June 6th, 2007
Every so often, I read about something so extraordinary that I curl up into a little ball somewhere and wonder just what the hell life is all about.
Some people say the answer is in travel. Modern man's been on the Earth for 200,000 years now and we've managed some pretty amazing things, let alone the little wonders of kicking electrons from their comfortable little shells to stand in as a second-rate counting machine's fingers and deriving meaning from it all. There's famous landmarks which are famous for people having gone there, stared at them, and said "Wow!". There's eerily quiet fields where a hundred years ago, men gathered with muskets and shot across fences at each other, counting volleys before they could in good conscience fall back. There's loud, boisterous open air plazas where people blare loud music and dance.
Some people say the answer is in knowledge. Every one of those things was dependent on someone figuring out how to bang a metaphorical set of rocks together in the right way. Someone to whom we're all eternally indebted to and, more often than not, completely ignorant of. So we sit and read and go to places where they read for us and tell us to read more. Somewhere in there, we decide we've had enough, leap up from our cushioned couches, and throw ourselves into some avenue of perceived improvement. Someday, somewhere, you'll sit on a dentist's chair, notice a drill made by the Ritter company which uses a knight as its logo and be shocked into a recall of Germanic nobility and the odd echo that history sometimes sounds into the present day.
Some people say the answer is in simplicity. Man needs relatively little to survive. Details only cause you to worry more. Why not take the easy route? Live a life full of simple tasks with compensation for your troubles and time for everything else. We're simple people. We need not be more. Truly, what's the reason to be more? There's no prize at the end of it all. No medal for first, second, and third place. We're all losers in that game -- and most likely by large margins, considering the vast number of humans who have lived, worked, and died. Life can be carefree. You can sit in your hut, kill an elephant every so often, share it with others, and share in the product of their labors. You can throw sticks at trees until then or whatever else happens to tickle your fancy -- it's estimated that primitive groups spend only about 20 hours a week doing anything to keep their lives together, whereas industrialized societies are bustling with people working 80 hour weeks -- 40 at work and 40 at home, trying to keep the bills paid, possessions in good repair, and still have time somewhere in there for the things you like.
Some people say the answer is in improving the world. Man hasn't gotten here by resting on his laurels. Life is not nasty, brutish, or short, but only because someone figured out how to make nails and hammer them into boards to put walls together. Someone else found out that lightning in the right media can provide light and sound. As Lord Nelson signalled, England expects every man to do his duty. If we don't tend the sails or fire the cannons at Napoleonic madmen, then the things we love will be in jeopardy and we'll sit drifting or sinking in a vast, empty, and lonely ocean. The edifices will fall and they won't come back unless someone picks up the pieces and glues the entire wonder back together. We must be better, stronger, smarter, and faster. We have the technology. We can rebuild our civilization and do it better. We can enfranchise the poor, save the sick, ease the pain of elderly, and embolden and strengthen the weak. Moore's law stamps out a path in front of us, but we can do better if we only try.
Some people say the answer is in ourselves as people. Good friends, good drink, and good socializing are the cure for many ills. Without them, men grow sick and twisted and consider life a hazard in spite of its benefits. Sitting on a rooftop with friends, drinking refreshments, and conjecturing about the feasibility of filling a garbage bag full of water and unleashing an economy-sized water balloon on the surroundings below you will give you many a laugh. Making a flight simulator and flying it by a committee of thousands with electronic paddles will provide extraordinary results. Misuse and abuse and setting your feet on ground rarely trodden is putting your hard-earned skill and knowledge to use in improbable ways and that will always prove amusing and amusement is its own reward.
Some people say the answer is in love. A beautiful woman on the right night will comfort you, set your head straight, and recharge you for the days to come. If you're lucky, you'll convince her in a sad truth of mind games, misdirection, and balls under shuffling shells that it doesn't get any better and cutting her losses is a good idea. If you're very lucky, she just might believe it. You'll have a family of little children whose existence you will have created and will go off and do great, wondrous things and lead lives that you wouldn't have ever imagined if someone had given you a pen and paper and a thousand years to imagine and write.
