Thursday 31 August 2023

The desire to live in bliss and without suffering is - ultimately - a desire for annihilation

To live always in bliss is a common enough ideal; yet it entails the removal of past and future (adverse past memories, feared possible futures) such that only the present is experienced and real. 

We may have experienced such bliss, briefly; as when it is said that eternity can be found in the moment - and some want it permanently. 

Yet to want permanent bliss is to want not-to-be; because the present moment does not exist: as a time-slice - with nothing before or after - it is infinitely small. 

To have (to experience, to know-of) neither past nor future is not-to-be.  

To want to escape suffering - wholly and forever - entails losing all awareness of every-thing. 

This would be to exist in the present moment without desire and without attachment - which means without sense of self. 

To escape suffering therefore requires not-to-be a distinct-being (or, at least, not to be aware of oneself as a being). One must become subjectively unaware that one exists. 

Not to suffer at-all or ever, is a state indistinguishable from complete and permanent annihilation. 

If this sounds like a reductio ad absurdum, reflect that it is very common - almost normal - to feel thus. 

It is perhaps only a kind of uncertainty about what will happen afterwards (a residual fear that death might not be annihilation), plus cowardice about the physical painfulness (suffering) of actually-doing-it; that stops many modern people from killing themselves...

Which is why so many of them clamour for the 'right' painlessly to be murdered (i.e. 'euthanasia') on demand. 

A rejoinder might be that what most people really want is neither complete nor permanent; but simply greater and more sustained happiness, and an end to severe suffering. This even sounds-like common sense...

But these are not an answer that has satisfied; and we know this because so many people already live that answer, and have done for many decades in the West. 

Many or most modern people already have experienced historically-unprecedented gratification of happiness and elimination of physical suffering; yet they are not satisfied by such quantitative improvements.

Indeed, more than in many times and places of the past (insofar as such things can be compared) modern people have been distinctive for their escalating fear, resentment and despair. They have in fact - whatever the theory - focused on the incompleteness of their bliss; and the unbearability of their residual suffering. 

Hence the apparently widespread (albeit often implicit - since modern Man usually refuses to think consciously and consecutively about fundamental matters) desire for total happiness and the absence of suffering; as the only proper, un-controversially Good goals of life. 

All of which goes to show that ideals which are normal and widespread, common-sensical and regarded as ethically-vital; can nonetheless be incoherent nonsense. 


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