Sunday, May 27, 2012

Still No Answers!

I've been writing in this blog for more than 2 years.  At lot has happened in that time.  Thankfully I'm almost done with my degree, and then I can finally leave behind BYU with the accompanying rut I've dug myself into.

Still, I don't know that things are clearer now than they were, then.  Life still seems without meaning much of the time, an unwanted burden thrust upon me be either an uncaring universe or some perversely-cruel "supreme being."

I don't think there's a higher intelligence responsible for everything, but far be it from me to claim any more than that.  I know almost nothing, and I dare say I'm smarter than the average bear.  I don't find comfort in even the remote possibility that there is a god, though... if there is, he's the wanker who decided to bestow consciousness on the chunk of dirt that happens to be me.  Who knows what else this diabolical monster is capable of?  Making me continue to live after death, perhaps!?  Perish the thought.

I am reminded of Tantalus... the poor sucker from Greek mythology who angered the gods and was therefore trapped forever in a pond with luscious fruit hanging on branches above him, only to have the fruit or water withdraw beyond his reach every time he went for either one.  Human beings are given inquisitive minds capable of asking deeply abstract questions about our own existence, then the answers to said questions are always apparently just out of reach.  Even religion doesn't have answers, it only promises more later.  Case in point, how many times in Sunday School have you asked a question and been told that maybe we'll have to wait until the Celestial Kingdom to know about that?

So, I know I sound like I'm super-depressed.  And yeah, I am.  But it occurs to me over and over... does that make anything I say less valid?
 People imply that my view and conclusions are affected by my depression, and therefore are wrong.   Now, the first one I'll give them, they are.  But the second?
For all we know, optimism or happiness are results of a healthy human mind drugging itself enough to ignore the void of meaning and impending ruin and decay that loom over them all the time.
Doesn't that sound like something that might evolve in a keenly self-aware species?
What if those with depression see the world as it is, and a healthy mind is the mind more deluded?  What then?  Which would you rather have???

This isn't even red/blue pill, because in The Matrix there was a tiny bit of hope that outside the matrix there was still something to work for.  What if knowing is accepting that there never was and never will be meaning?  Which would you choose?
Happiness or awareness?

Without awareness, what are you?  A rat with its pleasure centers wired to a machine, oblivious of that actual logic behind its ecstasy?
With awareness, what are you?  A mind trapped in a fleshy little jar, able to see just long enough to glimpse the universe slowly devouring itself with entropy, where good and evil end up rusted together in a pile of dust with no one to even observe it?

No wonder there are lots of people out there who claim to have the answers, and even more people who flock to them at any expense.
Damn those charlatans, though.  Damn them for promising answers and then telling cute stories to distract from the fact that they have none!!! 

Sometimes I don't feel like there is an adequate way to express the rage I feel at this, our beloved human condition.  It makes me wish I could believe in a creator, so I could then try to find a way to get revenge on him/her/it.
Heh, so basically, I wish for a living god just so I can go kill him.  Maybe I'm just insane after all.


  1. Even if you don't have the answers, I like that you have this blog. At least for me, it's comforting to know that I'm not alone.

    The thought that depressed people are just those who see the world as it really is is quite poignant. Depression does have to do with wonky brain chemistry, though—does that mean that normal brain chemistry is equivalent to "the mind drugging itself"?

  2. And a happy Memorial Day weekend to you, too :). I'm glad to see a new post, sorry to hear that depression rages on. Good luck on the killing god revenge thing - that made me smile. BTW, I sometimes think you're still a closet believer, raging against a god you say doesn't exist. I realize most of the anger is toward churches and those who teach about god as the answer to life's questions.

    This post included some stuff that chafed my brain, and I'll email reactions to avoid cluttering your comments here.