Some people say the answer is in adventure. The roar of a car on a track at 200 miles an hour and the deceleration as you brake hard, turn, and slam the gas to shove you back into your seat and start the process over again. The feel of the wind on your face as you spread eagle yourself in the air and see the ground rushing towards you before you pull the cord and return from a moment of madness to one of sanity and reason. Man has senses for a reason -- if you don't use them, they dull and you'll never really know what wonders just darted behind that rock in the deep, dark seas of your ocean. Live fast, die hard, and leave a pretty corpse -- getting old just makes you wish for a youth that's too far and too long gone.
Every so often, I see chains around my feet and rationalize constraints. And then I remember that there's no first, second, or third place in life -- and even if there were, I'm not going to win it. You can't compare lives and choose which is better or worse than others. You can't say there's such a thing as a bad life because every life is a new, scientific mixture of variables and miracles which result in the intermediate derivations and, at long last, on the right side of the equals sign emerges an uncodable, unique, and novel symbol which tells a fascinating story when told right.
Modern society burdens me and I must cast off those burdens. The camel which bears them must become the lion which destroys them and must in turn become the questing, wandering, curious child who with innocent and open eyes sees their own path in front of them. Comfort is a thing which settles me, confines me, and at long last, cheats me. There are likes and dislikes, but all I can truly do in my life is experience which darkens and enriches those comforts. There are many rewards before the final reward which lay in front of you for the questing, and more often, the mere seeking. Much can come from a simple "Yes". Much can be lost from a simple "No".
Shine on, you crazy diamonds -- the lot of you.
EDIT: This is long, uncut, and I'm not the least bit sorry.
That took forever to read, but I'm not the least bit sorry for reading it. So, what inspired this in particular?
Wow. Now THAT sounds like an excellent adventure!
Your icon, by the way, reminded me that I need to check on when the full release of Blade Runner is coming out. According to wiki, there'll be one this year that'll have the theatrical release *and* the director's cut.
I have seen Blade Runner for around 5 years now because relsqui
's never seen it. The director's cut has never been right to me as an introduction and my one, old VHS recording from the Sci-Fi channel of the theatrical release is a bit dodgy in places.
I actually suspect she'll hate it -- but that's another story.
You certainly may, though I'll warn you in advance that I'm really exceptionally boring -- you've caught me on a good day. 8)
Judging by your profile, I'm inclined to return the favor if you wouldn't see it as a slight. As it happens, I'm going to miss the hockey game this evening. =/
I was looking for this post and in a roundabout way ended up finding it by finding the link through frozenfoxtale
We've known each other for more than 2 years.
cerise@ariel ~ $ timescript -f 2007-6-6-16-58-0
3 years, 2 months, 24 days, 8 hours, 40 minutes, and 5 seconds.
Alternatively, 3.23336392339425 years.
What I was thinking just before I looked at your post:
It amazes me how easily we take everything in. The world around us is so vast it might as well basically be random, and when we travel from A to B in it, there is very little we question about it. And I love that. I love traveling in a car for hours, preferably on the passenger's side, so that I can look upon the countryside and proceed to listlessly stare into its folding, rolling landscapes. Who asks, while you are there, in the car, staring into the country, why is it there? You only ask that when you're sitting alone in a room. And it's so much like every other aspect of life: history is not built from individuals questioning history, and very few individual's lives are built from their own introspection. Folding, rolling, folding, rolling, folding, rolling. Maybe it should be the endeavor of all human beings to understand themselves and their fellows, but maybe that's really just a silly goal that honestly shapes very little. Folding, rolling, folding, rolling, folding, rolling.
So, that's what I was thinking right before I read your post. Don't really know what I'm thinking now.
My first thought on seeing lots of folding, rollings was:
"Na nanananana na na nana na na nanananana katamari damacy"
Understanding one's self feels like more and more of a trap to me. Epistemology was stymied for about 2000 years because someone asked "What can we know for certain". William James looked at things and said "Why do we care what we can know for certain vs. what we know?" We already know who we are and the things we do. The rest is unpragmatic existentialism that glues you down.
Camus once said that suicide was the ultimate self-defeating act because it's employing one's freedom to destroy one's freedom. Trying to figure yourself out is using your freedom to constrain one's freedom to a set of logical rules and waste time in which you can exercise your freedom.
I think I'm still waiting for my version of Trillian from the Hitchhiker's Guide movie to challenge me to go to Madagascar. I've been gathering too much moss.