I’m not a particularly courageous man, not like some of my friends who are soldiers or sailors in the military, but after my accident in 2007, the idea of dying really doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, since I wasn’t upset about not being born, and in all likelihood, won’t get bent out of shape about being dead, as long as the process of getting there — going on each day of my life, the clock ticking inexorably away — is well-spent doing some real good in the world.
Once you’ve looked the Reaper in her bony eye-sockets for the first time, you get to thinking about things, even without involving the claims of religion, like who and what you would be willing to live and die for…
Would I be willing to die for my beliefs?
The reason for this is simple: My beliefs, even the most rational, and even my knowledge at its most secure, are not certain. They all come with a margin of error appended. Any one of my beliefs can be wrong, and my best, most reliable, solid knowledge could be mistaken, and so dying for these would not be worth the sacrifice, no matter the conviction with which I hold them true. It would be wasted on something of little consequence to the world at large and of little consequence to me.
But I would die, as I live, for my friends, my loved ones, and anyone I come to care for — I’m sort of romantic that way — to me, friends are people who one should be willing to give one’s life for if necessary.
Would I kill for a friend?
I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I have it in me to take a human life…I lack a warrior’s disposition. The thought of actually killing a real person fills me with revulsion, and I think about it just long enough to flatly reject the notion.
Also, I cannot predict what my mental state, attitudes and beliefs will be at any future date, and I’m not interested in talking sh*t — it’s dishonest to me.
But I don’t see anything wrong with offering myself to save someone else, and I don’t care what anyone reads into that, as long as more lives are preserved than lost, since altruism, not the straw-person parody of it touted by followers of Ayn Rand, but real-world altruism, one of our noblest primate legacies from our early ancestors on the plains of Africa, has obvious evolutionary benefits in enhancing the long-term survival and reproductive success of social groups.
I would make a poor Conservative indeed, though that’s for a future post to address.
So I’m certainly willing to live for what I believe, and for what little I know, but dying for it just seems like such as waste when it could be wrong — I want to be as justifiably confident as I can about the real world, but something like my own limited knowledge is worth more adding to, not getting killed over, for there’s no logic in ending one’s life when certainty in matters of fact is elusive.
This is likely to be the only life I’ll get, so I’ll live it for what it’s worth, for myself and those I care for.
I’m reading “The Last Human,” an awesome book I recently picked up at the local library on humanity’s ancestors and relations going back an estimated seven million years, 22 separate species in all, and none of these distinguished peeps are around any more.
Gone. Deleted. Extinct. Kaput. All your hominids are now belonging to us…
The title of the book is, I think, accurate and quite possibly prophetic, and I strongly suspect that if we don’t start taking better care or ourselves, each other, and the world environment we need to exist, we will be the last humans.
Think about this for a bit: There have been times in the past, even within the last 100,000 years, that multiple human species lived not only in the same era, but in some cases in the same locale as well.
The fact that we are alone as far as human species go, and are in the process of making even the surviving great ape species in Africa and island Asia extinct as well, speaks volumes about our intolerance of competition with “Those other peeps not like us.™”
This is not an attitude I find useful in the long-term and seems in part to be very much a manifestation of our tribalistic evolutionary baggage that could get us all killed fighting amongst ourselves over somebody’s stupid, dogmatic, ideological dislikes.
I mentioned before that our future looks bright if we don’t kill ourselves off to soon, but though this could just be an example of the Clustering Illusion in statistical probability, given the current political and world events of the past couple of years, my confidence isn’t helped much.
I’m very much concerned about the outcome of this, and our future as a species when we seem determined to bring about our own extinction, through war, environmental inaction, and sometimes disastrously mistaken social policies.