The Shining Dark Truth
Given our inevitable final state, a bad experience can steal nothing from us. In evil or calamity we feel no overall loss; it is rather only those fleeting delights that have the power to tip the balance of our overall existence.
Those who follow this blog with any frequency will note this post appears more “romantic,” more “imaginative” than academic. I try to be original [is that even possible?] by venturing into concepts that no other thinker I’ve come across has created or considered.
So what does the above mean?
Ultimately I’m talking about value. Therefore, by definition, this is a work in aesthetics — my first ever :] I’m concerned here with the most important value of all: the value of life. The value of an individual life. Far be it from me to write, “the value of your life” — I’m not able to assess that. Yet maybe these thoughts are a helpful addition to the way you assess your life’s significance.
Many people take death as their starting point for meaning (and value) of life. The reasoning goes, if we know what death of an individual entails — whether there is something beyond death, for example — then we can reasonably gauge the value of our life in relation to that understanding. If death is the ultimate end and there is no eternal soul, then it is reasonable to live a life that bases its sole value in the depth of experience to be had while alive on Earth.
As an aside, I have to give credit to a mini series that altered my young teenage mind where I heard the following lines from the movie based off of Dean Koontz’s book by the same name, Intensity:
“People don’t realize just how happy they could be if they could just understand that the value of any experience isn’t in its positive or its negative effect … the value of any experience is in the intensity of the charge that you get from it … Any fool can just take his nose and stick it in a rose and enjoy the smell — but what if you allowed yourself to get just as much pleasure from the thorns?”
Where most typically favor the pleasant over the painful, such amounts to an intellectually arousing shift of good/bad value assessment. I support this notion insofar as it encourages at least a respect for the less-appealing facets of life, such as depression, loss, and pain (“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”).
But let’s take the entirety of an individual’s life based on the reasonable assumption that it will die, that in the end your Self dissolves into nothing. Without consideration of afterlife possibilities — for this would be a far too long metaphysical text — it seems reasonable to state that overall we can lose nothing if nothingness is our ultimate end.
Think about it: how much can you subtract from zero? Actually, an infinite amount of things! A burned-down home, a lost friend or family member, that ever-dwindling paycheck each teem with an immediate sting of loss — but how much can you lose overall in a life where you entered with and will leave with nothing?
Zero minus anything is always zero; the number remains the same. But add even only one positive value to zero — to our nothingness — and we have added value. That single aromatic rose has delighted the senses, tipped the scales of our overall experience towards something of greater value than nothing.
Ah, but you say even that sweet smell shall too be carried away by the tides of time. This is true. So you might be tempted to think joys too are meaningless. But who ever, panged with hunger, claimed to have regretted his meal? Who, having eaten, digested, and expelled a meal was ever mournful that it was a pointless and unsatisfactory effort? The meal comes and goes and is no more, but she sure was enjoyed while she lasted.
Life’s pleasure is like a solar eclipse. We run out to enjoy this fleeting phenomenon — what human who had the time to enjoy an eclipse would turn away? And that is like the whole of an individual’s life doomed to self destruction: a series of retreating and returning joys that briefly eclipse our larger looming death.
This is no cause for alarm. It is a call to enjoy life before it’s gone.