Friday, 8 February 2013

Thomas Hardy on Life



"Where he differed from so many of his contemporaries was in the absoluteness, the literalness, with which he believed that not to be born was best, that consciousness was a curse, and that while death might be distressing to the bereaved the dead were not themselves to be pitied. 'Heu mihi, quia incolatus prolongatus est!'; so wrote Hardy inside the back of his copy of The Missal for the Use of the Laity, marking also the passage and its translation ('Woe to me, that my sojourning is prolonged!') at the point at which they occured withing the volume. In February 1896 he insisted in conversation with Clodd that he wished he had never been born, and 'but for the effort of dying, would rather be dead than alive'; on Christmas Day 1890 he made a note for a poem: 'The amusement of the dead - at our errors, or at our wanting to live on'. He told the grieving Rider Haggards that a child's death was 'never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped', and when writing to Mrs Henniker about the fighting in South Africa, at a time when her husband was on active service there, allowed himself to remark: 'It is sad, or not, as you look at it, to think that 40,000 will have found their rest there. Could we ask them if they wish to wake up again, would they say Yes, do you think?'

                                                                                                                                                  Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: A Biography (1982), 410

31 comments:

  1. Great quote Karl and great man. Here are some other of his quotes that I love:

    “Happiness is but a mere episode in the general drama of pain.”

    “A man's silence is wonderful to listen to.”

    “This hobble of being alive is rather serious, don’t you think so?”

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do you people know that abiogenesis seems to be an impossibility? While we dig holes in mars, we still remain utterly clueless as to the origins of biology. Consciousness itself is also totally anomalous. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I don't know that you are right either. I agree that if you are correct the antinatalist position follows, but by claiming to have settled existential questions I feel you are commiting a similar (but more sophisticated) act of ego arrogance.

    For me to fully accept the horrific implications of what you say, I would demand to see abiogenesis recreated. Otherwise I remain agnostic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abiogenesis is the best working hypothesis available. All other theories, ie religious, haven't the slightest shred of evidence to back them up.

      Delete
    2. Precisely. There is sufficient evidence of abiogenesis to claim its the only correct theory. While we may not know exactly how consciousness works, we do know that it was merely a survival tool and whatever mysteries we impute to it have to do with our self-serving desire to raise it to a level above the rest of nature when its clearly a simple epiphenomenon that science will eventually explain away just like everything else.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous 4:54, the AN position is not dependent upon abiogenesis. Suppose life on Earth was indeed the intentional creation of a deity who will give everyone a blissful afterlife. Would that justify the fact that the deity instituted a system in which biological processes were built up from statistical mechanical processes in a manner that allows genetic sequences to torture the organisms they create through their propagation?

      If you really want to set evidence aside, you can concoct all kinds of existential scenarios in which introducing new life has negative, neutral, or positive value. Ironically, even the most benign theistic account makes reproduction reprehensible.

      Delete
    4. Totally agree with Anonymous 9:28.

      Abiogenesis has nothing to do with antinatalism. Life is THE evil, regardless of whether or not it can be synthesized from inorganic matter.

      Delete
    5. Yep. People fail to get that.

      I´ll quote this from second Anon:

      "Ironically, even the most benign theistic account makes reproduction reprehensible."

      Yeah. Doesn´t matter either way. Even a good God wouldn´t justify all this.

      I ride with you my fellow warriors.

      Delete
    6. Yep!

      "Ironically, even the most benign theistic account makes reproduction reprehensible."

      Hey Srikant, how are you man!

      Delete
  3. (original anonymous here) Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and while the leading origins of biology story is something like "it came from space", I am able to stay agnostic on the subject.

    Anonymous above you make a great point though. Even if there is a 'god' and afterlife, that doesnt change the facts for life on earth true. It may provide a much larger context though, for instance perhaps we are god tricking itself into believing it is not so as to know/create 'horror' and feel it too. All useless speculation, and I'm inclined to be personally antinatalist but my ego self would quite like to stave off suicide without deluding itself (if at all possible!)

