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Episode · 1 year ago

Lecture 27 THE BRIGHT SIDE

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This lecture pits against each other two opposite philosophical stances toward life: acceptance and rejection. In the final analysis, acceptance stands as the healthier and wiser of the two. 

Meditation, Time Lecture Twenty Seven. The bright side, there are two main philosophical stances that can be adopted toward life, acceptance and rejection. According to the latter, typically labeled rejectionism, more anti natalism, life is such a burden of suffering that it is immoral to bring a child into the world. Counter intuitively, this philosophical stance, currently spearheaded by the South African philosopher David Benettar, has primarily taken root as an existential malaise in economically developed countries. On second thought, however, it stands to reason that people who enjoy material affluence have the leisure to ruminate on the meaning of life and sometimes arrive at...

...a dreary conclusion, as in the present case. Incidentally, this sort of pessimism has a long history that dates back to eastern traditions, namely Hinduism, the pursuit of Maksha released from the cycle of death and rebirth, and Buddhism, the self same pursuit, whose object is here called Nirvana, both based on the premise that life is a hot that of misery. Acceptance, on the other hand, testifies to a favorable outlook that portrays our time on earth as worthwhile by virtue of many valuable experiences, notwithstanding impediments and hardships. Examples are serenity and dignity from finding purpose in life and striving to achieve it, together with desirable outcomes like sensuous pleasure and intellectual gratification. Acceptance therefore hinges on a value judgment, as does its opposite, but with a different conclusion and...

...corollary, determination to procreate, which compliments the resolve to live. Whatever philosophical stance we adopt, the choice is always personal, as a verb by Jean Paul Sartra, the author of the novel Nausea, where Rokenon, the protagonist expresses strong rejectionist ideas. In fact, it is the most important choice that someone can make, both in relation to their own life and that of a possible child, as to whether life is worth the trouble and birth is in this child's best interest. Furthermore, this choice is a distinctively human aspect of our nature, in contrast to animals, whose survival is entirely instinctive. The problem with this pos possible child is precisely that it is not yet a person capable of making their own decision based on experience, following some extended examination of...

...the pros and cons of existence. But is it right to deny this child the opportunity to live in the freedom to decide one way or the other, in the name of a sinister and controversial ideology that belongs to a minority group of questionable sanity and wisdom? It appears safe to suggest that no is the correct answer to this question, especially since the assumption that we know better than others what suits them best enough to act against their will, presently or in the future, as in the will of a future human endowed with the gift of thought, is a blamable form of totalitarian arrogance that should be dismissed out of hand. The know is doubly justified, as the conviction of those who advocate rejectionism is suspect, to the extent that, paradoxically, they find enough motivation to face the music daily and write books about the human predicament. But...

...let's say, for argument's sake, that in their eyes, the feeling that life is worth living as a boon they personally enjoy against a backdrop of widespread misery, implying that their joy is terribly restricted the appanage of a privileged minority. How did they come to this view? By referring to surveys of subjective happiness worldwide. Truth is, the common perception is not that life isn't worth living. David Benettar argues there is ample evidence that people are naturally biased toward life and overestimate the quality of their condition, thereby skewing the conclusions found in these surveys. His argument, however, is flought on two counts. One, statistics, though informative, are not the proper litmus test for determining whether a person has good reasons to live or procreate. And two, this overestimation...

...betrays a favorable disposition that is welcome in the personal assessment of one's existence, this assessment trumping any claim to the contrary. In any event, the gloomy take on life in the related childless or suicidal cure, although many rejectionists do not endure suicide as a method of extinction, remain suspicious as long as their proponents prefer life to death on a personal level. Cases in point. After years of literary, philosophical or political engagement, plus reflections about rejectionism as being the ultimate expression of reason and freedom. Arthur Schopenhauer, Emil Choron, Samuel Beckett and John Paul Sartre, among others who often portrayed life unfavorably, died of old age. Note that Schopenhauer is among those who do not endure suicide, but his position appears somewhat contradictory. In suicide, the basic assumption is...

...that life is so wretched that the absence of it is a welcome relief, and one decides to act against the instinctive will to live by killing oneself. As for Schopenhauer's line of reasoning, it is similarly that life is so wretched that the absence of it is a welcome relief. Hence, we should act against the instinctive will to live by denying it in a general attitude of renunciation. But only up to a point. Life is barely maintained by a strict minimum that amounts to asceticism until death. The difference between the two attitudes, suicidal on the one side and ascetic on the other, is rather a question of degree verses of nature. Either we are dead dead or dead alive, and both outcomes have nothing to do with the hearty task of living fully, no matter how vulnerable and transient life is. In fairness to David Benettar,...

