Category Archives: Philosophy

Depression as a Way of Life

Trying to explain depression to someone who has not experienced it is perhaps a bit like trying to explain love to someone who has never experienced it. It is not something that you can understand through books or pictures, or by watching people you know experience it. You have to live it.
Nevertheless in my never-ending quest to bridge the chasm between my life and the lives of those around me, I would like to spend a little time trying to explicate the conundrums of depression for those who have been blessed with a stable and happy mind.
There is a great deal of difference between someone who has grown up depressed versus someone who has their depression precipitated later in life. Someone who becomes depressed midway through life because, for example, a loved one died, has a whole host of life experiences that do not have the shadow of depression ever looming in the background. Their mind has experienced life without depression, and this bodes extremely well for their ability to recover and move on.
Contrast the person who becomes depressed in their 30s with one whose formative years were lived in the thrall of depression. Here can I speak from experience. One of the most common arguments against suicide is ‘but they had so much to live for.’ This is an argument that rings hollow to one who has never felt they had much to live for; what exactly do these people think there is to live for except to have positive experiences in life? You know, the exact things that someone depressed does not experience.
This is where the length of time and the age of onset of depression becomes very important. For someone whose depression onsets midway through life, their depression will be seen as a contrast to their previous life. This contrast, no doubt, is exquisitely painful, as one can come to feel they are no longer capable of feeling joy or happiness like they once did. This person has come to feel, perhaps, they do not have much to live for anymore; but this is in contrast to how they once felt, in contrast to a state of mind they have experience with.
Someone who has grown up in a state of depression does not have this contrast to look at. Perhaps they have some idyllic view of early childhood, when the fears and pains of life expressed more as occasional volleys as opposed to a sustained barrage of negative thoughts. Regardless, from the time you start becoming you (I generally believe that self-actualization largely begins with the onset of puberty and the feeling of needing to separate and differentiate oneself from their parents), you have been in a state of depression.
Every child is born with hope. For some children, the path to adulthood seems intent on wiping out that hope. Depression is not something that one can just snap out of, especially when one’s brain does not know another way of thinking; a mind that has always been depressed has nothing else to snap into. ‘Just think positively;’ another favorite line of all depressed people. Depression is more than just a way of thinking; a person’s thoughts should always be considered as subordinate to their emotional state. I can think that everyone really does care about me and wants me to be happy all I want; if I cannot feel that care, if I go among those who supposedly care for me and feel empty, my thoughts will inevitably seem folly, and one grows to feel less and less in control of their mental state.
As someone growing up with depression (and lots of anxiety to boot), every experience I had on the road to adulthood was colored by and seen through the lens of my depression. Going to school seemed a daily punishment that I could not escape from; social interactions were just a step away from embarrassment or ridicule; every day was just another long trudge until finally sleep could take me. When one grows up in constant dread of the next day, of the new experiences their life might offer them, one does not perceive themselves as having a lot to live for. One does not think of a bad day as something out of the norm; one thinks of a good day as out of the norm. This has the effect of marginalizing all positive experiences as transient; happiness seems to always be fleeting, a cruel break from the normal monotony of depression that only intensifies the feelings of loneliness and isolation as soon as it is over.
Life is, in many ways, a long series of self-fulfilling prophecies. When you grow up without the expectation of happiness or contentedness, it is very unlikely these things will just find you. There aren’t many social groups where the depressed and the optimistic exist in harmony; the philosophies and perceptions of life are as dichotomous between depressed and happy people as they are between the far-right and far-left. Thus, the depressed person very likely ends up in a social group surrounded by other depressed people. Especially as a youth, there is a great urge to be right, which can lead to the depressed self-validating their own feelings when discussing said feelings with others who understand. At this point the depressed often feel a need to ‘other’ the non-depressed, to believe that in fact there is something wrong with anyone who isn’t depressed. This starts one down the path of believing that it is correct to be depressed.
This point is one I feel anyone who has not experienced depression will find themselves puzzled by, but it is essential to understanding the growth of depression in a depressed person. What one believes to be right or correct is what one feels, much more than what one thinks; a person who grows up depressed does not think ‘oh, depression is definitely the right way to experience the world,’ they simply experience the world depressed and come think, in response to those feelings, ‘being depressed is the correct lens through which to view the world.’ At this point depression is now an ego problem as well. For the depressed person to acknowledge the way they viewed the world and the perceptions they gathered through a depressed lens may be entirely the result of depression, and not in fact the result of a correct perception of the world, is basically to acknowledge that everything you thought and believed might be wrong.
Taken together, the above two points give us a picture looking something like this: depressed people will generally come to associate with other depressed people; these people, as with any group of people with similar views, will start validating their own perceptions as correct and perceiving those who hold different views as wrong; in this way depression comes to appear, to the depressed person, as the right way to live; at this point it is very hard to see anyway out of depression, because you’ve managed to twist depression around into something viewed almost favorably. I think depressed people often can feel a sense of superiority to happy people, which makes it very hard to admit that maybe the happy people aren’t just idiots who are oblivious to the struggles and hardships of life, but perhaps are people who have found a better and healthier way of managing their way through life.
This leads us to one of the most important facets of depression: anger and self-pity. For someone who is already depressed, it is just about the most natural feeling in the world to look at someone who is happy and think ‘oh woe is me,’ and simultaneously to feel the undeniable injustice that renders some people happy and some people miserable. At the point where one believes they are on the wrong side of some sort of cosmic injustice, it is very hard not to become increasingly angry at everything. One can easily grow to believe that they have been cursed, that they are uniquely unhappy, and that the only possible escape from this is death.
At this point I want to wrap things back around to the argument against suicide: ‘but they had so much to live for.’ I hope at this point it is a little clearer as to why someone with depression might find this a rather empty argument. And this, perhaps, is a central issue in dealing with depression in our society. One cannot argue against depression anymore than one can argue against love. These are states of mind that do not necessarily have any connection to ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ trains of thought, such as might be responsive to a reasoned argument. Rather, they are states that arise out of feelings, and only arguments on that level stand a chance of success.

