This is a unique feeling, finding someone _better read_ than I on the particular matter of philosophy that dominates my issues. I guess I assumed that others who wished not to exist had more success than I have at achieving it.
I’ve read the relevant Camus, Myth of Sisyphus, because it most clearly defines and attempts to solve the philosophic problem of suicide. Deeper still, it discusses the desire not to be, and proposes some alternative ideas like social suicide, where you just drop your existing life and go live a different one. But the Russian literature element, that’s been on my to read list for years.
But, now confessing my lack of depth on the philosophy side, I move on to the issue central; I want to cease to be. It’s a fantasy that has become central to my life. Most of all, I imagine that when I die, that’s it, lights out and the self I call me will cease to be. I characterize it as the abyss, a spiral starting with something at the center, and becoming a weaker and weaker pulse outward. Or, a spiral starting with being at the outside, and collapsing inward towards smaller and smaller, less and less until it isn’t observable.
sleep is the closest I’ve managed, especially with my current prescriptions. In time I let go of my limbs, my body becomes a foreign objects, and I retreat…. of course it always must end, I must wake again and resume being…. but what a feeling, or what a wonderful lack of feeling
Sometimes I hope that with practice I might manage an unending coma, where I would leave my body behind, and eventually meet with the infinite nothing, the beautiful accepting abyss.
It also conflicts with the unpleasant reality that I will leave something behind, the memory of me, and that may continue quite a long time. It is then I think of the human inability to understand “deep time”. We can all think about days, weeks and months. The older we get, the better we get at understanding decades, and eventually centuries. The highest amount of time people think about are thousands of years. It is here that I have to remind you that all written word only encompasses the last 10,000 years, and at least the first 4,000 were oral history which is quite fluid and unreliable.
Humans though, have been around a few hundred thousand years. Apes, our genetic cohort, have been around a few million. This is the gap I failed to pay enough attention to, my next jump is to that mammals have existed hundreds of millions of years so far. Already, this deep, we don’t understand as human beings. It’s more time than the human brain is equipped to understand.
Time goes deeper though. Land dwelling organisms only come about somewhere around 500 million years ago. Multi cellular life a few billion years ago. Before that, our solar system is several billion years old. We think that the universe is several more billion years old. It is all I can do to avoid going into how we know all of that and the facts of solar fission.
The point I’m going for though is; the universe was here billions of years before I came along, perhaps it’ll continue several more billion. What then though, eh? Heat death, big crunch, there are certainly options but I doubt any of them will leave any evidence of my existence, or yours, or anyone’s.
I will cease to be, even if it takes longer than I am equipped to understand.
That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.
That’s the other side that fascinates me, perhaps I will congeal into some sort of dread being and horrify future creatures…. which would be a different sort of unbeing. Thinking person to inhuman monster must certainly be a transformation and a revocation of existence and humanity.
crazy coincidence that you brought up camus. I’ve been thinking of posting a Camus thread. I haven’t read Sisyphus yet but I love The Stranger and even more The Fall. These 2 aren’t really about life/death existence so much as they’re about the folly of human society. Hypocrisy and ‘Justice’ especially. But The Stranger has a really interesting subtheme about the religious magistrate who blows a gasket at the thought that the prisoner can’t accept Jesus as his savior. (Metaphor: the prisoner doesn’t believe in a afterlife, and this terrifies the magistrate because life without an afterlife would be pointless)
anyhoo back to your point… I would love to believe we end and vanish forever. I would love to feel truly insignificant in that regard. But neither science nor philosophy has shed any real light on what consciousness is. Aside from descartes (‘I think therefore I am’) who established that consciousness exists, nobody has ever explained what it actually is. It’s more than just electrical impulses in neurons… otherwise we’d be able to synthesize consciousness by zapping dead brains (or even coma victims).
in the absence of knowing what something is, we can’t really guess at how long it lasts. If it’s a physical concept like light, energy or mass, then the rules are that it cannot be destroyed. Fragmented sure, transformed maybe, but nothing in the universe truly vanishes. And when I start thinking about that… the idea that consciousness is indestructible and *eternal*, thats what freaks me the fuck out.
what always makes me fail as a zealot for anything is that I’m fully willing to be wrong. Maybe the soul lives on after death, maybe even the self. That may not even be that bad, assuming whatever comes next is less bleak than this existence.
