Consciousness for its own sake

Fascinating interview listened to this morning while cleaning the house, Sam Harris and  David Benator on “Is Life Actually Worth Living?”  There’s no justice I could do to the discussion here, but I thought to write my personal experience of seriously contemplating it, which brought about a counter-intuitive sense of joy and relief.

Why counter-intuitive? Because much of the conversation between the two casts serious doubts upon whether humanity is worth propagating, and not from a stance of saving the environment nor even a better way of life for those here once hypothetically, no one else would come into the world.

Instead, it is a serious inquiry for its own sake, and the pleasure of that is something that for me, validates whatever this experience of existence that we’re having is, nearly as much as unjustifiable suffering does the opposite. It feels like getting closer to some sense of consciousness for its own sake, something that starts to feel like what one is.

Several years ago, a friend raised the idea of whether it is immoral or selfish, to bring children into the world. My having three children, on a personal friendship level I was a little appalled by her seemingly bad manners at the time, and just didn’t dive into the topic. In the context of how our friendship came about, studying Buddhism together, it was fair game however; she wasn’t being cool or callous at all.

Yet, it was still a conversation I didn’t want to have because it seemed inapplicable to me. I’d forfeited any right to even pretend to be objective. I couldn’t be absolved of any guilt we might agree upon, and the conversation itself seemed disrespectful to those I’d brought into the world.

So what I admitted today, is that one can and should entertain questions that by nature can have no tidy closure, even after the deal seems done. This is another way of looking back, and unpacking what it means to be alive moment by moment. One doesn’t have to come to a decision – there isn’t enough information first of all – and there doesn’t need to be regret. There just needs to be learning, and within that, the possibility of a leap. In my case it is a kind of leap that may benefit those I have brought into the world, who may allow ‘more’ or a ‘wider range of’ conscious examination to bear on their own situations.

Part of me questions living in a way that is too scrutinizing or logical, but this carefully handled line of questioning still seems infinitely worth not shutting down. It opens the question of time and reciprocal value as well. It looks as though we are brought into the world and bring beings into the world, and that there are calculated (both individually and collectively) reasons, but I’m not convinced it is so simple.


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