  3. William Gaddis refers to our human need to tell ourselves stories about ourselves as bedtime stories "to get us through the night." Hobbes may be right in the end about life ultimately being "nasty, brutish, and short," without the structures we create to "get us through the night." Perhaps your biggest revenge on the non-god is to make your life have value in your eyes, despite what evidence you think might be against its having value. To make a contribution to the world is one type of immortality; at least, until human memory is destroyed permanently, which may be a ways off. One hopes.

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  5. (Sorry, the formatting on the first comment drove me crazy).

    Maybe this is way out of place, but I thought you might be interested to know there's an ongoing debate in mental health regarding whether or not depression leads to more accurate assessment.

    "According to the depressive realism hypothesis, depressed individuals have more realistic self-perceptions than do nondepressed individuals, who are positively biased in their self-evaluations. In fact, Taylor and Brown (1988) cite evidence that mentally healthy people tend to make unrealistically positive self-evaluations, perceive themselves as having more control than they actually do, and are unrealistically optimistic. Depression, in contrast, is thought to be characterized by accurate, realistic self-perceptions (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Consistent with this perspective, early studies have demonstrated that dysphoric individuals’ self evaluations of social competence were in line with external observer’s evaluations while nondepressed individuals overestimated their social competence (e.g., Ducharme & Bachelor, 1993; Lewinsohn, Mischel, Chaplin, & Barton, 1980).

    In contrast, Beck’s (1967) cognitive theory of depression suggests that rather than being accurate perceivers of their own abilities and characteristics, depressed individuals have unrealistically negative views of the self. Depression is thought to be characterized by information processing that is systematically negatively biased, selective attention to negative self-referent experiences, and distortion of information relevant to the self in a negative direction (Beck, 1967). In support of this cognitive distortion model, depression has been associated with negative bias in self-ratings of personality (McKendree-Smith & Scogin, 2000), task performance (Fu, Koutstaal, Fu, Poon, & Cleare, 2005), and competence (Cole, Martin, Peeke, Seroczynski, & Hoffman, 1998; Hoffman, Cole, Martin, Tram, & Seroczynski, 2000). The negative distortion of self-perceptions in depression may be particularly salient in the social domain. Dysphoric individuals have been shown to underestimate their social skills and social acceptance whereas nondysphorics’ social self-evaluations were relatively accurate (Cole et al., 1998; Dobson, 1989; Qian, Wang, & Chen, 2002).

    More recently, Joiner, Kistner, Stellrecht,and Merrill (2006) put forth a third perspective based on the self-verification principle that individuals seek social feedback that is consistent with their self-views (e.g., Swann & Read, 1981)".

    1. Cool. Sounds like research is mixed on accuracy of perception of self and self-related circumstances. Findings of negative bias match my own experience. It would be interesting to check accuracy of perception in general, beyond the self. Dave seems to be arguing that depressed people may see the world as it really is (i.e., the same as he sees it right now, a self-devouring universe devoid of meaning). I suspect depression would lead to an overwhelming negative bias rather than increased accuracy, but of course we'd need an accurate and objective map of reality to test that! Got one handy?

    2. Thanks for posting these studies. I have often felt that depression and realism go hand in hand. As do depression and disbelief. It is interesting to hear others insights.

  6. I actually found this blog because the latest post was linked via Outer Blogness's facebook aggregator, but I wanted to respond to this.

    You ask:

    What if knowing is accepting that there never was and never will be meaning? Which would you choose?
    Happiness or awareness?

    What is "awareness" or "happiness" but different states of meaning? How can you ask this question unless there is enough meaning in the universe, somehow, to give distinction to the two? If there were no meaning, how would you be able to recognize or assert that? Where would the tools to allow you to assert this come from?

    It seems to me that if you're looking for meaning from outside yourself, then you probably will be left hanging high and dry. But that's because meaning never was something that came from outside. Meaning was *always* something projected and created and asserted by conscious beings -- by us humans.

    How can awareness and happiness be a dichotomy? Happiness cannot exist unless you are aware of it. It doesn't make any sense, for example, to say, "I am happy, but I am not aware of it." One's happiness only arises from one's perception or awareness of it.