Sunday, January 16, 2005

the human condition

I was doing some random bloghunting in my boredom last night, and came across this one, which I also put into my links section. For the most part, it's the telling of the stories of a young teenage prostitute, from her now grown-up perspective. The site is very artistic, and is intended for an audience that finds these tales to be erotic, but I enjoyed it for a very different reason. I enjoyed hearing a bit about a side of the human condition that I have had the fortune or misfortune of not experiencing first hand. She tells her stories in a very 'matter-of-fact' way... providing the numbness that a child must feel to survive, and lets you feel whatever you want in response.

There are two common reactions to the darker realities of life from those who were more 'lucky' in the hand that was dealt to them: apathy and compassion. Apathy is the response of those who are selfish and those who feel helpless to fix things. Compassion is the reaction of those who don't ignore what's put before their eyes, and feel that there's something wrong with what they're seeing. I feel neither entirely... I simply have a respect for others' experiences... not denial, and not a desire to change things... I have an appreciation for the way things are.

The common belief in my country (the United States) is that the meaning of life is to be happy. Nobody disputes this with real conviction... it's a given around here... what a surprising belief to find in a capitalist culture. In other cultures, other 'givens' are found... usually differing forms of piety. There have been others throughout human history, although it's difficult for most to see those other perspectives clearly: "Oh, it was a warrior society, and all they wanted to do was be victorious and die in battle? Well, fighting made them happy, so the meaning of life was to be happy!" Really though, when you break it down, there is no 'given' meaning of life... that one thing is the biggest question that a human can take on, and you can't rely on the one that your culture happened to provide you with. When various human societies have spawned various definitions of the meaning of life, they're all suspect.

I don't know the meaning of life, but I don't think that it's the seeking of happiness. It just doesn't seem logical to me that one action should be more significant than another based on some emotional, subjective end result. I find it to be entirely more likely that all things are equally significant, and if any response to that fact makes sense, it would be the act of realizing that significance. I don't think that there's anything important to be done in life... I think that life is simply to be lived... I just haven't figured out what 'living life' is just yet.

Having that perspective on things, when I hear about the horrors of the human experience, my reaction isn't to fix things. There's something meaningful about such events, and there's something to be said for the direct experience of them. I don't seek out such things... if anything, I'm overly cautious and reserved, but I don't consider a life that was torn apart by horrible circumstances to be a wasted life... It's just another life; just another of the many tales of the human condition. Not only can I respect such a life and what knowledge comes from it, I hope to learn from it myself.