I Fear the Light

I fear the light.

It is not a crippling fear. It is the kind of fear that has the tendency to spur one on to actions far greater than one’s potential. It is a fear that dictates one’s life, almost insidiously, and permeates its very essence, rather than a fear that restricts it. Moreover, it is not an irrational fear, one that crumbles under any form of examination. No, my fear is steeped in reason. It is a fear I cherish, for it bears the mark of verity. I fear the light, and whoever is forced to encounter it should be afraid of it as well.

“Why?” the reader thinks to himself.

What does light do? What is its most basic functionality? It illumines.
It brings forth from oblivion and nothingness the entire universe so that our eyes, those menial, insignificant organs of observations, can behold it. It allows no secrets. The only way light could ever conceal anything is if it shone with such exuberance that it blinded the observer. But this bedazzling variety of concealment has more to do with the weakness of the optic organ that is the recipient, rather than with an innate characteristic of light itself.

And so, what light does, essentially, is reveal.

“Fantastic,” says the reader, “All the better to see the world with.”

That is true, and therein lies the problem.

If we were residents of a perfect world, a beautiful world with beautiful people and beautiful monuments to beautiful deeds, then light would be our deity. If we found that the more we learnt of ourselves, the deeper we fell in love with ourselves, then light would be our religion, our tool that constantly reminded us to love. If delving into the labyrinthine, chimerical treasure chests of knowledge yielded pride and gave rise to feelings of harmony and unity, then light would be our identity, our source of self-respect.

Alas, it is not so.

What it is, is the perfect weapon. A weapon that lays bare every imperfection, retardation, aborted attempt, botched idea and failed endeavor that our species, or even life in general has ever had the misfortune of inflicting upon itself and this world.

There is a biological reason for humans sleeping better in the dark. That reason is well known. But for me, there is an addendum. When my senses are not inundated with images of futility, of the malformed fetuses of once noble ideas that populated our world, of the false equanimity that we project onto ourselves to hide the crumbling facade of society underneath, when I am free of this deluge of filth, only then can my mind know rest. While there is light, there is only disgust.

Primitive man feared the dark, because he did not know what it concealed. Fear of the unknown makes sense, it is a good, healthy fear. But if once revealed, the revelation turns out to be even worse than our fear of the unknown, then perhaps we were not so badly off when we hid in our caves trembling at the prospect of imagined monsters and ghouls hidden by the dark.

Light has always held a privileged place in human history. Our language and mythology reflects that almost ceaselessly. But once again, this makes sense only when seen in its historical context. If one were to objectively study this phenomenon now, there would be no justification for this reverence. But we, as a species, have always been lazy to correct our linguistic errors. We categorize or name things erroneously, and then obstinately stick by our error until habit and dreaded tradition takes over and then it is far too late to do anything about it. And so we still refer to a pleasant conversation as “a light-hearted” one and to embarrassments as “the black sheep” of a given family.

The only justification I can find for this continued infatuation with light is masochism. That same, morbid pleasure we feel when slowing down to ogle at a motorcyclist’s brains strewn across the road probably also derives its pleasure from delving into the bilge that is our existence. We enjoy seeing ourselves falter, stumble and ultimately fail, all the while aspiring to the noblest ideals. Oh, we may cloak it in many garbs. We point fun at others, not ourselves. We find the same faults unforgivable in strangers that we ignore or accept in loved ones. We are very careful that this window through which we peek when we masturbate does not turn into a mirror. But that is merely a lie that we have kept up so that our kinks are not revealed in all their perverse glory.

Nature provided us with eyes that work best at medium distances and at medium sizes. We were not meant to look at things that were too far away or too nearby, too large or too small. We are smack bang in the Goldilocks zone of eyesight, and we should take the hint. Close examination of anything, even with an intellect as botched and insufficient as our own, will still reveal to us far too much of the absurdism of the world we inhabit and far too little to arouse our reverence for existence. If anything, the entire universe exists to tell us we don’t matter, and the closer we look, the more bluntly it is put to us. Nature tells us to remain at an arm’s distance, but we hold forth with lust in our eyes, blindly groping, fondling, accosting whatever we can, wallowing in pleasurable humiliation.

And so, light is a weapon. It enables and encourages your masochism, it drains life of meaning and sophistication. It is garish, crude, brash, vulgar, libidinal. It is a device of shaming, of exposure and scandal, of mob mentality. Nothing remains sacred, nothing remains private, nothing retains value.

It is good to fear the light.
Light is nihilism incarnate.

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Responsibility

Do we not have a responsibility to be Hedonistic?

Consider carefully the state we exist in, or even the State we exist in. Compare it to literally any era in history. Pre-World War, there was nothing illogical, nor even immoral (if that is a thing) to aspire to expansion. I mean expansion in every sense of the word: monetary, geographical, ideological and biological.  We were, for the vast majority of our history, a species still coming to terms with this planet. And though, from the earliest recorded times, we had people who dedicated their lives to the study of the stars and the skies, we still hadn’t really delved the depths of the very ground we stood on. Even today, as unprecedented as our knowledge levels and levels of self-awareness are, the leading figures of any branch of knowledge are the first to emphasize the limitations of what we know. So, in that sense, it makes sense for us to strive for more, scientifically. Even today.

