What's the Point?
New - 20 July 2011
New - 20 July 2011
In his Discworld series, Terry Pratchett -- a prolific author with an astute understanding of human nature -- has written some 39 novels of a mad, chaotic world... and with some astounding similarities to our own more rounded world (aka the Earth). Discworld also incorporates as one of its endearing (for obvious reasons), indearing, main characters: an anthropomorphic personification, Death. Not surprisingly, Death is a seven-foot tall skeleton of polished bone, in whose eye sockets there are tiny points of light (usually blue), and who always speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS. He also has an adopted grand-daughter, Susan, who tends to be wise beyond her years. In Hogswatch (a parody of Christmas on Earth), they have the following conversation:
As was pointed out by A. S. Byatt in the London Times:
On this basis, one might be tempted to ask if Death has in fact somehow encapsulated the human condition in that being human is believing in fantasies... little and big lies... or else... What’s the point?
What indeed is the point?
Of course, this is the fundamental question of life, the universe, and everything. And it is quite possible that the answer might be 42.[*]
Alternatively, the answer might be notably more profound...
OR the “answer” is that THERE IS NO POINT... in other words, there’s just no rational or irrational reason, no purpose, no destiny. Possibly an alien being dropped ketchup from his Fluss-burger and it inadvertently fell on a pomegranate seed, and from this low probability occurrence, evolved the universe as we know it. There was never a plan, just a strange juxtaposition of random, rare events.
As for the “answer”: Yes, there is a point, and that point is...
Well... we could go on and on for a long time on that one.
For example, one of the big favorites stems around “The Fall” and its inevitable sequel “The Return to Grace."
Of course, one might have to ask what’s so friggin’ good about “Grace”... particularly if that state of Grace allows for falls, descents from upon high, and other fear of heights scenarios? And yet, we still get bits like:
Yes... but what's in it for me!? I might be willing to admit to the human experience being pretty well exhausted... but must one give up all individuality to move on? I notice this was not true in the movie, Defending Your LIfe... which I would very much like to think is an accurate and highly reliable documentary of what lies beyond. This is because of the fact that in the Movie, one moved on in accordance with the degree to which they have given up fear.
There is a lot to be said in support of such a philosophy. So... What’s the point? Lose the fear.
It's always struck me as... well... silly... that there had to be a "Fall"... instead of simply a decision to participate in a grand drama, full of sound, fury, and popcorn (even possibly extending over several lifetimes). So why do these profound explanations for human incarnations have to be the result of a mistake, a demonstration of our false pride, hubris, ego, id, or just idiocy?
Also, what's so all-fired cool about "unity". Diversity is where you get the action, the blood-circulating drama of conflict and resolution, the reasons to try something new and interesting. In Diversity is the Extension of the Universe. (I.e., a means for the Universe to Increase without Limit.) On the other hand... In Unity is the Stop Change Syndrome -- let's not make any effort to learn anything new or to experience the truly astounding, awesome possibilities. Meanwhile, Unity’s second cousin, Conservatism, is often just about conserving one’s energy. Don’t rock the boat. Go back to sleep. What was good for my Daddy...
The religious motivation toward unity is really, in my exalted, superior opinion (I loath that "humble opinion" jazz)... just another means of attempting to exercise control over the wonderful diversity of humanity. In Unity circles, we must all wait for everyone to join and reach our exalted position, catch-up so to speak... instead of doing what we suddenly conjure up as a really cool adventure. The "Fall" is just more of the "guilt traps (and/or trips)" and the alleged "failings of humans" designed to control us. We've all been bad, and we must now bust our behinds to recover what was, quite possibly, not all that freaking cool to begin with.
As for the SMI(2)LE Theory... I LIKE IT!
However, in this regard, I suspect I much prefer the mode described in Multiple Choice. At one point, our hero is an energy packet wandering about the universe, taking in all the spectacular sights of a Universe on serious acid, and then descends to a planet and takes on a humanoid form. He is immediately revered as a god... but when he sees the same-old, same-old bit about religion, religious wars, and the associated barn-carpeting -- and when he is disgusted thereby -- our hero (he is, in fact, our hero) takes off and heads elsewhere. Of course, his departure is something which the priests undoubtedly preferred: The idea of having an actual god in residence would likely really cramp their style.
In any case, the only way to fly [pardon the pun] is as an energy being with momentary moments in matters of being human, Riwanian, or whatever... just for the entertainment possibilities.
There is also a personal favorite, the slightly modified Theory: LAUGH... Light-being... Awesome... Unlimited... God-like... Hero.
But is it RIGHTNESS?
In lieu of replicating the philosophical libraries of the world, or by selecting one or more answers in the kind of multiple choice quizzes that has some real consequences... it might be intriguing to answer the question that is somewhat more definitive.
For starters, what is the alternative? Consider, for one, the idea that there is no RIGHTNESS.
Now, there's a concept with implications! If in fact, there is no RIGHTNESS, then there is no right or wrong. As per one tradition, the so-called “god” that created good, also created evil [Isaiah 45:7], and therefore there is no notable distinction between the two as far as following the dictates of this same “God”. Being or doing wrong is in essence the same as being or doing good. The only difference is priest inspired.
Curiously, a lack of RIGHTNESS implies the distinct possibility that there is in fact no duality.
Furthermore, if there is no RIGHTNESS, then there are no limits or boundaries on what is “permissible”.
Survival of the fittest becomes simply a randomized law of the jungle. And if you’re not feeling particularly “fit” right now, then according to our friend Death, “TOUGH. GET FIT... OR I’LL BE SEEING YOU SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.”
Survival of the fittest is one of those aspects of the universe for which there is little argument... or any argument that is not pretty much pointless. It just is. It’s demonstrable on a daily basis. There’s really no way around it... or is there?
There are, for example, subtleties. Joining complementary forces among individuals can increase the overall survival fitness of a group. (You can even have some decidedly “less fit” individuals... but who either have valuable talents in one form or another, or have found a way to benefit others as an object to be provided for.)
Joining forces also has the implication that cooperation implies compromise, and thus a societal order must evolve in order to efficiently join said forces. Such an order might then include a proposed consensus on what exactly constitutes RIGHTNESS, just in order to maintain order, control, and... incidentally... allow for the fittest to benefit thereby, and without all that messy blood and guts spilt everywhere.
So... what’s the point? In some worlds, it’s the decimal at the end of the seven figure salary check. For the more scientific, it’s the infinitesimal point that incorporates an extra six dimensions of space for superstrings. And finally, it’s also the traditional designator of the end of a sentence... i.e.... “.”
And perhaps... those possibilities are enough.
You were, perhaps, expecting a really dramatic and profound ending... despite the fact that the essay began with a fictional Death character, one with a very unique sense of humor? What would be the point in that?
 Sol, private communication, July 2011.
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