Oh boy, there’s a whole rabbit hole on consciousness and the internal functioning of thoughts. Science teachers for the past fifty years have been leading people to believe that the brain is electrical. It does occasionally have electrical interactions, but the real workhorse are neurotransmitters.
Nothing like neuroscience to reveal how little humans know. We don’t understand the function and mechanism of a coma. We can cause them, in limited circumstances, but we don’t know why the brain puts itself into one. It’s protective, but of specifically what is the problem.
I guess my comfort is that memory and sense of self are two of the most fragile parts of the mind. Both are known to fail under ordinary stress. Which indicates to me that under controlled conditions, more total failure is possible.
I don’t so much care if some other part of me goes on. It’s the self, I want that part to shut off as soon as possible.
yup as long as memory and ‘self’ are wiped out that’s all I care about. If consciousness continues then actually I guess that’s kinda cool cause in different circumstances I think I could make a worthy life out of it all. but not this time around. This life feels like a videogame where you fuck up on level 1 and figure theres no point making a serious effort so you deliberately fuck up more. Play again? sure. or not. idgaf
I like this line where he says that perhaps the desire to not exist is a way of asserting our freedom because we continue to exist.
Many of our beliefs and desires are actually reactions to something else. What’s the original will, the deepest desire, the fundamental motive of life, that’s difficult to distinguish.
The conceptualisation I currently follow is that consciousness may be eternal, but that doesn’t necessitate this “self” being eternal. If consciousness is the experience of some part of what goes on in our brains, then presumably when the brain falls apart, so would that experience. Who knows what experience would replace it, but presumably it would not be anything like “us”, with whatever neurotic miseries we carry.
What’s it like to be pure energy? We can’t know, but I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be any capacity for emotion, positive or negative. Is that consciousness still “you”, if it doesn’t possess any of your characteristics?
Of course, my emotional self is entirely convinced that it will exist forever in some form, and that my current identity is real and unchangeable, rather than nebulous and transitory. I’m not sure it’s possible to exist in the world without that conviction.
I read something like that recently and it gave me a little more comfort (less anxiety). It said regardless of how many lives & incarnations we go through, each one of us only remembers the 1 we’re in right now.
So even if we’re stuck in a pointless eternity, we’re only aware of 1 day at a time. Even though there are infinity days ahead and behind, 1 day is all we ever know.
Actual reincarnation of a distinct eternal self is an interesting possibility in its own right. I think what I’m trying to get my head around is the idea that it wouldn’t be “us” stuck in a pointless eternity. It would be some kind of consciousness existing in a largely neutral eternity, mostly without any capacity to suffer in the way we do. Like a kind of al-pervading “consciousness field.” At certain points in space and time it has the experience of being in the minds of some particularly neurotic primates. But mostly it’s just…who knows?
Exactly, I like your scientific approach to spiritual matters. A formless consciousness field makes a helluva lot more sense to me than pearly gates and harps. Say we could one day identify consciousness as a physical quantity like that–bound by the same basic rules as a magnetic field or gravitational field. In other words, it exists and it produces an effect. Then even the effect of life is suddeny not so mystical. The same way a magnetic field animates metal particles, maybe a consciousness field animates organic matter.
And then it goes back to what you said, that a field without anything to act on (i.e. no organic matter, no ‘metal particles’) just sorta sits there invisible. Since it doesn’t have any matter to act upon, it doesn’t have any identity, no personality, no memories. And I guess when we die then that’s what we return to. It’s not exactly nonexistence, but it’s not really an ‘afterlife’ either.
What’s even harder to swallow is if it doesn’t have the power of perception, then it can’t feel time. It could exist for eternity or a split second and it’s all the same.