Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Cessation of All Things

Sooner or later, death will visit. I do not just mean you personally, but I mean to everything anything has ever known or experienced.

For humanity, it may be a virus in 20 years, nukes in 30, nanobots in 50, a food shortage in 1000, or eventual resource depletion (100 million years?). But that’s just some of what we may do to ourselves, on top of which there are also be a variety of limiting ‘external’ factors. The heat from the Earth’s (nuclear?) core will become unreliable or depleted in 3-5 billion years. If we manage to make it through that, the sun will consume us as it exhausts its fuel in ~5 billion years. Say we do make it into space, whatever sun we find will eventually become inhospitable as well. If the universe keeps expanding the resources will not be accessible (not as if they are now). But that is not the point. The best case scenario must still include the eventual decay of protons, in a stupidly long time from now, which will leave ‘nothing.’ The point is that it all goes.
It is inevitable.

So then what is the point? I believe the question itself is flawed, it assumes that there is a point to begin with. It would be better to start with “Is there a point?” I think the realistic answer is “In an absolute sense, there is no point. Yet, in a personal sense, there is the worth of the happiness that exists in your life.”

So what do you do? The best thing I can think of is to do whatever brings you the greatest amount of overall positivity (happiness/contentment/pleasure) and the least amount of overall negativity (unhappiness/discontentment/displease). Of course, this type of general answer is potentially unhelpful.

So what do you actually do? I would say one should engage in a process of discovery and research. Sample many things, many places, many spaces and see what you find. Travel, both internal and external, is required to have a good understanding of your own desires.

Interestingly, for myself this realization causes some… complications. Increasingly, I want to help the world, see people treated with respect, end violence, spread compassion and understanding and the like. If my perfect world existed, everyone still dies. To fight for human rights, does not mean truly saving lives, but is more realistically characterized as creating conditions where people will only die ‘naturally.’ Kinda depressing, but it is realistic. So… knowing people die anyway, one might be tempted to ask, “What’s the point?” Well, the aforementioned discussion would apply and there would have to be some cost-benefit analysis of the stress that I incur from caring about the mistreatment of others and how it is offset by the positivity created by the happiness of another whose life has been bettered by my actions. Of course, that presumes that

a) I’m a completely rational, informed agent (person), and
b) I actually have choice regarding my actions.

The first is definitely not true (as much as I want it to be) and it is very likely the second isn’t either (as much as it seems to be). Yet, the procedure outlined above is still the best course of action to follow. One should try to weigh evidence in as rational a manner as possible, despite limitations in information processing abilities. (Still thinking about this one) Additionally, while there may only be ‘apparent’ choice, one can still act like there are real choices because your life is subjectively open. In this manner, some will find it easier to proceed along a path of growth. The disadvantage of this heuristic will be evident down the line when one experiences the limitations of their own actualization abilities.

PS: Alternate title was “Dying, everybody’s doing it.” Which do you prefer?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

'My favourite planet's the sun, because it's like the King of Planets.'

I think about the same things as in your post everytime I read about/see a simulation of the death of the sun as it expands and fries the inner planets of the solar system. The last time I saw this was at an openhouse at Queen's Observatory [so choice, highly recommend it]. Even though, as aforementioned, this will not happen for several billion years, the end of the world and humanity is quite disturbing.

That's why you have to be amused with the little things: a rainstorm, a great book, helping someone you don't even know, being moved by a piece of music, eating your grandmother's cooking, being happy with yourself and appreciating the rarity of everything around us because, as the wise sportscaster Harry Carey once said, "When that sun burns out, we're all gonna be dead."


10:09 PM  

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