Why Life Frightens Me (a rant from a pessimist).

Vulnerability is a universal condition. We don’t have fixed, solid lives and perceptions. The world is constantly in states of flux and transit; transition into disorder, chaos, and degeneration. Things tend to fall apart my nature, and that there are always more ways for things to go wrong than right. Think about it, there are millions of ways to break a glass or dissemble a jigsaw puzzle, but only one way to put them back together.

Last week when I crashed my car, I immediately thought of the similarity between a car wreck and the way that a particularly unlucky sperm penetrates an egg. They both amount to a sheer accident with nasty consequences. Then I thought of the virtuality of all of the potentialities that were undergoing conflict and struggling against each other in other universes until the actualization of my accident materializes itself in my universe at that given moment and time. Then the film editor in my mind makes yet another jump cut inside my mother’s body. The metaphor is simple: The millions of my father’s sperm that are struggling to enter my mother’s egg correspond to the potentialities of accidents or non-accidents in parallel universes that never got to be actualized. Just as I am better off without having to be in an accident, I am better off if I was never born. Non-existence for me is always more preferable than existence. Existence is an accident, not a miracle. And if it is correct that a thousand pleasures cannot compensate for one pain, then the totality of individual lives that are better than non-existence may be much smaller than we would like to think.

A good life is very difficult to sustain and to continue to exist. You have to constantly feed yourself, breathe, sleep, going to school or work day after day, week after week, and year after year just to keep yourself alive and well. If you don’t make an effort of keep extending and pushing your legs, you will never go forward. Sometimes I feel as if I am barely sustaining my own life, and that my existence is suspended and hovering in the wind, so fragile and vulnerable that my viscera can rupture, my bones can shatter, my flesh can rot, and that my teeth will fall out at any given moment. The miracle is that they haven’t. Every morning I wake up with a sense of guilt. Guilty because my attempt to balance myself in this life that is filled with external and internal conflicts and wants, in this world hovering in the brink of destruction… has been somewhat successful because of the fact that I am still alive and well (when in my view, I really shouldn’t be. There are just too many ways for me to be hurt or to die and rot).

For example, when I take my first piss in the morning, a sense of delinquency always washes over me after I am confronted with the fact that my bladder still functions, and that I still have not run out of urine (or that my mother is still alive). What a miracle! Of course I wouldn’t always be this lucky. When will my fragile organs and systems stop functioning and finally fall apart? When will the unexpected happen? They’ve always worked, each and every morning. But this just gives me a better reason to believe that my bladder will fail to function this particular morning, if not the next. Why?

People get in big trouble and fall into traps by assuming that the future will be exactly like the past. Imagine a turkey that is fed every day in a farm. Every single feeding affirms the bird’s belief that it will be fed the next day, and the day after that and so on. On the afternoon of the day before Thanksgiving however, something expected will happen to the turkey. This will happen at a time when the turkey’s sense of safety would have been at its highest right before the greatest danger. My bladder is the poor turkey. The more I am convinced that it will function the next time I urinate, the more danger I am facing. I know that things change, and they change for the worse more often than for the better. They change very quickly. But I am prepared. I know what to do if I run out of urine or if my bladder suddenly becomes dysfunctional. I am prepared. (Are you?)

Therefore, I spend most of my day trying really hard to keep everything intact and from falling apart, to find orders in disorder, to find the one right path/way out of all the different ways that things can go wrong, and to avoid accidents or getting hurt or killed by things that are out of my control. To me, human beings are always on the edge of harm and death, and we go through life avoiding encounters with accidents that might lead us to the unthinkable. I think the notion or action of avoidance makes up a big portion of life. Life consists of little journeys, each with their own destinations. But your journey is always filled with obstacles and contradictions that you have to avoid in order to reach your goals. The act of walking is merely an execution of avoiding falling, slipping or stepping on dog shit. Driving on the road is merely an act of avoiding collisions with others who are also avoiding colliding with you to get to wherever they are going. Shit is always coming at you, and you are constantly jumping out of the way to avoid getting struck by the unexpected. Life is composed of clusters or small units and instances of avoidances of pain and harm while trying to find the path of least resistance, threat, and endangerment to march on to reach your goals.

All of this is of course, coming from a pessimist. An optimist would tell you that the world we live in is the best of all possible worlds. But I think this world is the worst of all possible worlds, if not slightly better than the worst; if you take “possible” to mean “what can actually exist and last”. Then if this world is arranged as it had to be if it were to be capable of continuing with great difficulty to exist, we can see that a worse world than this could never sustain itself or continue to exist.

The world is continuing to exist only with great difficult and lots of luck. Many of the human lives in the world live on the margins of death. Most of the human race lives on the margins of extinction. 99 percent of all species have entirely disappeared. The universe is a very finely tuned machine. I always picture the state of this world as a man barely holding onto a very thin piece of floss with his teeth at the edge of a sky scrapper. It’s a lot of hard work just to keep holding on to that floss, not to mention any shift of pressure or weight can break the thin string and bring the man to his death. A very small fluctuation in pressure or the composition of temperature or gravitational pull would extinguish life on earth altogether. Earth could easily collide with meteors, or be destroyed by forces beneath our own feed in its own crust. We can certainly imagine other possible worlds that are more remote from catastrophe than the current world that we live in – a world which falls short of destroying itself and its inhabitants.

People believe that our environment is becoming less and less favorable for sustaining life. We are living in a much more dangerous and serious place than we think. The bees are dying out; and when they do, we are talking about 4 years before the whole food chain collapses. We are now on a downward spiral towards complete self-destruction, where we are consuming far more resources than the earth can offer naturally. If the population keeps growing at it’s current rate, and the increase in consumption of electricity continues at its current rate, in 600 years, the world will have so many people that everyone will be standing shoulder to shoulder, and all the electricity that we use will make the Earth look bright red from outer space.

I’ve always said that intelligence is self-destructive and unsustainable. Because we are intelligent, we tend to think intelligence as an inevitable consequence of evolution. But it is not. Evolution did not say “Oh, let’s all struggle in order move towards intelligence”. Intelligence isn’t the pinnacle of evolution. It’s a bad accident. The existence of the human race is in itself a bad accident. Intelligence as a trait has very little survival value. We are the only species that is intelligent enough to wipe themselves out. Bacteria isn’t very intelligent. But they do very well and will continue to survive long after we eventually wipe ourselves out in nuclear wars.

But of course, all of this is inevitable. The best way to cope with de-population and coming apocalypse is to shift your perception and conception of the meaning of life. To think that we are meant not to suffer, and that the ultimate goal of life is happiness, or that the world owes us a sense of fulfillment and purpose, or that you are going to end up at a much better place after you die, is to me, a mistake. Being alive is not a good thing, and only by stepping out of the Symbolic realm governed and mediated by language and other meaning-making systems can we come face to face with the optimistic delusion that life has a purpose. Only then can you be welcomed by the “desert of the Real”.

barely hanging on to the string of existence.