Free of Form

To leap free of form off the precipice,
Not to fall or fly but float o’er a forlorn
World that seems at night to be weeping, while
Here between star and sand, on the threshold
Between serenity and insanity, between
Silence and sound is only the perimeter,
The borderland in which no eternal salvation
Will trespass, where the wasteful cacophony
Of a new dawn is coterminate with the
Glacial silence of an ashen dusk.

A monochrome world of senseless division,
The gaps as seen from ensensed minds
Like canyons blossoming in the rain that
Cut them open, gave them form, and
All across their walls adorn
Such fleeting faults as eyes can know,
The transitive mind will writhe and
Agonize against creation which
Amneses its purpose, to destroy
Naught but nothingness.

How many can say they are ready to
Loose the cords of this physical
Force which keeps our steps ever
In motion around an endless circle
Of predetermined destination,
This force that would see a world
To never fly or float or fall
Down, immortal wings that will never
Kiss the august sun or dance amongst
The briny foam of the sea.

Freed from silence are the ears
Which to the celestial frequencies are
Tuned, and only the incessant and
Discordant voices of migrants lost in
A world they are too much with can
Serve to muddy the clear and vibrant
Tonality of the euphonious melody
In every speck rain trying to cleanse
The film from our eyes, every thunderous
Blast rattling against muted ears.

Here, where star and sand meld in
A twinkling fire cross the hollow but
Deathless dunes, so full of the
Once vibrant and vivacious particulates
Which burst from the fount of Gaia
And in sublime foolishness saw the
Dunes, not as an extension but a source
Of subordination, yet as our
Chains we thrust upon the world,
The more with earthly oblivion to be.

I worship naught but the void between
Our favorite lies and truth unseen,
Where to fit but in a place of
Absence, where else to feel more
At home than where there are no
Kindred eyes, for surely the world needs not
One more tepid and fearful voice to
Join in the silent choir, yet a counter
Melody is received like some foreign
Battle hymn; such a fool am I!

