Anyway, what I wanted to do today is very related to those Story Fragments I was running a while back (and I have a few more of those to share later).
It's a big thing I wrote two/three or so years ago, when I was in a philosophy class.
It's not exactly original, and it's a bit pretentious, but I think it is interesting and I just found it again recently.
So I thought I'd share. Have fun:
The First Question and the Meaning of Life.
Albert Camus once said that the first question all philosophers face is that of suicide. All else comes secondary.
The truth in this statement strikes me every time I take a moment to contemplate it. Those who value life most tend to be those who have overcome death.
The idea of overcoming death is, in itself, rather odd and multi-faceted. You can overcome death by surviving war; you can overcome it by surviving the death of a loved one. But the way closest to ones heart is the question of suicide. If you contemplate suicide, you have contemplated the meaning of life.
But what do you find there? I cannot answer that question for you; I can only answer it for myself.
In class today we are discussing the meaning of life, and that got me thinking about my past, my future, and the way in which I interact with this world.
I believe in that short sentence, even if Camus himself did not.
I believe that every person, at every moment of their life, must overcome first the question of whether or not they want to live. Many people do this unconsciously, the desire to live so strong it requires no thought. Others are not so unburdened.
The choice of life may seem a simple one; who would not want to live? But for some of us it is a question that dogs our heels every time we stop to take a breath.
What do you value in life?
Why do you continue to wake up every day and live?
Who or what gives you the strength to continue?
These are questions that often pull forth long answers, despite seeming rather simple.
If you chose to live you are obligated, if only implicitly, to consider the life you chose. The unexamined life, after all. Would it be better for you if you had not chosen that life? Would it be better for someone else? Which matters more? What counts as 'better'?
In considering your life, consider what it means to be human, to be alive. What qualities are required for you to call something human? Sentient? Alive? Do they differ?
Do you fall under your own definition?
Now think on the meaning of morality. What is good? Is it simply the absence of evil? Then what is evil? Simply the absence of good? What would be required for you to call a person ‘good’? ‘Evil’?
Do you have any of these qualities? Do you consider yourself good?
If you do not consider yourself good, why do you choose to live the life you have? Do you choose it to appease family? Friends? Society in general? Or do you just feel that it is how you are ‘supposed’ to live? Or do you believe that even the ungood deserve to live? What about the truly evil?
Maybe you do consider yourself a good person. Do you recognize the evils in you? Do you work to prevent them? What makes you a good person? The assurances of people around you? Or your own heart?
If you were told that your memory was to be removed of every event in your life, the only thing you were to remember being your name, date of birth and the similar, would you cry out in rage? Joy?
What is it that makes you the person you are? Is it the combination of memories, experiences, thoughts that you have running through you? Or is it something less tangible? A moral fiber, a soul that would carry with you regardless of where or when you were?
I can speak not of other people. I have not lived like them, as them. I can only comment on the experiences I have had, and draw conclusions from them. From those generalizations I can structure my world. These generalizations are what I need to answer the first question, and the basis of the answer to the second.
Life is an ever changing word for me, much like the stuff from which it is made of. There is a distinct difference between life and living. To be living does not require life, and to have life does not require being living. Life is a process, living is an act. I do not value living, but I value highly life.
I have often said to people that I do not value life, that my life is meaningless in its inaction. This is but a partial truth. I do not value my living, the quality that many consider essential to life. I would willingly give my living to any cause that my death seemed warranted. If my dying were to advance the cause, and I did not find it objectionable for other reasons, my living would be given freely.
Many people will not believe this, for if I would give my living so easily, how am I still alive? Fact of the matter is, I have yet to be convinced that dying, mine or anyone else’s is necessary for anything to be advanced.
Often when considering the meaning of life people will ask the questions of: If there is only a short period of time in which you would continue to live, what would you do with that time?
This question, for me and many others, varies immensely depending on the amount of time in question.
What you consider a short time to live is a main component. Some people consider several months a short time; some consider several years a short time. How long would you consider a short time in life?
I was once asked as a matter of minutes, about half an hour, to be exact. I considered this for a few moments but came to the conclusion that I would prefer to live as ordinarily in those last few minutes as possible. Find somewhere to get comfortable, think about what I had done with my living, with my life, and search for the happiness in my life. What would you do if there was only a half hour left? How does it fit in with your thoughts on what makes a person? A good person?
This is a change from if given a few days, here suggested as a week. To this I came about to the conclusion that I would want to see family, friends. All my loved ones. I would want to tell them, one last time, how happy they have made me. Then I would want to become comfortable, as above.
If there was only a week left to your living, how would you spend it? How does this relate to what you valued above? How does this define your life?
The final question I was asked was that of twenty years. If my living were to be ended in twenty years, what would I need to do to feel complete? This question was the easiest for me. Twenty years seems like a vast amount of time to me, possibly as a byproduct of my youth. But also, possibly, because I have often been in a place where the thought of twenty years of living was unbearable.
My answer, however, is simple. Twenty years of living, I would like to do just that. Live. I would like to go to school, I would like to work, and I would like to meet some special people, share experiences and life with them. After that, I don’t think any special considerations would need to be made.
How about you? Is twenty years a long time? Why? Why not? Would you make changes to how you live now?
How would you react to being told that your life was to be cut short? If you were told that you were to have ten, twenty, thirty years of life left, but it was cut short. Would you be angry? Would you bargain, try to get more time? How long do you consider enough? Seventy years? A hundred? Maybe you consider twenty years to be sufficient. Do you know why that amount of time seems like enough? How would you react getting less than that? Getting more? When you consider life as a long chain that will eventually break, does your perception of the world around you change? Your system of values, morals?
As to the meaning of life, what meaning is there without purpose? Perhaps meaning is purpose, or perhaps purpose is meaning?