Summoned out of an infinite period of darkness, of non-existence, a man suddenly finds himself on a rock, molten at the core, hurtling through ice-cold space, circling a fireball at the speed of an M-16 bullet. He ‘enters’ this world screaming, covered in blood (that ‘special juice’ as the ancients called it) and all manner of fluids, being held in the air by a big pair of hairy hands under stunning, bright lights.
Will I really be dead forever?
Up he grows. Disciplined in an ‘education system,’ then to yet another ‘education system,’ or some form of crude labour. He must hunt around for a woman during all this; secure some means of eating whilst on the hunt, make plans for a nest, whereby he pursues the Primary Directive of gene replication.
For he is only half the equation. The woman the other. The human is an organism that has been split into two. Sex exists to avoid pathogenic attack. During the first few billion years on earth there was no sex.
Sex is incredibly resource heavy, self-fertilization is better but carries risks. Deadly pathogens quickly learn to copy and outwit the body’s defense mechanisms. By splitting into a male and female, then re-joining (this has been given the name ‘sex’), new genetic combinations form in the offspring that force the pathogens to start the assault all over again from scratch.
He works, and he works. Genes replicated. First gray hairs. Wrinkles. And through all this, all these decades, he tiptoes across a minefield. He may be wiped out in an instant, without warning, by a stream of gamma rays from a black hole, or trip over a rake in the garden. Countless viruses swarm around him just waiting for an opening. On his person he has more bacteria than cells.
He must too contend with the incessant lying, the betrayals, sham institutions and falsehoods that everywhere abound. Deal with, as the Sage says, ‘the hypocrisy that characterizes this world from beginning to end.’
We can forgive a man who yearns for the peace of non-existence, where no bills come in the mail, there are no neighbours, no ‘reality TV,’ no dying. Could the foetus manipulate time, travel back, and appear in his parent’s bedroom whilst they were sexually engaged, it may well plead, ‘For God’s sake don’t do it!’
Then Death appears on the horizon. One understands there’s a lot more behind him than in front of him. At this point he may well shake his head, the more intelligent the man, the more he will shake it. He’ll ask: ‘What is all this? What has happened here?’ He feels like Nature’s dupe.
‘Here we wander
Here we weep,’ said Blake
What of the billions of people who existed before? Where are they? What has become of them? Life then assumes a kind of dream-like quality peopled by phantoms. ‘Will I really be dead forever?’ he wonders.
All through Nature we see an increase in suffering as awareness and intellect rise. We can be sure that the potential suffering of an amoeba is vastly different from that in a Labrador. Now this potential reaches its apex in Man, the more intelligent the man, the greater the suffering. This has been noted since antiquity. The Teacher said,
‘for in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.’
It is my observation that, as a rule, optimists tend to be simple-minded fellows, whilst the connection between genius and melancholy was noted by Aristotle.
A learned psychiatrist has said that people classed as having ‘depression’ may actually suffer from ‘justifiable misery.’ And many more in the medical field are coming around to the opinion that ‘depressives’ suffer from a deficit in self-deception. They are simply unable to fool themselves.
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
– Agamemnon; Aeschylus
I’d like to add here that I’m also available for children’s parties and as a motivational speaker.