Should shape and form have meaning more
Than white noise on a broken screen
That ceaseless commotion of signals lost
Seems more to me a portrait of
The ordered chaos which so enamors
The broken minds or broken screens
Which perceive in life an unwritten path
Towards the pot of gold which myths
Promised to Man, MAN! who is naught
But a rat in a maze, an eternal experiment.

What do we seek? Is it never to leave
Or to seek at all times a moments reprieve
From the weariness worn by every
Face that has known but a glimpse
Of the calm and tranquil fraud of
Ignorance, to slip back behind the
Veil of thoughtless contemplation with a
Prescribed purpose; and so it is that
We seek not to transcend out of
Something, but rather descend into nothing.

As a rose is scorned from an unwanted lover,
Cut off from life and purpose
Now lost, thrown aside as an unwelcome
Reminder of dead dreams, who once
Held the promise of lustful hope,
Now is trod by boots as unworthy
To touch such beauty as nature
Wrought, that could have known so many
Suns, but now has been reduced to
Dust, that most human of elements.

Dust, how deep I wish to bathe
Where so many lives have paid their
Dues, to feel a thousand years of
Knowledge, of sunrise and sunsets
Seen over the sapphire seas, of
Hatred and love, to be washed away
With no more thought than is given
To the silent mouths, which for want
Of the body and blood, occupy the
Dark recesses of the periphery.

There do I find myself; with steps
So measured as must be unconscious,
I have wandered into the echoes
Of spaces, once possessed by the insane
Longings of fleeting memories,
Now naught but the voids that
Shape our minds, though unseen and
Unfelt, yet present in their
Absence, where are located the lost
Hopes of the unknown.

No true hatred may arise but that
Which from deepest devotion springs,
When needed no more and cast aside
As children forget their old playthings;
A chilling shade drops o’er the Fields
Of Asphodel, or life, as it were,
For when naught in one’s waning hours can
Bring to excitement, or arouse but a
Shade of the wonderment of years past,
Then is life become as purgatory as old.

Those crystals on which men cast their dreams
Are but a bandage for the heart,
Unfit to assuage the damnation following
Those who see in shadows their fear,
Never faced for free of tears do
Men desire themselves to be,
To float in dishonest harmony,
Gently rocked by the water
Rippling from the disparate, muted
Voices of those drowning underneath.

To fly free of form, when all we’ve
Known is bondage to a transient container,
Unfit to house the lowest kinds this
Species has ever seen, yet
With devoted denial our physical world
We toil our lives in service unconscious
For fear of ending as we came,
Yet nothing is ever to remain,
So it must be, that for myself I choose
Not life or death but the void between.

Language and Memory

One’s being as a collective whole is intended to grant clarity and understanding of one’s reality and yet simultaneously obfuscates the truth due to memory and the way we as humans perceive time. When I as a being perceive something, I do not perceive it in essence; that is to say, what I perceive is a construct of my mind which in turn enables me to understand it and deal with it on a level I am able to handle (hyperreality). My thoughts are drawn to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, who prominently featured beings known as ‘eldritch abominations’ in his stories, or beings whose very existence or form was so alien to the human mind that it would drive a person insane. These things which seemed to violate the laws of nature were simply incompatible with our current state of mental evolution. In lieu of this we as a species have developed in such a way that we are keen to put labels on everything in order to allow us to maintain an (illusory) understanding of our reality. There are two principle factors that allow us to enter into a state of hyperreality: language and memory.

Language is necessary as the medium through which we as humans label things. Take color, for example. Though there may be an infinite number of shades of color that can exist, there is no shade of color we would say we do not have a name for. Sure we allow for ‘light’ or ‘dark’ blues, for example, and there are more exotic shades with names such as azure or magenta or the like, but for all intents and purposes we see a limited number of namable colors. Through labeling in such a way as this we actually negatively impact the number of different colors we see; in other words, it is difficult to see very slight variations in a color to the point of the different shades looking exactly the same. This principle, wherein having a finite number of words to describe something of infinite possible qualities limits one’s ability to perceive (or indeed accept) differences in qualities, applies across the board, not only to colors. While language is doubtlessly something of importance in the evolution of any species that desires to achieve a state of self-awareness, it is also limiting and should not be seen as a be-all end-all, as it limits our ability to perceive reality as it truly is.

