« The Best Kept Secret On Earth | Main | No Can Do »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mike Cooper

And that, Dave, is why your theories resonate with me. Thinking about why humans are compelled to find 'meaning' in life when it is blatantly meaningless is more or less a flatland taboo, really. There has to be a meaning! There has to be hope! Life isn't pointless!


I have just been re-reading the Flatland Essays again. I'm really pleased that you remain, sitting slightly apart from the shitheap, poking it with a stick, trying to clarify and make sense of it. This is hugely difficult and important work and, as you have said before, very few people will notice. Thank you anyway.


Good to see you writing again, Dave.

Pointless suffering is indeed ubiquitous. Really, all suffering is pointless. It just happens, like shit. I wonder if we're the only species that thinks about this stuff; the downside of having "intelligence".

I suppose religion could be a kind of safety net for those who perhaps have figured out that suffering is pointless, since they can always believe that god moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform, avoiding the need to think about the pointlessness of suffering any more.

Thanks for the reminders.


Evolution addresses the situations that evolution creates. Humans are "aware" (or feel that they are aware) enough to recognize suffering in themselves and others (only to a point, as you make clear). This separates them, to some degree, from most other living creatures on this rock. Not in terms of the hardships of survival and continuation of the species, but in terms of the human perception of it. Evolution, through whatever accidental, mutational or somehow "fitness"-related mechanism provided humans this "feature". But, as you point out, this feature is as much a bug as a feature, and its full release in the wild would, very likely, reduce the probable continuation of the species. Evolution "patches" the bug by making humans more delusional and less self-aware. We still recognize much of the suffering that other species would not recognize, but we are now capable of rationalizing our way around it. We survive, we reproduce, we convince ourselves that life is good, and the species persists.

Evolution giveth, and evolution taketh away.


Happy to see a new essay from you, Dave.


I should reread the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey. Civilization offered some promise of replacing some suffering and uncertainty with pleasure but it was always a mixed bag that nearly always ended in a disaster. Uruk is still a desert.
As story telling apes religion, for hunter gatherers, likely would amount to family stories to try to explain the unexplainable, and most people were getting high on drugs so that can't be forgotten. Agriculturalists, living by their own toil and cleverness, needed to be hyper aware of natural cycles to try to avoid famine in the overpopulated land. Agriculture, the stars and tracking time seem to be very neglected in most accounts of religion these days. Predictability, control, consistency and group cohesion...
Regardless, we've cast as much suffering as possible into the future to great effect...and now the days of reckoning are here. This exponential fossil fueled Mautam is attempting one last doubling but it's doomed to fail.


I'll add to the chorus: great to see you writing again, Dave.

The comments to this entry are closed.