Pro-Human Extremist

Extremism in the defense of humanity is no vice

Five ways to drive yourself crazy

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Think of the more than 250,000 human beings that die every day, all over the world—babies, elders, and every age in between. Think of the suffering that many of them endured before they died, or the sudden injuries that snuffed out their life without warning. Think of millions of friends and family members, who will suffer emotionally for months or years mourning their loss. Tomorrow more than 250,000 more people will die and millions more loved ones will suffer, and the day after that, and every day of your life. Catastrophes that you hear about in the news are a drop in a bucket compared to the normal, inescapable ending of human life that happens all the time. Death is a constant part of life.

Think of the unfulfilled hopes and desires of billions of living human beings of all ages. Many live year after year in poverty, with monotonous and nutritionally poor food and too little even of that, dirty and crowded housing, unsanitary water, and little or no medical care. They work with little hope of improving their hard and tedious lives or of helping their children to do so. People who are materially more comfortable still suffer anxiety and loneliness, plagued by occasional thoughts of what they have not accomplished. We dream of great success and deep satisfaction, while the vast majority of us lead lives that are at best merely adequate.

Think of the innumerable choices you have made and will make in your own life. Every choice you make is a fork in the road, leading you towards one future and away from others. Leaving the house a minute earlier or later could determine whether or not you get into an accident, or run across an old friend, or meet someone who may become an important part of your life. Every time you decide whether or not to take a job or go to school or get married or start a family, you select one future and reject a great many others. You can never know how your life would have turned out differently had you made other choices. And with every passing year your life becomes more fully determined, as it has been lived one way instead of others, until you die and it is over.

Think of how short the time you will be alive is, compared with the millennia of human existence past and to come. You can read about the past but you can never visit it. Thousands of generations of humans lived and died before you were born. A tiny fraction of them were notable enough to be remembered by history, but all of the rest were remembered only by the few people who knew them, until those people themselves died. Think of all the people long dead, of whom the only relic is a tombstone in an obscure cemetery, with dates of birth and death but little further information; or of the people whose grave markers have long since decayed or been lost, or whose graves were unmarked from the beginning. How many generations of your own ancestors do you know anything about. Can you even name all of your great-grandparents? How many things do you know about them and their lives, which they all surely lived as intently as you do yours? Unless you are exceptional, your life too will eventually fade from memory as the people who have known you age and die. Barring some unthinkable catastrophe, generation after generation of humans will live in a future that you can never know. They will experience changes in human life and human society that we cannot even begin to imagine.

Think of all the things that separate you from the other people in your life. You interact with them, but how fully do you see into their hearts, or even try to? You see the persona that each person presents to the world, and they see yours, but we all know so little of the strange inner lives even of our most intimate companions. Think of the experiences they had before they met you, the experiences they continue to have during all of the times you are not with them. When friends of yours are together without you, what sides of their personalities do they show that you never see, and how are you yourself spoken of in your absence? We make common cause with others, in relationships that may last for many years, but we retain our own separate individuality all the same. Some parts of ourselves we reveal only to a few of our closest companions, while others are known to no one but ourselves, and the same can be said of everyone we know. We share experiences with others, but we also each pursue our own ends and sometimes work at cross purposes. A single household is an unfathomable network of joint and separate perspectives and motivations. We can go for years taking our loved ones partly for granted, leaving important things unsaid, being less to each other than we could be.

© Joel Benington, 2011

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Written by Joel Benington

July 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Posted in humanity

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