Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Wish to Live

What are the highest values in life? What ideas provide guidance for the best possible living? What is the inspiration which accords the best template for living, for fully realizing our potential as human beings?

Friedrich Nietzsche mentions the "will to power" as a force which has "succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life". Is this "will to power", though, merely a description of how the world works, of how life exists, or is it also a normative statement (an outline of how life should be lived)? Should we live only according to our instincts? Does living against the pattern of our instincts hopelessly obscure and defeat life itself? Or, rather, does life only begin to soar once it transcends our basic instincts for higher goals?

Which parts of the "will to power" should be embraced by society? Nietzsche repeatedly asserts that those conditions which enable life to flourish should be promoted. But what does it mean for life to flourish? Does life flourish when it is restrained, or when it is constricted; does life flourish only when it is maintained and managed, or only when it is free and independent? What does it mean to preserve and enhance life? And what kinds of life does Nietzsche value?

Nietzsche objects to those who place more emphasis on suffering in this life, in exchange for a better future life, than on experiencing life in the present world. But for many people, the experience of life essentially contains suffering - and suffering really can be described as the origin of life. Perhaps suffering is the main mode of life, after all: not the "will to power", but the "will to suffer" predominates, or perhaps the "will to power" is also a "will to suffer". Lastly, perhaps Nietzsche is not really against an acknowledgment of suffering, but merely disagrees as to what manner people should direct their suffering.

A preacher here on campus has suggested that God created the world in an act of love as suffering. I have heard it said, "to love someone truly, you must allow them to have the chance to make you suffer".

Did God create the world in an act of love as suffering? Even if there is no God, is this the essential state of our world as it exists now? Does all the world in the world owe its existence to some form of suffering?

And who would punish a lover for one's own love, if there is a God who has created such a world? Jesus in the Gospels tells the parable of the prodigal son. The father allows the son to experience life on his own terms, and allows the son to suffer the consequences of his actions. Would a loving God allow us to suffer merely as a consequence of Its actions, merely because a world was created wherein we humans were given this life which has built itself upon our suffering?

To love is in part to suffer. And suffer I do, as we all do...adrenaline, oxytocin, estrogen...coursing through the channels of my soul, of every "soul". Chemicals corrode my soul, yet they restore my body. My body atones for my soul. These hapless emotions, what poor excuse of a being am I? Too far gone in this world. Too near-sighted for the things to come. Not spiritual enough. Too human.

That lustful glance is the adultery of my spirit. But not to glance is the adultery of my body. To glance, to live: to commit adultery of the mind, or the heart? I have been ripped to shreds and torn apart, glued together again, haphazardly...this is the way life has developed over billions of years, ripping and tearing itself apart, to time and time again, build things that are newer and stranger, odd and more odd are these evolved creatures, these "thinking things" that are called human beings. This is the worst and the best that I am. I give my love, I give my pain, and I give my innocence...all in the name of life.

This is what God gave me, if it was indeed a divine own freedom, my own shame; my own love, my own suffering. All that and less: some of the things He gave me I'm apparently supposed to disown. In the name of a Higher Life. In the name of a Higher Love, and a Higher Truth.

Pilot washed his hands before he condemned Jesus. Did God wash His mind in the hormones of our psyches before condemning us?

If God exists, then God should commend evil instead of condemning it, for this evil has propelled us to life. We love ourselves. We love our family. We love our tribe, our sect, our friends. This is evil, since we love them for their suffering, because only that has brought us into this world and continually sustains us. Perhaps someday, when we remember the suffering that endures and surrounds us, the suffering that has created life in all its stark beauty and terror, then we will love our neighbor as ourselves, most of all because they suffer as we suffer.

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