    Anyway... Philosophy is a wonderful distraction for me so please by all means carry on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "my ego self would quite like to stave off suicide without deluding itself (if at all possible!)"

      Understandable, but there are many people (including most who comment on blogs like this) who attest to the fact that we can acknowledge the cosmic horror story without committing suicide. I won't echo Darwin's claim that there's "grandeur" in this view of life, though some of us can find certain aspects of nature simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. More importantly, acknowledging the world for what it is can be the impetus for us each of us to try our best to mitigate some small fraction of the harm.

      Delete
  4. "Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and while the leading origins of biology story is something like "it came from space", I am able to stay agnostic on the subject."

    I'm not sure why you'd call this 'remarkable'. Why is it any more 'remarkable' than saying it originated from any other source? In an indifferent universe, such adjectives become fairly redundant.

    Ultimately, mind coming from matter is eminently more plausible and coherent than the idea of matter coming from mind, which is what ultiamtely all religious perspectives boil down to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Karl! Awesome post and comment.

      Cheers bud!

      Delete
    2. Hey Karl, I'm the abiogenesis guy again. Went down into the good ol' abyss and of course your blog is one of my first ports in the storm. So thankyou first of all.

      What I meant was claiming to know the origins of life is the "remarkable claim". Saying life came from space is not an answer at all, really, it just pushes the question away.

      Even if it is just the 'ingredients' of life that came from space, that's still just the building blocks. I mean they are hard enough to come by (although I appreciate we have synthesised amino acids in an abiological way here on earth), but the processes of life have resisted so much scientific enquiry.

      Yes, it is disgusting how pain tortures us beyond our control, and the systems of life go wrong so often. But the very existence of the survival instinct just goes against what physics represents. WHY should there be any experiencing, feeling, thinking creatures? If it weren't for the fact that this planet is crawling with life, there would be absolutely no reason to expect it from nature.

      I could conjure up some theistic view to explain it. The best I have is God is consciousness, consciousness can be shaped into worlds, God can experience them as divided consciousness.

      Perhaps God is a big enough cunt to want to put himself through this shit via us. That's all I got. I'm going to run with it through one last thought then drop it.

      Someone here said even if there were a God, it would not justify this world. But if this world is a character-building process, to create bits of God that can learn humility and reason and learn to find meaning, then maybe it is those that go on to other, better worlds, before perhaps eventually merging once again with the entirety.

      This is taking me back to my 'symbiotic panentheist' days. lol The problem is I've lived life like that, really believing that stuff, but when I find myself down in the abyss of meaninglessness, it feels more likely to be real.

      So either God has REALLY pulled the wool over its own eyes... or you are right.

      There's still biology and consciousness though. They are fucking weird. If only there was a little more evidence of justice in the world. For instance, you could find a person who is full of humility and sophisticated thought, and in 20 years time they could be destroyed by Alzheimer's.

      When I *really* believed in God, I'd be arrogant enough to put it down to "well, that person clearly wasn't everything they were cracked up to be. They had it coming."

      But bad things do happen to good people, there's no denying that. And kids who have done absolutely nothing either way.

      It's a madhouse, here. I'll keep wondering though.

      Sorry to rant here. I've got to post it somewhere, facebook wouldn't be so good I think right lol

      We come from a nonsense consciousness which knows nothing. We learn all these signs and symbols which are totally arbitrary. Yet they go on to produce things which are NOT arbitrary (this computer did not happen unintentionally, we connected with the world in a real way to make it. 'We' as in people more intelligent than me.)

      So we can attain some kind of real intelligence. But then we are slowly eaten away until it is gone again.

      Which version of us can live on? Extinction upon death solves it all anyway.

      Oh my. I'm sorry to rant. I didn't mean to come across as arrogant talking about abiogenesis, it is just strange is all. If there is something grander going on it is far beyond our understanding. The kind of nihilism you talk about, I can understand, and it feels real. All I wanted to say is we can't know it is.

