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Old 08-10-2009   #1
Russell Nash
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The temptation to NOT exist

I wonder if any other TLO member has ever felt this temptation to NOT exist.

About two nights ago I had a conversation with someone (age: twenty something), which more or less could be resumed in the following paragraphs:

Him: Do you smoke?
Me: No.
Him: Have you ever smoked?
Me: Not much.
Him: (silence)
Me: Do you smoke?
Him: Yes.
Me: (thinking…) Why do you smoke?
Him: (thinking…) I don’t know. It’s an addiction.
Me: Oh! An addiction… But you realize that if you keep smoking, sooner or later, there is a high probability that you die from cancer. Don’t you?
Him: Yes.
Me: So, before it was an addiction, why did you start smoking? (I repeated loudly…) Why?
Him: (thinking…) (silence)
Me: (rephrasing…) Do you know that the best questions in life are of the form “Why…?” For example: Why do you live your life? Why do you exist…?
Him: I don’t understand. I live because I live.
Me: Answer this: why don’t you throw yourself under the wheels of a bus right now…?
Him: (thinking…)
Me: What reason or reasons do you have not to kill yourself right now?
Him: What do you live for…?
Me: (I lied…)

That night I tried to compare my reasons to keep going living my life against my reasons to finish with it for good. Here you have my list.

1) Guilt. Example: I cannot do this to my wife and kids.
2) Hope. Example: Who knows if one of theses days an alien civilization appears on Earth and grants us the gift of immortality. If I kill myself I may not see that.
3) Inertia. Why should I kill myself? Avoid answering by asking questions.
4) A religious person may think that suicide is against God’s commandments.
5) (My wife’s opinion) Just live your life the way it is. Unfortunately some people (like me) need a reason to exist.
6) Prorogation. Example: let me finish my studies, then let me finish paying off my mortgage, then let me finish this chess game, then let me finish… thus, hoping that we die while we sleep. See number 3)
7) Wait. Example: Have a night sleep and in the morning you will wonder why you asked such a stupid question. Never answering. See number 3)
8) Cowardice. Example: Death is coming, it’s better to wait than to do it yourself. See number 6)

When I get up every morning I wonder why I don’t jump off my balcony. Why not? Non-existence is easier! Just why are we still living our lives if NOBODY and NOTHING seems to care about us? Nothing cares whether we live or we die. Our sun is going to be there tomorrow, with or without us, “earth abides”.

Have you ever experience this fear… of living here, right now, without knowing why…?

I know who you are
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Old 08-11-2009   #2
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

I want to feel perfectly secure and perfectly at ease (no stress, no anticipation of stress), with no uncomfortable sense of lacking anything. I want to have a "self" only in a dreamlike way that is never burdensome or troubling or limiting. Every day I want this. Of course, this state of being is probably not possible in life. (I only said "probably" because I don't know if it is possible in advanced meditational states of mind.) Indeed, the state of being I desire sounds much like death, except that I would (impossibly) like to retain awareness and a vestigial sense of "self" to go along with the perfect security and ease and plenitude. So, to answer your question: No, I am not tempted not to exist. I am tempted to exist in a manner that seemingly, and paradoxically, has every attribute of non-existence except non-awareness. Intuitively it seems to me that this ought to be my way of being!

If I could find a gun that could do that, I would pull the trigger.
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Old 08-11-2009   #3
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

Russell Nash,

I think it is safe to assume many people here have been tempted to not exist. You seem to be looking for a confirmation of your own reasons for ceasing to exist, and I don't know if I can provide it. At a certain point I can only make a gesture with my hands that says "Who knows?"

I think I get your point, but I am not sure.

Here is a short list of reasons I have for continuing to exist rather than killing myself as soon as possible. There are more I'm sure, but these are what come to mind at the moment:

1) I cannot unmake my own birth. In other words, I cannot make myself unexist absolutely. Even if I kill myself now, I can't escape the problem that I existed in the first place, and that problem will continue to exist even if I am no longer here to experience it. It won't be a problem for me then, but it is a problem for me now.

2) I cannot experience my own death. When I think of killing myself, I don't imagine myself passing on to some other form of existence. I want to die completely. The problem is, if I die completely, I won't be around to appreciate it.