Memory is the second key way in which we label things, and in many cases is far more likely to obscure an accurate understanding of reality than the limitations of language; for language, insofar as it is understood at an equal level by a group of people, is universal, which is to say that a word is accepted as having specific meanings unique to itself. While limiting, there is also a clarity in language that is not found in memory. Unlike language, memory is not universal, but is rather unique to each individual and their life experiences. While we use words in order to describe things, in the absence of memory we would not know the words to describe anything regardless. Through our collected memories we form a sense of self and an understanding of the world around us; however, because we are unable to perceive reality as it truly is, all our memories are thus constructed on a faulty premise; then, because our subsequent understanding of the world is being built on top of these earlier memories, our conception of reality becomes ever more twisted and perverted away from the true reality. As such, our perceived reality becomes ever more hyperreal, as we view things less and less on their own as a unique quantity and more and more in a relative sense beholden to our preconceptions.

Now this is not to say that memory and language and the like are not important; indeed, we cannot imagine an existence without them. This is precisely the reason we should not allow ourselves to become enslaved to them. One of my favorite words is ‘ineffable’, which essentially means unable to be put into words. Indeed, I see it as my purview as a poet to attempt to capture the ineffable in words. However, it is also worthwhile to understand that this is but the practice of taking something and putting a label on it so that we as humans may understand it. This does not constitute true understanding, and to think that words could ever define the real essence of something is folly. Neither memory nor language are things that are going anywhere soon, yet the inexorable movement of evolution demands that at some point we free ourselves from their respective shackles in order to move towards a more accurate and complete understanding of the world around us.

Nostalgia, Anxiety, and Depression

I am rather well-acquainted with these three ideas. I believe nostalgia and anxiety are linked closely together, bound by a central idea, certainty, while depression is both a cause and result of nostalgia and anxiety. Nostalgia is for the past, anxiety is for the future, and depression bridges them. Everything in the past seems better in hindsight. This is because we know what happened. Whether good or bad, these memories will seem much greater than they generally were. I believe this relates to two things. When we feel depressive nostalgia, it is generally accompanied by a feeling that our current life is not as good as the life we used to live. Thus, when we look back on good memories, we realize how much we took those times for granted. I know for myself, there are two times in my life I will always look back on: seventh grade and twelfth grade. These were times of great personal change in my life; seventh grade was when puberty really kicked in and I feel like I was growing up at such a fast rate; twelfth grade, namely the spring of twelfth grade, was a time when I became much more social, and it felt like I was catching up on many social milestones I had missed out on in high school. I think they key part of these experiences for me was that they were, consciously or not, very hopeful. Things were changing and they seemed to be getting better. Depressive nostalgia most often visits in time when we feel trapped in our present lives, feel as if things either aren’t changing or (more so) are changing for the worse. This depressive nostalgia, whether induced by a song, place, or movie, is incredibly strong, often to the point of being debilitating. As regards certainty in this type of nostalgia over happy memories, we wish we could go back and relive a time of great hope for a better future, and also in a more general sense, to appreciate those times more. I look back on many events in my life that I either took completely for granted or actually perceived as negatives at the time and wonder what the hell was I doing?

On the other side of nostalgia, we have nostalgia for times in our lives that were negative. Here the idea of certainty is more obviously pertinent. If we feel this type of nostalgia when in a more positive mood, it is generally because we know that our lives were not completely derailed; that we did recover from whatever trauma afflicted us; that we survived. So we look back and wish, instead of wasting my time being upset, why didn’t I just enjoy my life more. Case in point; I crashed my car at the start of twelfth grade, and didn’t have it for about a month. The bill on the car went from a first estimate of $500 up to a final total of a few thousand dollars. This resulted in my having to get a job from the first time, which I pretty much hated. I was very depressed for a good long while around the months of October and November into December, but now I look back and wonder why didn’t I appreciate all the other things that were nearing an end: final time playing soccer, the reality of high school nearing an end. Instead of hanging out with my friends and appreciating my life as much as possible, I sat around and sulked away a few months of the last year of my childhood. But didn’t I say I wish I could go back to that time? I do in the sense that I know things got better; the depression and isolation didn’t last, soon I was starting to enjoy life more than I had before.

