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Life, Death, and Living ("Liberation from the Self") - Elena's Journal
Life, Death, and Living ("Liberation from the Self")
"Is the truth depressing? Some may find it so. But I find it liberating, and consoling. When I believed that my existence was a such a further fact, I seemed imprisoned in myself. My life seemed like a glass tunnel, through which I was moving faster every year, and at the end of which there was darkness. When I changed my view, the walls of my glass tunnel disappeared. I now live in the open air. There is still a difference between my life and the lives of other people. But the difference is less. Other people are closer. I am less concerned about the rest of my own life, and more concerned about the lives of others."

Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons.


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From: jerrett Date: March 19th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

That sounds like a very dysfunctional quote to me.

Humanity isn't a bunch of hive-minded individuals who altruistically look after one another in order to further the betterment of humanity as a whole. That leads to stagnation and complacency. What would ever truly get done if those who were able used their ability to look after themselves and those who were more able used their ability to look after themselves as well as others? We would then gravitate towards a norm of no progress unless the standard mean itself increased.

Humanity is defined not through the actions described above, but through the work of individuals who push against that which is accepted and challenge the very norms that have come to be ingrained in society. Selflessness alone has no merit. Ghandi did not perform the actions he did because it was right for Jane Doe, he did it because it was right for him. Without focusing oneself to become a great tool and fully understanding what it means to be such a tool, only then can one be a great vehicle of change. It is not a disinterest in one's own life and an increased interest in the lives of others that helps humanity. Rather, it is the intense self-interest in one's own life and how to better oneself individually that enables a person to help humanity and help fulfill the needs of others.

To be pigeonholed to a purpose based on the desires of society as a whole is to be nothing more than a pebble in the undertow. It is he who stands up and boldly defies the automaton nature of society that holds the key to bettering society itself.

elena From: elena Date: March 19th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
You pretty much highlighed a very capitalistic/American Dream influenced point of view right there, the idea of escaping the masses to become a figure that leads the way. not everyone has to or should do that.

here is a man that has a great influence on an intellectual society (philosophy, which i wouldnt be surprised if you thought was useless) through philosophy on what it is to be a human being. there are various arguments that are explored in this society with pros and cons in each. hes also a buddist (who chain smokes, I'm told). I see Buddhism (from my limited viewpoint) as both an extremely self-interested (enlightenment) and altruistic code of living.

all in all it was a thought that highlighted the ideas of what makes life worth living. your idea, Jerrett, of what life is worth living for, is different than others i speak to, but the same as many others I know. Humans are as much social as they are self interested, and altruistic though you don't seem to think so, and it seems to me that everyone finds a balance on a different part of that spectrum or rationalities.

the point of the quote for me was to show that life can hold, and does hold, much more meaning for those who make it their goal to create strong social ties, that create a deeper meaning or connection to the world around them, through this social network than perhaps say, a person who doesn't create strong social ties at all. Does death and the end of it seem sad when you feel like you've lived a full life, that you were loved and made an impact on others lives and in turn your own? What may be a full life to you will not be so for others.

balance, balance, balance. a completely self-centered "idol" (or "tool", as you put it) of society who succeeds in the corporate world is not going to inspire me to be a better person. but a person who reaches their hand out to me and teaches me something, more personally, will.

What he is saying, in short, is that he fears his OWN death less because he finds the joy of life within others, I think.

Edited at 2008-03-19 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: jerrett Date: March 19th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
What I'm saying boils down to this: this talk of living vicariously and the utility derived therin through self-sacrifice is no good to he who cannot look out for himself.

Maslow's Pyramid.
elena From: elena Date: March 19th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
That makes MUCH more sense, but is much more easily interpreted in different ways as well since it is so simple.

Being able to take care of oneself is important to be able to do before one can take care of others. And one shouldn't completely sacrifice one's wellbeing for another person -- especially when they are taking advantage of you. Thats my opinion, anyway, even if I haven't always followed it fully.

I don't think hes saying to live vicariously through others though. I think hes just saying that bonding deeply with others heightens the human experience to something.. well, more enlightened, in the right situation.
From: jerrett Date: March 19th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fair enough, but, again, it boils back to the same thing:

It is all good and great for an advantaged human to sit and think about human behavior, but they do so in terms that they can understand, and as a result, end up thinking in terms of the behavior of advantaged humans.

How much of that could apply to a person who has nothing and works day and night with little rest in order to procure the less than meager means with with they hardly sustain themselves as they waste away towards death. Think of those in war torn countries who can't even find a bag of rice to fight over.

As far as advantaged humans go, fine, I'll concede that those that have extra to give are able to do so to further develop themselves as humans and benefit from ye olde greater good in some form, but when you look at non-advantaged humans, such a stance seems rather bunk and not prone to be followed for any length of time, especially considering that it can lead to death.
elena From: elena Date: March 20th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
You REALLY need to read the book by Richard Wilk that we read for my economic anthropology class.

until a market economy is introduced into a society people act MUCH MORE COMMMUNALLY than we are used to thinking.

When there are those disadvantaged societies that we have today in place of the smaller nonglobal communities that were much more focused on the community are those that have been abused by our "advantaged", "enlightened" and "advanced" society, so they don't function the way they otherwise would naturally. Because of that, it is our job to look after them because instead of doing that, we "other" them and suck away their means of living.

You need to watch documentaries such as T-Shirt Travels" and Life and Debt.

You are accusing me of having an opinion that is based on an advantaged situation (which is ENTIRELY true) but seem to be forgetting, or not understanding that the capitalist mentality you exist within is merely the other end of the advantaged path.
elena From: elena Date: March 19th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
By the way I used to be a huge supporter of Maslow's pyramid and I still think its a good representation of human progression and needs. However its often considered oversimplified.
From: jerrett Date: March 19th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Its level of simplicity depends on one's view of the complexity of the human.

For those that believe the human organism is nothing more than a bag of flesh that reacts to environmental stimuli via chemicals (and thus hardly different from a sponge), it is a perfectly fine model.
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