3) It seems possible that if I continue to live, I might experience some form of enlightenment, in which everything will make sense. I am almost an absolute pessimist at this point, but I allow for the possibility that there is a flaw in my reasoning.
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Old 08-11-2009   #4
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

I think the problem hinges on the fact of birth. I could say, nature is almost perfect, except for the fact that I exist as a witness. My existence is the flaw that undermines the absolute perfection of nature. I am infinitesimal, so infinitesimal. I am almost nothing, but I still exist.
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Old 08-11-2009   #5
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

gveranon,

"I want to feel perfectly secure and perfectly at ease (no stress, no anticipation of stress), with no uncomfortable sense of lacking anything."

That is a problem, though, isn't it? How to exist as a conscious being without experiencing lack? To be conscious at all seems to require lack, since consciousness requires something other than itself to be conscious of. Thus, consciousness lacks whatever exists outside of itself, which it depends upon for its own existence.
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Old 08-11-2009   #6
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

In many ways, once you've existed - and we all exist those of us reading this thread - you can never NOT exist.

MY WEBSITE: www.nemonymous.com
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Old 08-11-2009   #7
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Coleman View Post
gveranon,

"I want to feel perfectly secure and perfectly at ease (no stress, no anticipation of stress), with no uncomfortable sense of lacking anything."

That is a problem, though, isn't it? How to exist as a conscious being without experiencing lack? To be conscious at all seems to require lack, since consciousness requires something other than itself to be conscious of. Thus, consciousness lacks whatever exists outside of itself, which it depends upon for its own existence.
Yes, it is impossible -- a solipsistic fantasy. And of course solipsism wouldn't really be appealing unless, inside its safe reality, one had the paradoxical sense of interacting meaningfully with external entities, too. In other words, interactions with the external would have to be somehow internalized, where they could be perfectly controlled, but without losing the feeling of real interaction. Impossible. A self-subverting but still solipsistic solipsism.

Maybe these types of mental experiences could some day be manufactured dynamically using virtual reality technology. If so, this would probably prove to be highly addictive.

And yet, from what I've read about the experiences of schizophrenics, delusions of solipsism can quickly turn into apocalyptic nightmares. And the omnipotent self can suddenly seem to be anything but omnipotent -- a burned-out ghost or a violently manipulated puppet.

Why did I start talking about solipsistic fantasies in a thread about the temptation not to exist? It seems to me that solipsism contains something of a death-wish (perfect security, etc.) -- or at least a wish to turn life into something that really isn't like life at all. Solipsism doesn't seem like a vital fantasy, does it?

[Posted in a hurry -- I hope this isn't complete gibberish.]
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Old 08-11-2009   #8
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

"…since consciousness requires something other than itself to be conscious of. Thus, consciousness lacks whatever exists outside of itself, which it depends upon for its own existence"

Sounds almost unintentionally like a religious insight: in the paraphrased words of St. Augustine, we are made for God and by God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him - the Ultimate Other consciousness that is not us. But that is probably more flame bait than anything on these boards. =)

Iwill say that even as an openly religious and in fact hopeful, practicing Roman Catholic, I've too been tempted by the possibility of non-existence, in the darkest periods of my life. Interestingly enough for anyone who has read Malakai Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil” the most prominent popular treaty of the subject of Demonic Possession actually begins with a case of a demon that is basically promulgating the possibility (or even just the hope) of non-existence. At least that’s how I remember it.
But I think that it is a real temptation that faces everyone who lives in this fallen existence. I think sometimes we all wonder how can things get any worse, hell how did things get so bad to begin with it. And a deep part of us, a brutally candid, but hopelessly and diabolically logical side of us, wants to says why go further – is it worth the effort?

Hell, no less a dignitary that Jesus Christ himself has said of Judas Iscariot, that it would have been better for him to have never been born, than to have “betrayed the Son of Man.”

And then again Jesus, on the road to Calvary, carrying his cross, and turning to the women of Jerusalem, says to them, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming when they will say blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never gave suck. And they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us' and to the hills "cover us'."

And we live in a world where this is true, where women and couples want desperately not to have children, where people like Dr. Warren Hern, call humanity a “malignant eco-tumor” and there are people that honestly are suggesting that the most environmentally considerate thing we can do for the planet, (the mountains and hills) is stop having babies and die off as a race.