Whatever the case, nostalgia is always linked with certainty. The past is done, we cannot imagine our lives having happened any other way than they did. As such, there is always a sense that life goes on when we view the past that allows us to take some small comfort in it.

In opposition to nostalgia we have anxiety. Where nostalgia is a sense that the past was better than it was and is often accompanied by a desire to relive the good ol’ days, anxiety is the opposite. Anxiety is a fear of the future, which comes with thoughts that generally lead one to believe things will be worse than they actually will. Where nostalgia makes us want to go back and relive moments, anxiety makes us want to avoid things that haven’t happened yet. For instance, as a college student I am anxious about my future: anxious about what job I will get, anxious about grades I have to get, anxious about yet more responsibilities for me to deal with. I often wish that I could either slow time down or else skip ahead to the future when I won’t have this uncertainty anymore. No matter what, we always hold at least of shred of doubt when looking at the future; even if the skies are bright and sunny, it only takes one freak accident for our lives to go very wrong. While we are often filled with hope for the future, there is always the possibility that things will not turn out as we would like; conversely, when looking at the past, we don’t have to worry about what happened because it is done; we have certainty over the past.

Lastly, I would like to discuss the role of anxiety in causing depression and nostalgia. As you may or may not know, I have struggled with depression and anxiety all my life, often to the point of being incapable of any of doing anything other than isolating myself from the world and dwelling on my fears. Now, as previously explored, anxiety is often a cause of nostalgia. When we fear the uncertainties of the future or feel as though the future will be worse than the present we turn back to the past, when these worries did not afflict our minds, when life seemed to be getting better. When anxiety is induced in this manner, it will most likely be depressive, especially if one is prone to anxiety. I can speak from personal experience to say that in moments of great worry or fear for the future, I often want to simply curl and hid away from the world, go back to the past when things didn’t seem so bad. I then become depressed because, not only does my past life seem better by comparison, I am also not doing anything to help myself out of my current situation, adding a feeling of hopelessness to the proceedings. While anxiety itself isn’t necessarily depressive, when it is frequent or overwhelming, as it often can be for myself, it becomes very depressive, and I believe this trait of anxiety is in many ways what truly makes it a debilitating condition rather than one which will immediately inspire someone to go and fix their situation.

I would like to, in closing, leave you with a hypothetical question to consider: If you could go back in time to relive certain periods of your life at the tradeoff of, any time spent in the past would still count towards your allotted time here on Earth, would you do it? In other words, if your body would normally live to the age of seventy and you spend twenty years over time in reliving the past, you would end up only living to fifty. Let’s say for argument that each time you returned to the actual present you would have an increased understanding of the past, whether for better or worse. Would it become addictive to go and relive the “best days” again and again, or we come to realize they weren’t as good as we remember and thus move on? How much of our future would we be willing to give away in order to relive our past? How much of an uncertain but possibly better future would we give up for a certain but possibly less fulfilling past? Questions with no easy answers; I encourage you if nothing else, to consider them some cloudy day.

Man versus Woman

Man versus woman; the great battle, raging since the beginning of time. Stories of men abusing women and women using men have a long history. In more modern times, psychology has taken closer looks at the relationship, the subconscious mechanisms that guide interaction between these two diametrically opposed beings. Yet all these stories and studies have made the error of assuming male and female are genders. They are not. Man and woman are states of mind.

Let’s think about things for a minute. Is it really so easy to say all females are more manipulative naturally than males? It is easy to say, but that doesn’t make it right. Man and woman are not terms that have one meaning: there is a biological meaning and a psychological meaning. Biologically, the difference should be rather obvious I’d hope. But psychologically, the struggle between man and woman is a central theme and conflict in human history. It also now strikes me that I should clarify: when I say the struggle between man and woman is psychological, I don’t mean some identifying as a different gender than their biological sex. It is so much more than that.

