An axiom


The background to this is discussion had over the years with people about foreign aid. One of the most common reaction to stories about saved lives in the developing world, in nations crippled by poverty and disease, civil war and/or famine, is “oh great, more mouths that will need feeding”, the implication being feeding by ‘us’. From this and related attitudes an axiom of contemporary life appears, one that might actually be invariant throughout history:

Human life feels (human) life as a burden, against the Christian morality pretended at;”All life is suffering but we feel it most immediately as our suffering, I feel it most immediately as my suffering”.

I bracket the second human because similar attitudes have been expressed or seen behind anti-climate change stances. There’s something gnostic about this, something Schopenhauerian. It also gets quite close to visions of nature shared by Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, Slavoj Zizek and Werner Herzog. The excess of nature, of life- the excess of any object over itself and its others, why not?- is not simply a miracle to be admired and celebrated but also an obscenity, a pornographic terror, a cause of suffering. If things simply were, if a life was just a life, if the count really did operate…well…

But at the same time, one might want to retort- along with the Buddha- that yes, all life is suffering…and if you feel it as your suffering…So what?


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