A Clear Mind: Whistling in the Dark
The purpose of life is to perpetuate life. In its pursuit of that objective, life is a fundamentally ugly enterprise. Yet living creatures have no appealing alternative; it looks like death brings an end to everything, and there is the possibility of an even worse situation after death.
In this sense, the pursuit of beauty in life is like sailing into the wind. It’s harder and slower than sailing with the wind, but it can be done. The prevailing breeze says that life is an ugly affair; but the direction in which living creatures want to go is just the reverse. Given life as the lesser of two evils, people (and sometimes, it seems, other creatures) respond to life’s ugliness by selecting instances of beauty from it.
If sailing into the wind is all you ever do, after a while it starts to seem normal. You may cry when you’re born, and for good reason; but soon you learn that being miserable isn’t very rewarding. Instead, people learn to look for the positive. It becomes a habit, to such a point that people actually consider it negative and perverse to carry on, as I have done in these several posts, about the essential darkness of life. Seeing darkness means not seeing light, and the light of life is what human traditions typically espouse.
Much creativity is required, when the attorney builds a case that runs against the obvious facts. It becomes necessary to ignore, downplay, or postpone the discovery of a great deal of evidence, and to mischaracterize or obfuscate plain truths. In similar spirit, people stitch together their imaginary tapestries of life’s beauty by selecting elements that suit their circumstances. The resulting pictures vary greatly from one another, yet each advocate is convinced that they know how life can be beautiful.
Two examples make the point. On one hand, some people find that life is treating them relatively well. People in this situation often conclude that the bad parts of life happen to other people because those others aren’t doing it right. They are stupid, or lazy, or weak, or unenlightened. There is something wrong with them, anyway. In this perspective, life is ugly for those who mishandle it — as if the successful person, him/herself, were not surrounded by larger predators and smaller parasites, looking for an opportunity (and not necessarily playing by the same rules).
On the other hand, many people who aren’t doing so well bring God into the equation. It is God’s will that something bad happened; or God is going to sort it out in the end, putting those successful people in their place and giving these sorry individuals a better afterlife. In this perspective, those who have the hard lives are not inferior; they are, in fact, saints, and they will experience a fantastic life forever, after they die — although, on closer inspection, they aren’t typically too eager to get there, or to see their loved ones head in that direction.
The purpose of such theories seems to be to show that their proponents are on the right track. The wealthy person may see him/herself as being more intelligent or talented; the God-fearing person may consider him/herself righteous or faithful; but however characterized, the conclusion is the same: this person has figured out how to experience a beautiful life. The theory achieves the mission, which is to piece together bits of evidence to prove that the wind is actually not blowing directly in one’s face.
The wind of life tends to be harsh. But sometimes it carries beautiful things to us.
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