Now let us delve into what these two concepts actually are. Man as a philosophical idea is connected with power, domination, strength, aggression, oppression. Men have always been the ruling class because of these traits. Now I say that, and one might be thinking “I thought this wasn’t biological?” Well, perceptive reader, it is true that in general the masculine state of mind is associated with the male biological gender. However, the key distinction to make is that it is not exclusive to that gender. In other words, a biological male can identify with the female state of mind and vice versa. He is not identifying with female as his biological gender but as his philosophy on life.

So what is the feminine state of mind then? The feminine state of mind is characterized by sensitivity, compassion, creativity. An easy way to compare is to say the man is the warrior, the female the artist. Now it perhaps appears that I am knocking men, and it is clearly better to be a woman. This is not strictly the case; the male state of mind was (is?) crucial for the survival and propagation of the human race to become to dominant species on Earth. The male mindset is very closely tied with Darwinist ideas about survival of the fittest. However, the question now is, we as humans have achieved our dominion over the fishes of the sea and birds of the air, how necessary is the man to human life?

My belief is that the ideal course of human advancement is to move away from the baser animal instincts of the man and towards the cultured and artistic ideals of the woman. Throughout human history, man has always been oppressing woman. We even call oppressive authority “the man” now. This type of order had it’s place in the evolution of humankind and the construction of society and civilization. But the time has come to take the next step in evolution. The man looks at the pleasures of the body as the greatest thing he can achieve. For him, sex, the propagation of the species, the most fundamental of all Darwinist ideals, is the greatest pleasure and achievement. I propose that we must turn to the mind for our next stage of evolution, not the body.

The rational mind is in constant conflict with the irrational body. The mind says to eat healthy, the body asks for sweets; the mind says woo the lady, show her you care, the body says take what is rightfully yours. We must strive to leave behind these base instincts to achieve a more realized state of being. The elevation of the human consciousness is the only viable path to evolution. The ideology of the man has run its course: we are already on top. We have “won”. Yet for the man it is never enough. There is no healthy victory. In lieu of other battles he will make his fellow man his enemy. Racism, sexism, nationalism: all ideas irrevocably tied to the male state of mind, designed to create a new battle to fight. Once we were one species, united in conflict with a hostile world; now we are many tribes, fighting amongst ourselves with no prize for the victor but yet more senseless conflict.

The female does not focus on outer conflict but inner struggle. Her greatest battle is creating a work of art, or achieving a serenity in a mad mad world. The female seeks to improve herself, rather than prove she is the strongest. Similar to Buddhism or transcendentalism, the female attempts to achieve a relative state of Nirvana on Earth. This is why the woman has always been subservient to the dominant male. She knows that true strength is not mastery of another but mastery of oneself. This is a concept the man is unable to grasp. He follows his base instincts and allows them to control his life. In this way, man in fact has less power than woman. What could possibly be more powerful than the mastery of one’s own mind and body? This is the next step in human evolution. If it is not taken, we will surely destroy ourselves; if it is, we will perfect ourselves.

Musings on Love

“I am human and I need to be loved,
Just like everybody else does”
– Morrissey

It is commonly accepted that love is a fundamental force in the world of humanity, that it is something that everyone is searching for and that brings happiness when it is found. But why is love such a dominant and overpowering force in the human consciousness?

The answer is, as usual, evolution. After all, what is the purpose of life? If you are a diligent reader of this blog, you may recall that survival is the purpose of life. However, there is a second and very closely related purpose that is shared by all species, and that is procreation. Humanity would die out very quickly as a species if we all became sterile, or (unthinkably) stopped doing, well, you know.

Thusly, love is in fact the main goal of life, a goal that is not so much passive (as is survival) as it is aggressive, by which I mean to say you have to get out there and make it happen. The development of the emotion of love behind the base instinct of sex is well in line with the development of all emotions. All emotions are derived from base instincts which have been evolved into a new form  by the complexity of the human brain until the initial reason for their existence is forgotten in many cases. It’s all very postmodern.

The emotion of love is beneficial to the survival of humanity because it gives people the feeling of a higher purpose, resultant from the happiness it brings. Chemically of course, love might as well be a drug so that’s no surprise. Love is also beneficial in that it (in it’s more advanced forms) promotes monogamy and stronger familial bonds, which lead to more stable lives and thus higher rates of survival, not mention faster evolution as common ideas are passed down from one generation to the next.

