“It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgotten.” Bastards of the Young, by The Replacements/ Paul Westerberg
I have a friend (her death blog- http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/) who has been trying, for months, to convince me to “embrace my own mortality,” and not be totally freaked out about death and dying. It isn’t working. It isn’t going to work. I KNOW that I’m going to die eventually. I don’t expect an afterlife. I know that I will cease to be a conscious animal (when I say conscious I mean conscious in the way that animals are conscious when they’re awake, but also in the way that humans are conscious of being conscious). I think it is totally reasonable to be terrified, it seems natural, and maybe even good.
I currently work sporadically in the film and TV business. I have a ton of free time. The following isn’t new information, but having a lot of time is terrible for your productivity. Obviously, having a time limit, or deadline, is a good thing because it motivates you to get things done. The knowledge that you have a big huge deadline, and I mean DEADline, looming somewhere in your future is probably the best motivator that we have as humans. As conscious beings we are aware that eventually our consciousness will cease to exist. Nearly everything we think, feel, and experience during our lives will fade away.
“The drama of the human condition comes solely from consciousness. Of course, consciousness and its revelations allow us to create a better life for self and others, but the price we pay for that better life is high. It is not just the price of risk and danger and pain. It is the price of knowing risk, danger, and pain. Worse even: It is the price of knowing what pleasure is and knowing when it is missing or unattainable.
The drama of the human condition thus comes from consciousness because it concerns knowledge obtained in a bargain that none of us struck: The cost of a better existence is the loss of innocence about that very existence. The feeling of what happens is the answer to a question we never asked, and it is also the coin in a Faustian bargain that we could never have negotiated. Nature did it for us.“- Antonio Domasio, From The Feeling of What Happens (1999)
When we think about making our lives better many of us reify happiness and almost turn it into a unit of measure. People use happiness as the measuring stick for the success of their lives, but I’m not so sure that happiness is really the point. There isn’t a positive correlation between how happy people are and how productive they are. Two different conclusions could be drawn from this fact. One conclusion is that success and progress as individuals, and as societies/ nations, isn’t that important because it doesn’t make us happy. The other conclusion is that while the carrot at the end of the stick may be happiness the real “goal” is to keep the donkey moving forward with the promise of that carrot. Happiness might feel like an “end” but really it’s a motivating “means” to another “end.” We may not be conscious of our desire to reach this ultimate end, but we are compelled to chase.
“I’m an anecdotalist… I’ve got anecdotes. I’ve got stuff to say, if people would listen. But they won’t” -David Brent (Written by Ricky Gervais/ Steven Merchant) The Office Christmas Special
“Our good fortune allowed us to feel a sadness our parents didn’t have time for.“- Oliver, “Beginners”
Many of us who are lucky enough to not have to worry about survival, are desperate to make some kind of mark on the world and leave a record of our lives. Contemporary Americans are doing this in record numbers. We are documenting our every thought and activity. We are broadcasting our lives on television and online. We are aware that we won’t exist forever, but we are fighting like hell to exist in one form or another for as long as possible. That’s one of the reasons I am writing this right now, and it’s probably the major reason anyone writes a blog, or records a song, or makes a video, or believes in a god, or contributes to a wikipedia article, or….
I have a theory about the human drive to progress, create, and contribute. I don’t know if I buy memetics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memetics), but I do think that the drive to create is similar to the drive procreate. I think that we pass on something like memes, bits of culture, or values, or whatever, just like we pass along our genes. I think as conscious thinking animals those social/ cultural units can be almost as important our genes. The feeling of being loved, the pleasure of sex, and many other human experiences exist to protect and pass along our genetic material. Doesn’t it make sense that our feelings of accomplishment when we achieve or overcome exist to encourage us to create and progress? Obviously there’s no intentionality here, this uniquely human trait being a byproduct of our uniquely human consciousness.
“Cause I gonna make you see, there’s nobody else here, no one like me, I’m special, so special, I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.” Chrissy Hynde/ Pretenders
Points one through three can be summed up like this- I have a limited amount of time as a conscious being. At some point I will cease to be, and everything I think, and don’t record, document, or pass along, will also cease to be. I am motivated to record and create because by doing so I can prolong my consciousness, or at least the influence of my consciousness. I am writing this now, and I feel good about it, because it is, in some small way, a step toward the goal of psychic immortality.
Obviously, I’m doing this because I’m hoping that it will get a response from at least a few people. I hope that people will read my, mostly stupid ideas, and find some of them interesting, entertaining, and/ or compelling in some way. Maybe it will lead to something else, maybe it won’t.
It’s not a huge deal if nobody reads it because my other reason for writing this is that I need an outlet(s) for my crankiness. Nobody’s life turns out just like they hope it will. Even if they achieve their dreams it will probably end up being bittersweet. I am generally a fairly pleasant person, but I also have very high expectations, which are rarely met. This means that I am frequently disappointed and sometimes bitter and unhappy. I can complain a lot about almost anything. That can be funny on a TV show or in a stand-up routine, but it really wears on people in real life. Recently it has been damaging to my personal life. I don’t want to be that person, and I’m confident that I can change. I hope that this blog can be part of that process.
I’m writing this because I think it’s better than not writing it. It might make me “happier.” It might have some kind of positive effect. It’s a long shot, but why not?
These essays are going to be, at least nominally, music themed (surprise!). I plan start each entry talking about music, and, at the very least, use it as a way to discuss or introduce discussion of another issue. I am going to do my best to write well thought out and intelligent essays, but I am sure I will make a lot of mistakes. I totally expect it to start off sucking. I really would like people to write in to correct inaccuracies and mistakes, and challenge the things I say if they disagree. The general idea is that these entries will be quick sketches that could be expanded and improved.
Thanks for making it this far. I promise to be more entertaining in the future.