee says: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
You don't need to be gung-ho on brotherly love to recognize that if the goal is to beat the enemy not to get a promotion, total transparency of information is the fastest way to solve the problem. I have read that Watson and Crick intentionally misled Linus Pauling to help themselves win the DNA race. Shame on them!
My opinion? Competition should be outlawed. Period. Read Jan Szczepanski's essay:
lose win again another day.
Competition generates winners and losers. Winners get prizes. If there are no longer winners there will be nobody to give prizes to; that should be the end of prizes. Let's get rid of rewards, too. Instead, let us have only recognition for successful accomplishments, and also for constructive failures, which also advance the human[e] world.
Let persons do things only for their own sake, not to make a buck or be given a nickel plated trophy out of it. Let the recognition come swiftly, because what use is it to a 97 year old in a hospice to get a Nobel Prize for something they did as a 30 years old who had to work a second scut job to pay their bills, or even more offensive: a posthumous award (as opposed to rewarding living survivors for surviving)? But let's not dangle carrots in front of persons as if they were two-legged asses (donkeys). The society could keep a wish list of everything anybody would like to have, e.g., a cure for metastatic pancreatic cancer, to helpeach person have an idea what might be worth working on if they are bored to death and have no bright ideas from out of their own individuated experience. Vladimir and Estragon needed to be offered something appealing to do while they were waiting for Godot, yes?
If nobody wants to do a thing for its own sake, we must ask whether it is worth anybody doing. There are tough situations: When you are in a nuclear submarine where the reactor is going to go critical and explode and has to be shut down or everybody will die when it explodes, and the submarine will spread radioactive material to poison the sea and the air, but the person who shuts it off is likely going to die from radiation poisoning. I don't know the answer here: No person should have to be sacrificed, ever. But reality is indifferent to humanity, even after we stop persons hurting other persons, which is the cause of much but by no means all the unhappiness in the world. No person invented melanoma or pancreatic cancer, etc.
But if each person's life is maximally satisfied each living moment up to the advent of an unavoidable risk, maybe some will feel they have lived long enough to want to make a martyrdom give back to a social world which has always been unstinting in giving to them? As John F. Kennedy famously said: "Each morning I ask myself what I can do for my country, because my country has done and will continue this new day to do so much for me." I think few existing social worlds even try here, and then not for every person. One item: Instead of prigs trying to prevent kids from enjoying their bodies (aka: "masturbation"), parents and teachers and preachers need to show young persons how safely to enjoy their bodies more then they might figure out for themselves, because man is the instinctually challenged animal and a body, like a mind, is a terrible thing to waste.
While prizes are few and therefore necessarily divisive, there is no upper bound to the number of persons who can do things worthy of recognition, is there?