Saturday, June 21, 2008

Limbo, martyrs, and blank slates

I am not only the devil incarnate but I am a cynical, heartless person, or so says Sid of the current debate.

Because I said, several times, that the meaning of life is pleasure/satisfaction and experience, I am evil because people do things all the time out of the goodness of their hearts and get nothing for it. Horse hockey. I guess he doesn't get a warm glow when a homeless mother and her children get nourishing food at the local soup kitchen where he works and he gets no sense of satisfaction from saving someone or their pet from a burning building. He does everything in a state of martyred limbo where emotions and thoughts never occur. Horse hockey. He refuses to see that it is all right to be happy or feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for charitable works or giving back to the community or that those warm and fuzzy feelings are all right when contemplating giving your life for friends and family and that it does not diminish the act or the person.

I used the example of early Xians going to the arena where hungry wolves, lions and bears would tear them apart; the people went to their deaths holding hangs and singing and continued singing while they were ripped apart. I'd say they felt something and it wasn't the blank slate of martyrdom and giving back to the community either. They were happy, even ecstatic, to be released from their perceived physical bondage and they were -- and are -- heroes to a multitude of believers. Do their display of personal emotions in any way lessen their experience or their heroism? Did they get satisfaction from their circumstances? They were afraid, but they believed they were going to heaven and they were happy about that despite the horrific circumstances in which they found themselves. In those last moments, along with the fear, they felt a sense of pleasure and happiness in being together here and believing they would be together in heaven after they died.

I agree it is an extreme example, but the idea that altruism and charity are blank slates and you must be in an emotional state of limbo, or that to believe anyone can feel pleasure or satisfaction when giving freely of time and resources to the community is ludicrous. Cynical? I'd say the pot is calling the mirror black. To deny the pleasure and satisfaction of any act, even an altruistic act, is to deny the truth of life. We do what makes us happy, gives us pleasure and satisfaction, or we don't continue to do it. Even someone trapped in a horrible job or rotten relationship gets some satisfaction, even if it's the fleeting sense of purpose that loved ones are being cared for and nurtured or seeing and working with people you like, or just going home at the end of the week knowing there are two full days of relief from the pressures and torments of the job.

Yes, people act out of duty and a sense of sacrifice, but even in the midst of the worst situation there is a flutter of pleasure, a sense of satisfaction at accomplishing a difficult task and the hope that some day things will be different (there's always retirement) or they would not do it. There has to be a payoff. Knowing that doesn't make me cynical, just realistic, and believing that and seeing it every day doesn't extinguish hope but keeps it burning brightly, else why not end it all and move on?

That is all. Disperse.

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