25 March, 2012

perspective (a tribute to douglas adams)

conscious? civilised?
"The answer is...42!" - Deep Thought (H2G2)

we are just carbon-based, ape-descended life-forms living on an extremely unstable & delicate edge of existence, having got here with great bit of luck and with instant, quick, and possibly self-inflicted annihilation on one side and slow, inevitable, and natural extinction on the other, we are, in the long run, all just survival machines for our uncaring genes, who are so uninterested in our being that to call them 'selfish' would be to assign them needless personality traits and non-existent purposes
precarious existence

as civilised humans who have discovered consciousness, we fight against the very genes that are the cause of life, as we should. we deny evolutionary pressures as much as we can understand them and hold as evolved, that human who has beaten natural selection in some way, through personal choice, will-power, and/or great effort. we strive to go against our "natural" instincts in order to be "better" humans, and we look down upon someone who gives in to their "baser" instincts

we fight these genes when we use contraception, when we remain monogamous, when we protect other species, when we try and make life as easy as possible for those with physical handicaps, when we eat synthetic food, when we offer tenure to scientists, when we pay for art, when we create new molecules, and even elements in the lab, even when we go to the doctor to cure disease, or when we create power from the atom. yes, we fight these very genes and manipulate natural selection, as we must, for a specie which has discovered self. we also fight these genes when we pollute, plunder nature, kill for sport, log forests or fish using mechanised means, mine and drill the earth, and use weapons of mass destruction. at the same time, much of our actions (even the ones i have described above as samples) are actually quite advantageous to the gene, if looked at deeply, even those that we do specifically to stymie them! we try to fight it, but eventually end up doing their bidding

advice is aplenty, free and usually frivolously superficial,
though profound-sounding priima facie
so, it is even more important that we must remember not to get carried away in our own small triumphs, or forget that, at the end of the day, or year, or century, or millennium, or eon for that matter, life has no meaning whatsoever, no purpose and no direction; that we are accidental passengers precariously perched on a fortuitously (for us) located, spinning lump of fast-cooling rock with a rapidly disappearing gas atmosphere orbiting around a ball of burning hydrogen that is half-way through its life expectancy; that our entire history, from the first ever human till date, consists of about 0.0001% of the universe's known age; that our whole existence is completely immaterial, irrelevant and minuscule in the scale of things; and that regardless of how we might attempt to achieve immortality: art, science, philosophy, politics, commerce, it will always remain inconsequential in the long run, long run being defined in billions of years

life? don't talk to me about life!
however, far from depressing, this fact, this revelation, this discovery, should be, and is in fact, liberating. knowing that my life is worthless anyway, that it has no purpose, and that it is but extremely short-lived and delicate, allows me to, with some thought, and contrary to first impressions, value it even more than if i were to believe the opposite

if we believe that our life is nothing special, that we are not unique in any way as compared to other living beings and that there is nothing after life, no reincarnation, no heaven, no hell, no second chances...then this thought will allow us to do things, take risks and experience this world from a far more detached perspective, unshackled from fear, and we can actually start living life, instead of just living it

"The secret of a joyful life is to live dangerously. A joyful life is an active life - it is not a dull static state of so-called happiness. Full of the burning fire of enthusiasm, anarchic, revolutionary, energetic, daemonic, Dionysian, filled to overflowing with the terrific urge to create - such is the life of the man who risks safety and happiness for the sake of growth and happiness." - Richard Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain, 2003)