However, what of the other categories? No longer do we live in times when we could send brave souls into uncharted territory hoping to lay claim to some hidden paradise. No longer do we live in times when things were so indiscernible to us that our only recourse was to assign to an Omnipotent being a shifty personality and consign any enigmatic occurrences to his unfathomable whims. No longer do we live in times when we could excuse our excesses by pleading ignorance to their long term effects. A ruler, in the past , when faced with the prospect of a Kingdom that had used up all its resources, simply looked elsewhere. He sent an army or a fleet of explorers, and mined outside his borders for what he did not have within.

But those were times when the Earth held more resources than people. And when our methods of extracting these resources were not advanced enough to outpace their reproduction. Our inefficiency, in short, was what kept life sustainable. But, having fine-tuned our technological acumen as much as we have, coupled with the population explosion, we have long since overrun that boundary. And what’s worse, we have done so in a way that makes it extremely hard to slow down. We learnt how to use machines before we learnt about what the machines are capable of. And we based our entire existence upon it. Now, we are faced with a terrible choice, to give up these never-before-experienced levels of comfort, or to keep living the way we have, and to hell with the consequences.

As always, when faced with a hard choice, and given a chance to prove its mettle, we, as a species, let ourselves down. We took the easy way out. We have the classic Deniers who claim nothing at all is wrong with our lifestyle. We have the Industrialists who dare not accept reality, since reality tends to drop share prices, and then we have the majority, who may accept that we are doomed, but are either too lazy or simply do not care enough to do anything about it.

Can we realistically imagine a time in the near future, even the next century, when people agree to control their biological urges and deny themselves the joy of parenthood in order to be ecologically responsible? Can we imagine an entire industry unanimously slashing their profits in the interest of environmental safety? Can we imagine a time when a country, knowing its own military superiority, but faced with a lack of resources, does not invade or bully another country into providing that resource?

The answer, for the Optimists, may be a yes. I, personally, can never see that eventuality materializing. You could call it my Pessimism, for me it is simply a staggeringly improbable event.

And so, knowing we reproduce too fast, consume too much, are irresponsible, impulsive, juvenile and quite frankly dangerous for ourselves, what is left to the common-folk?

Here, a single outlet appears to me: Nihilistic Hedonism

When trapped in a system where a common person’s input is nullified by miles of red tape and subversive laws and bureaucratic manipulations that run so deep that no man may fully fathom it, man must be forgiven, nay, even expected to react with a certain disgust and a desire to alienate himself from it all. If there exists a problem that has no solution and promises to sap our lifeblood for as long as we live (for example, an abusive spouse), every psychologist worth their salt will recommend that you sever ties. Cut them from your life, you are better off without it. For every common man, the system and the State is that abusive spouse. Interfering, violating, dominating and oppressing you every chance it gets. So, following the mental health handbook, distancing is just fine.

Distancing oneself from the system, however, has further implications, one that now render the abusive spouse analogy insufficient. When you attempt to disavow participation or any form of engagement, even in idle discourse, with the system, you are signaling the destruction of your faith in a functioning community. You are saying you do not believe we are capable of sustaining ourselves, we cannot coexist long term and that the tracks we are on lead only to destruction. Until this is accepted, a person has not truly severed ties.

Accept this, however, and the rest follows quite simply. When one accepts that everything has gone to shit, then one’s inner conscience no longer impels him to invest in a better future. It would be the equivalent of pouring money into a company that you know is going to go bankrupt. Having lost all incentive to look ahead, one simply looks to enjoy it while it lasts. Nevil Shute’s On The Beach captures this form of thinking admirably. The only difference being, in the fictional work, the onset of the end of life is much more immediate, and so its effect on people is that much more exaggerated. But the essence remains the same. “We all return to dust in the end, so let us make merry while we are here.” A completely understandable extension of the feeling of futility.

Today, the only avenue of hope left to us is outer space, and that faint glimmer is swiftly being shut out by budget cuts and strong, misguided opposition. Within the confines of our planet, we have reached, overthrown and exceeded our limits. What little we are still creating is merely to distract us from the fact that we have begun to teeter. We have nothing more to offer as a species. Nothing that will really matter.

The way I see it, we have dug our graves, we have lay in it voluntarily, we have thrown away all the tools that could possibly allow us to dig ourselves out. And so, the one last thing we can aspire to is dignity. Not in the societal sense of virtuous and moral behavior, but simply being true to ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves, and we recognize the mire we are steeped in, and the fact that we are not getting out, then let us shed these pretenses and do what our minds are telling us to do. Let the world mock our weakness (for indulging is always viewed as a weakness), and let it not matter. Bring on Hedonism, the full package. If we are to die, let us not die in half measures. At the very least, as a species, let us spare the feat of extinction the botched nature of our other achievements. Let us go out with a bang, though there will be none to hear it.

And so, to return to the original question: Do we not have a responsibility to be Hedonistic?

Yes. We most certainly do.