Thursday, April 25, 2013

Putting a Demon Down


Since the medical exam I have been wrestling with demons. Or one demon in particular: what use am I? This is not a new conunndrum for me, but my Disability Insurannce application has thrown it into relief. I am asserting that I am not fit to work at all, and that I'm particularly unfit to do the work that I used to do. In the eyes of the Social Security Administration I coulld be faking it, but I am not; I wish I were, but part of what has been so depressing is the sense that I am totally useless for gainful work.

It would be easier, perhaps if I believed in a God, Gods, an afterlife, resurrection, or reincarnation, but I do not. Instead I believe that the universe is random, chaotic, entropic and wholly without magic. Which is not to say that life cannot be magical; it can, but mistaking our brains' inclination to perceive patterns for the existence of the patterns themselves is foolishness at best. I also appreciate greatly the many people who do believe and have prayed on my behalf. To ask your deity for intercession on behalf of an unbeliever like me is a great kindness. However, there is no comfort for me in faith: I have thought long and hard about it, and I do not believe.

Many people set aside this existential angst by living for their partners or their children. Even if I weren't single and childless, I would know that this merely avoids the problem for a while, it doesn't answer the fundamental question: what are we good for? Procreation has never been an adequate answer for me. If our lives are singular and finite, unremarked by any supernatural entity, and if we serve no purpose be living, why not indulge in the cessation and simply die? It would be a lot easier.

When I was considering this problem some years ago, I heard an invitation for the "This, I Believe" segment on NPR that challenged listeners to state their beliefs in a positive way: it wasn't enough to say "I don't believe in this or that," to record a segment one had to believe in something. I found the challenge worthy; it wasn't enough for me to not-believe in things. The thinking I did then has helped me now that it is harder and harder to be lost in books, for example, or otherwise distracted from the rather unpleasant reality of my current situation.

I believe that the universe doesn't care one whit about me, you or anybdy else. I believe that I was just as likely to have died on the spot or been left a drooling imbecile as to have survived with brain damage. I believe that there was no reason for my strokes just as there there is no magical plan that I am unwittingly serving. I believe that what differentiates us from non-sapients is the capacity for choice: I choose to agree that murder and theft are bad things, but that is my choice, and I have made it consciously.

Finally, I believe that we have no purpose in life except that we choose one. I choose to smile and laugh, to amuse and entertain as much as I am able. I choose these things in spite of an uncaring universe. That is enough.