      Delete
    3. Well, I think you've answered your own points well enough. I still don't see how a God hypothesis is any less 'mysterious' than abiogenesis, though. In fact, it's not really an answer at all, as we're merely pushed back one step further: where did God come from etc etc and all the other questions to tedious to enumerate. For me, abiogenesis is the far more compelling and satisfactory answer.

      As for the world being a 'character-building' centre, tell that to all the little children killed, bombed, raped, starved etc.

      Ultimately, the search for god is a result of a recognition that the world is a hellhole. It's the product of an admirable despair, but alas it ends nowhere.

      Delete
    4. I don't believe invoking God is the same kind of pushing away of the problem as saying life came from space, though, because God is by its very nature unknowable (representative of the unknowable, even).

      If there IS a God with a plan, it is beyond both you and I and every other living person.

      Whereas a natural scientific explanation of life/biology is supposed to be by definition knowable in the same way we know other scientific facts.

      But yes, the reason I am more skeptical than not is the content of the world itself being so horrendous. Life DOES build personalities and characters though, even though some are totally unfairly cut off before they have done or known anything (and some are cut off AFTER they have come into being).

      It is the problem of evil vs the argument from design, imo. It depends on my mood which way I swing on this.

      Delete
  5. This world is like a venus fly trap. Imagine we are the fly and we come upon a venus fly trap and decide to land. It looks safe enough. But then it snaps shut and we are caught and all we can do is suffer to death now. By the time we are born it is too late, and this world has caught us in its snare and there is no way out except suffering and death. The answer then is for prospective parents to investigate the fly trap closely and to understand it's not a safe place and then to refuse to bring anyone else in. Life perpetuates itself when we assume ourselves and our loved ones to be invincible ("the fly trap's closed on all the other flies but I refuse to believe that it's gonna trap me or my kids"). If we realize the trap's gonna close on each one of us then we can start making wise choices.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wish all the anonymi would just pick silly handles so I can follow their separate arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Janus. It's terrifying what people do in order to cope with life. Icke says 'all is love'. I wonder if you approached him on the street and asked him for £100 would he give it to you? I doubt it somehow.

      And I've seen a docu on the doll people. Oh well, I guess it's better they make dolls than real babies!

      Delete
    2. "Oh well, I guess it's better they make dolls than real babies!" -- I had the same thought. =)

      Delete
    3. Can it be true? Ligotti in tinchyat/donotgod? Is the master finally talking to us? The greatest philosopher who ever walked the earth (Gary) and the greatest writer in history (Tom; well, Crawford is awesome, too! :-)) finally meet!

      Delete
    4. There are sooo many little girls out there carrying a doll or even pushing it in a doll buggy. The parents teach procreation right from the start ...

      Delete
    5. Anontmous of 3 March, any idea if that Ligotti stuff is on Gary's website to listen to? Cheers for the heads-up.

      Delete
  8. Hello,

    sorry for going off topic, but I am interested in what your views on religion are. For example, do you think that in order to do good, ordinary people need religion? What are your views on spirituality or mysticism? Alan Watts, Buddhism (Life is suffering), Sufism, etc.?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fluctaute, to be honest. I'm an atheist, but sometimes I think deeep-thinking religious people are more tuned into the suffering of the world than most atheists and can, as a result, be more compassionate. On the other hand, there are religious people who don't give a shit because they think all is going 'in accord with God's plan etc.

      Delete
    2. Most AN's are atheists, but there's people from all over the belief spectrum (and political spectrum for that matter).

      Delete
  9. now if only i could stop being a pussy and kill myself. fuck working for a living.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not being a pussy at all.* I, for one, object to what Jennifer Michael Hecht calls "Despair Suicide", mainly due to huge ethical problems associated with it, as I wrote on this blog why-im-sold-on-antinatalism.blogspot.com

      *Actually, there's no logic in degrading cowardice, as though it's up there with stealing, throwing away ethics for personal gain or pleasure, abuse of others, etc., but that's another topic

      Delete
    2. nice blog. i still don't see any reason to continue my existence though.

      Delete
  10. Plague Doctor, where are you?! Tim Cooijmans! Come back, come back! We need you, I don't want to die alone, not now, no.

    ReplyDelete