I’m happy to be alive!

28 Apr

In a recent discussion about perservering through all the difficulties of life, I retorted at one point, “But in the end, the only thing that really matters is not dying. Anything is better than that”. To which was answered, “Are you sure? What if one suffers terribly?” I realized my mistake -  what really matters is being happy to be alive, and not just avoiding the worst case scenario, death.

So ask yourself – do you live life ex-positivo or ex-negativo – are you positively enjoying your life, or are you basically unhappy but at least not dead?

I suggest that most of us are in the latter category, however counter-intuitive that might seem in a society so supposedly happy and dynamic. I’ll try to explain.

I suggest that we collectively tell ourselves white lies, albeit subconscious ones. That the vast majority of us live essentially unhappy and empty lives. But since we are impotent to change this, we are forced to pretend that we are happy and enjoying life. The only other alternative – to wish or wait hopefully for death – is not the option it was in the past, since death has become NOTHINGNESS to us.

Thus we “choose” to accept living dull unhappy lives. And we protect ourselves from the futility of this choice-that-is-no-choice by distraction and self-delusion. We distract ourselves with sex, partying, extreme sports,  continous consumption of media and matter and see these as signs of vigor, when they are really symptoms of death denial. And we delude ourselves somewhere between our subconscious – which closely watches the invisible bogeyman from the corner of its eye – and our conscious level, which sees only externals and thus perceives all the pretence of vigor as living reality. This optical illusion convinces us that we are happy to be alive, perhaps even exceptionally so, more than any past civilizations.

The truth is the opposite: metahistorically we are living the nihilistic terminal phase of our civilization, which is essentially dying to its old form and precisely for that reason must be death-denying in order to keep moving forward at all.

This death denial expresses itself wherever death comes into unavoidable contact with life….  We keep brain-dead humans alive on machines for months, when they are no longer conscious enough for happiness to have any meaning.  We force old people against their own wills into nursing homes, where, instead of them dying naturally at home with the family, paid strangers tend their bedsores, “disimpact” them (manually remove the feces when their bowels no longer work), ignore their terrible loneliness, and treat them like mindless infants. In North America, we have a ridiculous and childish fear of cemeteries, which should instead be beautiful sanctuaries of peace in a mad machine-driven world.  We scoff simplistically at death and don’t see that this is actually a defensive reaction from our impotence against it. And we lapse into an unnatural silence at any serious mention or connotation of death that unfortunately comes our way.

Are these evidence of a society that is revels in the joy of life – or one that is scared witless by death?

It would be healthier if we could be more honest with ourselves – if we could admit that it is insufficient not to be dead, that we should find positive meaning and joy in being alive. Only by bravely facing up to our reality – and from the heart-felt pain that would result – can a genuine solution to the problem of existence materialize.

A plausible new vision of an after-life for example? I don’t know.

But I can tell you honestly, that I don’t care anymore when I die – because I’m happy to be alive!!


2 Responses to I’m happy to be alive!


Charles Cowling

May 3rd, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I don’t know that death has become nothingness to us. It’s a very few who take a materialistic approach to life and death. Those who do not have a developed vision of an afterlife do not rule it out, for all that they don’t think it through. I think there are a great many who subscribe to the Great Perhaps. Developed visions of the afterlife are the product of faith, not evidence. We prefer evidence, nowadays. And there’s another factor: when Earth was a vale of tears, a heavenly reward felt deserved. I think that, on the whole, the material benefits generated by global capitalism, and the series of short-term but joined up pleasures they beget, lead to people not thinking ahead simply because they’re having such a good time here below. The void of meaninglessness is quickly filled by a bit of telly.

And I think that it’s natural and understandable that people cling to what they know, and are timorous in the face of the Unknown.

Above all, there are, I think, two separate terrors here. And I wonder if the terror of death has not been superseded by the terror of too-long life. Old age has never been so protracted, nor so terrifying.

We are happy to be alive only while vitality brightens our eyes. We have a whole sector of society condemned by attentive medics and the intercessions of the living to hell on earth.

Like you, I am happy to be alive, the more so in the awareness of my mortality. But I shall change my tune when I am having to be deimpacted! And every fibre of my being will probably cry out for death whatever it holds.



May 4th, 2010 at 11:43 am

I only partly agree with you, Charles, on your point about the “earthly vale of tears” having stimulated the creation of our visions of the after-life.

Yes, the need for faith is evidently returning where life has become tough again. And those earthly difficulties are rapidly becoming a universal condition – so look for all sorts of new religious solutions and false prophets n the next decades. In regions with longer enjoyment of the good times, it may take longer for the awareness of a new need to sink in – we’re simply not used to looking for spiritual solutions any longer. We still look to the economists, scientists and doctors. On the other hand, our moral bankrupcy is almost certainly a lot deeper than in the poorer countries.