I feel sorry for people that struggle with these issues, because I myself have. It is hell, it is Hell on earth, that kind of hopeless despair. And it is in fact Hell that is the context of those biblical quotes, because Judas is the only person in the history to be infallibly condemned to hell (by that quote), and Jesus goes on to suggest to the women of Jerusalem that if his passion is what lies in store for the just that they ought to consider what lies in store for the unjust.

For me the temptation to cease to be came at a time when I felt not only would I be condemned to hell but that I was already condemned and I had already started my sentence. The possibility of not even not existing but simply ceasing to exist was very appealing, even more appealing at the time to me than the hope of a heaven.

For what it’s worth, I can only say that I pray for those on this board who struggle with this issue. And I hope that everyday you find a new reason to keep going.

As for whether or not I still struggle with it, generally no, though I’m sure there will be rough spots before I die where I will struggle with it again. As for why I don’t I offer a few line from The pope’s encyclical Spe Salvi “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, a trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”

His Holiness goes on to ask, “Now the question immediately arises: what sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed? And what sort of certainty is involved here?”
To understand that question and to learn to live my life accordingly for me is a good beginning but for those with a disdain for any religion or traditional Christianity specifically, I offer another possibility.

What do we, the living and conscious, know about never having been conscious, death or non-being. How can we be sure that consciousness, for all its difficulties, isn’t the best option out there?

How do we know that at every moment the inanimate does not agonize it’s lack of consciousness?

(PS: that was more of a poetic, rhetorical question meant to suggest a different flow of thought, and is not really seeking a response of any sort. =)) (PPS: Even though I began by quoting Jeff Coleman, my post is not directed specifically at him or at anyone else, just thought I’d throw in a minority opinion.)

Last edited by alogos; 08-11-2009 at 04:26 PM.. Reason: formatting issues
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Old 08-11-2009   #9
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

I'm not at all tempted not to exist.

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Old 08-11-2009   #10
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Re: The temptation to NOT exist

In 2109, in 100 years, NOBODY is going to remember me. My grandchildren would probably know of someone who emigrated to Canada from Argentina, exactly as I know that my grandparents did the same from Ukraine to Argentina. That's it. In 2109, someone is going to remember Ligotti, maybe Nemonymous, maybe some other writer (I doubt it); Ligotti's books are going to be certainly expensive, that's it.

In 2209, NOBODY is going to remember me at all. If by chance my last name "Hetman" still exists. Less and less people are going to remember Ligotti. But, probably not ligotti.net, who would know that I had fights with other members? ...that I posted stories? ...that I started this thread? NOBODY.

In 3000, NOBODY is going to remember Ligotti at all. If someone still remember the 20th century at all.

In AD 802701, HG Wells year, NOBODY is going to remember anything from us, from our beloved century, perhaps that in the first 10,000 years we invented computers and internet, and only perhaps. Or do you remember much from BC 802701?

In approximately 3 or 4 billion years, our sun would be transformed in a giant red star, and our beloved Earth is going to be consumed by fire. Not only NOBODY is going to remember Ligotti, but the Earth, our entire history would be nonexistent. If humans still live by that year.

Our lives are useless. Every second we live we waste energy, our dreams are fruitless, our entire lives are going to be forgotten sooner or later, so what's the purpose of living another day? What reason do we have to exist?

I found a reason, to brainwash myself watching American movies, like "sleepless in Seattle", watch this, and you'll forget about any ontological question. You'll even smile and enjoy the two hours while the film lasts. Keep breathing, don't think.

Some religious people have found a meaning, yes, but NOBODY knows how to explain if after we die we go directly to Heaven (or Hell, I wish, in my case), or we go to some limbo or purgatory, before the Final Judgment. Afterlife seems to be a consolation for those who cannot conceive nonexistence as it is. Someone really thinks there is going to be religion in a thousand years or so?

My comments are not an apology of suicide, I just want to state that I exist because I breathe, and while I breathe I exist and I live. That's it. It's not much for a "reason" but doesn't look like someone has a better reason to exist.

And, there is in fact a suicidal tendency in us. Smoking even though we know that if you smoke you die sooner or later. Excessive salt in foods. Stress. We all poison our lives in small doses everyday.

I know who you are
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