I suppose the question now becomes why doesn’t everyone love each other? My best answer is that evolution, which is driven by conflict, and procreation, which is aided by stability, are currently existing in a state of relative equilibrium which has allowed humanity to become the dominant species on the planet. My hope is that in time, the more base aspects of evolution will become transcended as conflict becomes an unnecessary component of change. For now, all I know is that I need to be loved.

Just like everybody else does.

The Will to Life

Ah, now what have we here. Can it be?

It can.

Yes indeed, we have an actual written blog with essay and all. In celebration of this momentous occasion, I thought we could talk about a nice, light topic.

Namely: “The Will to Life”

What is the Will to Life? Well, to put it bluntly, it’s the reason you’re sitting where you are right now. It’s the reason you’re reading these words. It’s the reason you’re going to go back to the start to figure out what the reason you’re trying to find the reason is.

The Will to Life is the base desire of all living thing, a primal and instinctual need to survive that surpasses all others.

In essence, the Will to Life lies at the center of a tree diagram. It is the will from which all motivations, wants and desires are resultant from. The primary goal of every living creature is to survive. Are we agreed?

Good.

Accepting this as fact, the Will to Life is synonymous with the Will to Survive (I personally like the sound of Will to Life better though, don’t you?)

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, think of any event in your life. The last bowl of ice cream you had. The last time you didn’t make that trip out to the gym the day after. The last time you didn’t go to the doctor, knowing he’d be disappointed with you.

Sorry.

The point is, all those actions derived from the same source. The seed of the tree. Maybe they were only a few branches down, maybe they were leaves that had blown away to another land in the wind. Some were borne of the will to be happy, some of the fear of being judged, but all owe their existence to the Will to Life.

Now, there was a guy who talked about the “Will to Live”.

File:Schopenhauer.jpg

This looker

That’s Arthur Schopenhauer, a German (of course) philosopher. However, from the little reading I’ve done, his definition is too narrow. According to the only real website, “To Schopenhauer, the Will is a malignant, metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena; an evil to be terminated via mankind’s duties: asceticism and chastity”.

This seems a little crazy to me. Will is not a malignant force,in the same way that it is not a benevolent force. It is A force; in fact, for living creatures, the Will to Life is THE force, but it has no inherent moral value. It is.

Here’s the kicker. What is the one thing humans will never be able to do?

(If you said fly, please leave the room now.)

The correct answer is avoid death. Can we prolong life? Sure. In the future, is it possible that humans will have created technology that will cause the retirement age to be raised to 565? Sure. But in the end, no one lives forever. (Even if it takes til the heat death of the universe.)

So, really, what are you doing right now? Still reading this? What’s the point? You’re going to lose. The one will that drives your life, the Will to Life, is destined to meet it’s end with no fulfillment. And yet, there still exists that most illogical of human emotions.

Hope.

We’re all dust in the end, yet we keep pressing onwards, driven by a will that is indomitable, existing as it does at the very base of all other functions of the mind and heart, until the day when the inevitable reaper comes knocking on your door, the knell sounds, and the last ravens fly off to a different window.

Hmm, that got heavy. I thought this was supposed to be a celebration?

That’s better.

Hyperreality and You

“Hyperreality?” you say. “What the hell is that?” Then you hear it’s a postmodern concept and that we are in fact living not in modern but in postmodern times, which seems to indicate we are living literally in the future, and you decide to crawl back to watching reality TV for solace.

But wait.

Come on back here. It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s worse. My goal is to try and help you better understand this concept in just a short five minutes. Then you can go off and tell your friends how hyperreal they are, and everybody’s happy.

So, what is hyperreality? Here are two definitions from postmodern theorists,

  • “A real without origin or reality” – Jean Baudrillard
  • “The authentic fake.” – Umberto Eco

Baudrillard

Wait, that doesn’t clear things up? Well, let me continue on then.

