I suppose it happens to us all. You wake up at some indeterminate point in the night (for those who don't have clocks in their bedrooms anyway) and your mind begins to whirr with thought. The thoughts rush on and you silently nod in agreement with the thoughts that you are having. This has certainly happened to me more than once and often I have determined to write them down later when I get up. Of course, you never do because life gets in the way and it becomes just another lucid moment lost forever in the mists of time. Well, this time, I have actually made the effort to write down what I was thinking about and to use it to meditate on the thoughts I was having. So what follows will be a mash up of the thoughts I had last night in my bed and now as I write, remember and muse on those thoughts that I had.
I suppose, in a way, it really started last night before I went to sleep. The thought occurred to me that no one gets born by their choice. In that sense every one of us is born without our will being taken into account. Our birth, the fact we are given life and brought into being at all, is the choice of other people. This strikes me as partly selfish. Although not a parent myself, it does seem to me, observing from the sidelines, that some parents are selfish. They want a child for themselves. I wonder how many parents give thought to what kind of life their child will have or how much pain or misery they might be storing up for their offspring? My guess would be that many never think of that at all, at least not until or unless things go wrong. And yet these things, in the abstract, are foreseeable consequences of having, or giving birth to, a life. So why don't more people think of the downsides of being alive when bringing a new life into the world?
Maybe these people consider that although life will certainly include some bad it will also contain much good. Lives, of course, are very different. Some will contain little pain and some will contain much. In that sense, once a life has started and you are thrown into existence you pretty much have to suck it up and deal with what comes down the pipe. You can't refuse life and go back where you came from. The clock only ticks forwards. But, to get back to the point, perhaps people consider that life, overall, isn't that bad. That would be reasonable, wouldn't it? I don't think so. You can't live your life on someone's behalf. Each life is individual. You cannot measure someone's pain by how you measure your own because you are not comparing like with like. Human beings are not robots and are not built to the same specifications. Much less do they experience life in the same way. Your appreciation, or lack of appreciation, of life is not commensurable with that of another person. We each make our own minds up and human beings, in general, have always valued that fact about our species.
I raise all this because, for the longest time now, I have actively said to myself that, were it possible, I would give my life back. I don't accept the idea, for myself, that life, although a mixture of good and bad, is "worth it" over all. For at least 10-15 years now I've said to myself that if it were possible to reject life and give it back then I would. If there was a button you could press or a deal you could make where it meant that you suddenly had never existed then I would press that button or make that deal. You might now be asking about all the things I would miss that you value or all the things I would never experience. To me, that argument holds no weight. A person who never existed has nothing to miss and has no ability or desire to value things. These are the problems and issues of the living. And the difference between being alive and dead, existent and non-existent, is very great. Put simply, people concern themselves with the problems of the living. Unsurprisingly. And they find it hard to think in any other way. For the same reason I've never understood people who couldn't appreciate why someone might take their own life. To me, this is obvious: dead people have no problems.
My thinking in this, of course, is guided and shaped by my own experience of life. I don't regard myself as having had a particularly bad life. Certainly, there are people who would seem to have had worse ones and its not hard to think of examples. But, as I said before, everyone is different. Its a mug's game to start comparing lives one with another. You can only really address your own appreciation of your own life. And I haven't appreciated mine very much. There are certain issues I've had to face daily for many years and I wouldn't be me or live the life I lead without them. But that is my comprehension of what life is from my own experience of it. You will have yours. Quite a lot of people seem to think that life is a gift and that it is ungrateful or bad to reject it or despise it. I must admit that I don't understand this, to me, irrational mentality. If life is a gift then its surely the unwanted pair of socks your granny gives you. Overall, nature is random without a guided direction or purpose. You were the sperm that made it and fertilised the egg. Its not as if any intelligence selected and formed you in a womb, made you who you are and set you on your way. (Yes, I don't believe in gods in any sense.) You are just the result of a couple of human wills and lots of random factors no one power had any control over. There will come a time when parents and doctors will be able to choose the baby they have and start to make selections both for physical appearance and mental faculties. I don't envy those people who will be actively engineering the birth of yet more people. What will happen when the children do not turn out to be the things that were selected? Can people really be created in laboratories?
I do, in a sense, see life as something mystical. But this is mystical in the sense of profound or complex or ungraspable. I don't see it as mystical in the sense of it being from a higher power. We are, all of us, life forms created in a physical universe. The conditions that make life possible, and we don't know what they are or why life happened at all, are just there and so, in turn, are we. I don't see any inherent or deep meaning to that. It just is and any meaning we do find, or fail to find, will be on our own terms. Recently, I've been following the Twitter account of a shepherd in the Lake District of England. He's become a minor celebrity thanks to a book he has written about his way of life and the fact that one of his sheepdogs, Floss, recently gave birth to 10 puppies. For the last week or so now he has been posting sometimes graphic pictures of the lambing season that he is currently dealing with. I have looked with childlike innocence at the pictures he has posted of lambs being pulled out of a sheep or, new born, lying on the grass covered in mucus and amniotic fluid. This is life. This is the wonder of life. The wonder of life to me is that it happens at all.
But that it happens at all is, for me, also the problem. Its one that existentialist writers like Sartre or Camus saw too. For the world, life, does not make sense. There is no way to square the circle of your existence. There are endless "don't knows", you are full of fallibilities and, as a physical being, you will suffer and die for change is a constant of the universe. Things do not, and are not meant to, stay the same forever. As a being with higher brain function you will also likely have to muse on all of these facts and deal with that too. "Life is suffering" has long been a truism of mine even though, at times, more positive souls have tried, and failed, to dissuade me from it. I just see too much evidence to support it. You, too, may say that's not very positive and I would probably concede you are right. But that is to miss the point. The point is that you can only be true to yourself. For although you can appreciate and think about life in general, you only ever live one actual life: yours.
You can hear my music which muses about life and thoughts about life at my Bandcamp.