...who sees in anti natalism a non violent and moral stand that prevents a child from some offering, as opposed to suicide, that is a violent and selfish measure that grieves family members and friends. A distinction can be drawn between the one and the other. This distinction, however, seems more like an exercise in splitting hairs, as fundamentally they both follow from the same nihilistic premise non existence is preferable to existence. Truth is, this bleak notion is just that, a notion, and a pathetic one at that. More defensible is the reverse idea, except in extreme cases where someone's condition is hopelessly unbearable. In all other cases, studies about happiness reveal the consensus that it depends far less on circumstances than on the attitude of the individual, who can or cannot integrate...

...the various aspects of their existence into a meaningful and fulfilling whole and, as a result, feels motivated to push on or not. Thus, the contention that the procreative act sets the stage for considerable hardship is grossly incomplete. Without this rebuttal, the procreative act sets the stage for considerable happiness, which redeems the trouble along the way. More importantly, whether life is worth living is a grave question that can only be settled properly by the value judgment of the person involved, against which any generalization, dubbed scientific or not, is mood. Having said that, ancient wisdom, both eastern and Western, teaches us that meaninglessness and unhappiness are transitional in the journey from ignorance to knowledge. Not The tendentious knowledge according to which the apex of awareness is the turning point in...

...evolution, when humans deliberately defy their existence to terminate it, as though the end game of the creative and nurturing force at the heart of the evolutionary process was the annihilation of its most accomplished incarnation. We have the gift of reason and imagination, thanks to which we can generate meaning and enjoy from a Labor of discovery, acceptance and adaptation. Again, the personal assessment of our life is the only apposite measurement for determining its value, even if the positive spin we put on it is regarded as a mark of bias rather than wisdom. Such is the case with Benettar and other thinkers of the same ilk, who would likely paint sunshine and shades of gray. Liberation from the cycle of misery doesn't have to take the form of avoidance, spiritual or mundane. On the...

...contrary, it can be a more enlightened sense of engagement in the worth while, albeit hazardous, adventure of life. Every day is an opportunity to live and learn, as we strive to be the best, most enterprising and loving that we can be. For our own sake and that of others whose fate we share interdependently. Life must be considered a fluid entity within an equally fluid reality, where flux brings new challenges, new tensions in need of resolution. Nothing, however desirable, can be retained indefinitely, any more than water can be trapped by clenching hands. Hence, life is not for the faint of heart, but for those who value and practice the virtue of courage and go the distance to minimize suffering and maximize happiness for themselves and fellow human beings, not to mention fellow living forms. A world of purpose and joy is available...

...to them. Change is in the nature of life, inclusive of everything good besides, everything bad. In a word, it just is open to all perspectives, positive or negative, and Whi always stay cautious in light of the negative, we had better heed the positive lust we miss it like a passing train bound for contentment and gratitude. Yes, life and the things we cherish will eventually be lost, but this future law should never spoil the present gain, renewed time and again in one form or another. In the end, the onus is on us to ponder our human condition day and day out. On the basis of experience. We can then develop a wise outlook that offers an insightful view of what this condition represents as a dynamic and interactive process.

Likewise, we can establish priorities and use them as an inner compass. For example, we may posit that we are an incarnate life force induced to work at surviving and thriving. We may further argue that to do so is a creative endeavor in dealing with changing circumstances, together with a nurturing endeavor best encapsulated by the concept of self love as a visceral concern for our welfare. Finally, we may elevate this argument to the level of a moral imperative that extends our self love to the love for all that exists as part of our social or natural environment, which is a vital complement to our existence. We thereby transfigure our life force into a love force that translates into a staunch promotion of life within and without, including whatever contributes to its fulfillment, like health,...

...freedom and the power to succeed. We may even fit this view in a metaphysical framework, so that the plurality of things and beings in the universe are subsumed under a single creative and nurturing force that accounts for their existence and resilience. Yet, notwithstanding the fundamental unity of the universe, this plurality of things and beings often conflict with one another and require an effort of resolution. This conflict may shock us at first blush because it entails the risk of suffering as the aftermath of antagonistic actions, we may nevertheless breathe the sigh of relief at the thought of this twofold solution, ingenuity and cooperation. There is indeed formidable strength in numbers, with a pooling of means, united by a set of shared objectives. Our life in solidarity with others may than be seen as an...

...organic part of a living mosaic. The point of this thinking exercise is to turn our crude existential fact into an elaborate world view. The outcome is an enlightened sense of purpose, like a beacon guiding our travels through the fog of our difficult existence.

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