Hyperreality bears similarity with the literary concepts of metonymy and synecdoche, if that means anything. Basically, it is when something takes on a meaning that it wouldn’t naturally have, blends the new fictional meaning with the old real meaning, and the blended meaning or idea becomes “real”. Let’s go back to reality TV. Does reality TV actually depict reality? If you answered yes, you are a victim of hyperreality.

Reality TV depicts a fantasy played off as reality. However, many people will come to accept this false reality as true reality, and then try to model their own lives after it. Reality TV is a simulation, a mixing of reality and fiction until one can’t tell the difference. This can have negative effects due to that fact that there’s probably a good reason the hyperreal isn’t real.

Seemingly opposite from reality TV would be movies that employ large amounts of CGI. However, these are (you guessed it) hyperreal as well. The use of CGI depicts things that are impossible in “real” reality, but that viewers may come to believe can actually be done.

“But what about the people in these movies and shows? Surely they’re real, right?” Wrong. Celebrity worship completes the hyperreal picture. Celebrities are often held up as some impossible ideal. Daniel Boorstin probably said it best: “We come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but who are famous because they are great”. (*cough* Kardashians *cough*)

Hyperreality isn’t only a postmodern thing either. One example is a king’s crown. Rather than being seen as just some metal with some jewels possibly in it, the crown represents power, authority, mornartchy etc. The crown is now a simulacrum, “an image without resemblance” as Gilles Deleuze put it. It is fair to say, however, that hyperreality has become more prevalent as time has gone on.

“Alright, so now I kinda sorta get this hyperreality thing. But I’d really just like to get back to “real” reality. If you could direct me that way it’d be great, thanks.” Well, that’s not really going to be possible, not if you want to live within the bounds of (post)modern society. You see, at this point in our consumerist culture, pretty much everything is hyperreal in some way. I mean, I guess if you emigrated to, say, Antarctica, you could get pretty far away from hyperreality (although your preconceptions of things will stay with you of course).

So no. Basically, you live, not in reality, but in hyperreality, and you might as well accept it. Alright, you can go take your headache medicine now.

Master-Slave Morality and You

So, Nietzsche is a name you’ve heard, but you never really knew too much about the man. Maybe you associate him with the Nazis. Maybe you think of him as a revolutionary philosopher. Or maybe you just know him as the guy Kevin Kline was obsessed with in “A Fish Called Wanda”. 

In any event, you decided enough’s enough, and want to learn about bit more about this guy with the impossible to both spell and pronounce last name. Well, you’ve come to right place, good sir or madam. Today’s lesson is on: master-slave morality!

(I’m tingling with excitement too) First things first. Neither master morality nor slave morality is right. Neither is one wrong. Good philosophy is about valid observations. Master-Slave Morality merely calls it like it sees it.

Master morality is the morality of the strong man. Masters create morality. The master decides what is good, and implicitly those things that are not good are bad. Good and bad are defined in terms of consequences: a positive consequence is good, a negative consequence is bad. The strong willed masters will naturally oppress the weak slaves, because that oppression is good for the masters, and thus morally right.

Slave morality is a response to master morality. Instead of basing good and bad on the consequences of an action, slaves base morality on the intentions of an action. Because master morality originates in the strong, slave morality originates in the weak. Slaves are basically jealous of the masters. They hold up humility as something one chooses, rather than something that is forced upon you (like, say, if you were a slave). The slaves do not try to make themselves masters, but to make the masters slaves.

Think about that last sentence for a second.

Continuing, Nietzsche believed Christianity and democracy to be based in slave morality, while the Roman Empire was based in master morality (before the rise of Christianity). Slave morality is obsessed with freedom and equality. (Suddenly it sounds a lot better.) While he spends much time condemning slave morality, he does not support master morality in totality either. He believed society needed to re-evaluate its morals so as to wean out the problems in both master and slave moralities.

To summarize: Slave morality values things like kindness, humility and sympathy.

Master morality values pride, strength, and nobility.

These two conflicting moralities are basically both ways to say “I’m right and you’re not”. For the masters, it validates being the master. For the slaves, it invalidates the masters and thus reduces them down to slave levels, making the slaves right.

The question now is: what are you, master or slave? Be honest now. There are no right answers…