Why Do We Live?

Said Nasheed

A Moroccan Writer and Researcher

The most powerful scene in The Plague novel may be the scene of the little child who has been struggling against the fierce death in horrible and tragic circumstances. Albert Camus’s portrayal of the scene was amazing as it covered the slightest details. This scene took many pages in the novel in which he was able to touch the tone of pains, cries and moaning with ultimate precision until we reach the bitterness of the most painful question: what does justify this tragedy? Perhaps the most honest answer is Camus’s answer that tragedy seems to no vail because it is a core part of life which in turn has no intrinsic meaning or value. This is the ontological truth as unveiled by the cries of this child upon his death. There is a basic idea: if the scenes of children’s tragedies are intolerable, this is because there is nothing to justify them.

This is also the moment when the monk, in the novel, changes his religious position and his discourse from justifying the plague as punishment for the villains who have to repent from sins and a test for good people who have to be patient with troubles, to adopt the discourse of creative disappointment in the way of “Lucretius,” ”Voltaire,” “Schopenhauer,” and in the way of all philosophers of disappointment. In this philosophy, nothing justifies tragedy, as long as it does not represent any punishment or test, and does not carry any transcendental, teleological or metaphysical meanings.

The creative aspect of disappointment manifests itself in the idea that we become more vulnerable to reject tragedy when we realize that it is meaningless. This is why disappointment also represents a solid ground for the values of tolerance, compassion, forbearance and love. Therefore, the philosophers of disappointment in history will also be philosophers of tolerance, compassion, forbearance and love.

Then, what is a disappointment?

From the point of view of philosophy, disappointment means: We should not wait for the good end in the way that salvation ideologies promise, as long as the incidents do not go according to expectations, and consequences do not come according to hopes. Moreover, there must not be light at the end of the tunnel. This is because the norm of actions is based only on the principles of unpredictability, uncertainty, and lack of Safety. Therefore, our stakes should be flexible and cautious as much as possible. What is certain in the first place is that we live, and second that we live temporarily. This is why Luke Ferry considers philosophy as the attempt to answer the follow inquiry: What does a good life mean for those who are mortal?

Though this definition is accurate, it is also general. It is accurate because of man’s rejection of his mortality may deprive him of good life, and this is true in all cases. It is also general because it relates to an open question, and each philosopher has his own way to answer it. We are fortunate because the complex mind gives us the possibility of reducing the answers of all philosophers into one and clear phrase, as follows:

A good life is a life in which one is able to live.

To explain, a good life does not mean good living. Rather it means the ability to enjoy life according to Epicurus; the ability to grow according to Spinoza; and the ability to live powerfully according to Nietzsche. However, Epicurean pleasure is also the ability to enjoy what is little and simple; Spinoza growth is also the ability to grow slowly and quietly, and that Nietzsche power is also the ability to have patience and endurance. In general, the true meaning of ability is the ability to control the ability, in order not to be depleted. Here exactly lies the meaning of the ability to live.

What are the elements that develop the ability to live? What are the elements that paralyze man’s ability to live? Around these two questions, the philosophies of living center in two fundamental dimensions:

First, the critical dimension in terms of deconstruction and undermining concepts and values that develop the motives of fear, lethargy, following others, hatred, and jealousy, etc., thus threatening the ability to live.

Second, the healing dimension, in terms of working to free the individual, society and civilization from the power of those motivations that lead to the degradation of the individual and civilization, through practical exercises and activities to train mind and conscience.

It is said that diagnosing a disease is half of medication. Therefore, based on the history of philosophy, I can draw a short map of life constraints, as follows:

Ignorance according to Socrates, fear according to Epicurus, complaining according to “Stoic”, sad whims according to “Spinoza”, alienation according to “Marx”, instincts of deterioration according to “Nietzsche”, motives of death according to “Freud”, false presence according to ”Hedger”, the pattern of ownership according to Erich Fromm, and so forth. A good life means good control of oneself which is always vulnerable to delusion, pain, illness, boredom, misery, and mortality and then, one often heads to what Schopenhauer calls “false condolence.”

There should be a balance between desire and ability, because the main source of misery is the imbalance between both of them. We may sometimes be unwilling to do anything, and sometimes we may wish something that we are not able to do. The example of the first case is: sometimes we may be unwilling to eat though we are hungry, and the reason may be being sad. Other times, we may be willing to eat and ask for food but without having enough appetite to eat. At that time, we express this in terms such as, “I want to eat but I cannot swallow anything.” Asking for food represents a kind of desire, and the appetite for eating represents a kind of ability. The reason may be being sad. The example of the second case is: our sexual desire may exceed our sexual ability. This leads to tension which is an essential source of the phenomenon of violence by some husbands towards their wives, as a kind of offloading. However, if the imbalance between desire and ability in the sexual sphere may cause misery in sexual life, the imbalance between desire and ability to live in general can cause misery throughout the whole life.

Therefore, as known by philosophers and specialists of oriental religions, when the ability to live fades at the end of one’s life, the desire to live fades as well, in order to have a safe acceptance of death.

In general, I am now at the age that allows me to conclude a basic comparison:

With the exception of childhood, it is difficult for a person to have a period in which he can enjoy such balance between the desire for life and the ability to live: during one’s young age, the desire to live starts to have a state of latency due to fear of the future, which falls under the fear of the unknown. In the old age, the ability to live may be depleted by nostalgia, which falls under the grief for the missed things.

For example: Is it possible to play this funny game? If you ask someone who feels great fear, his response will probably be, “It is possible but not now.” If, however, you ask someone who feels great grief, his response will probably be, “I wish, but I cannot.” For the fearing one, the desire to enjoy life can be afflicted by latency, and for the one who feels grief, the ability to enjoy life can be depleted.

When the desire to live starts a state of latency among adolescents, this explains the phenomenon of suicide among them, as well as their quick response to the nihility discourses that understate life because their desire to life is weak as compared to their interest in another imagined, metaphysical and promised life as long as their desire to life is latent. In this way, they fall prey to “sellers of the afterlife,” who might make them suicide bombs.

With the early stages of aging, a person begins to regain his desire for life because the tension resulting from the fear of the future fades or disappears. This explains one’s focus in this stage on the issues of diets, hygiene, medical observation, frequent visits to the doctor, and even excessive use of medications.

The parents’ keenness in their old age for life is a transformation that may not be understood by sons who in are less keen for life in their young age. When the time comes for sons to understand, the elders will be often dead or at a very late stage of weakness when they have only the feelings of guilt and sorrow, which fall as we know among the diseases of the soul, and this may destroy the last thing that remains of one’s ability to live.

For all of this, we must remain attentive with all of our senses to life with its every day details; it speaks to us only through simple words, simple things, simple people, and we only live to learn life.

The same question, why?

We live on the surface of deep water; we certainly do not know why, but we continue swimming lest we sink. This is all we know, but there are people who swim in a perplexed manner that makes them continue swimming with difficulty; there are those who swim in a quiet manner that makes him continue swimming easily and comfortably; and there are also those who swim with high skill that makes them continue swimming with happiness and pleasure, and for that he is keen to improve his swimming skill as long as he is swimming.

We do not know why we live, but we know that in order to live comfortably as much as possible, we must always work to improve our ability to live as long as we live.

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