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Friday, November 5

a conversation about life with ally and myself

Created: November 6, 2021 at 8:52 AM

Last edit: November 7, 2021 at 5:23 AM

published on postulate but other ppl are posting this type of writing on updately so ig i'll do the same :P much more discoverable here

Instead of working, Ally and I talk about physical books, pieces of meaning in life, and what makes life worth living.

"Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for," Ally quotes from Dead Poets Society.

I like the quote, but become unsettled by the distinction between wants and needs in life. Is there no way to find meaning in life itself, to justify all activities from the same root, rather than only a subset? Choosing that subset feels dangerous, flimsy: second-order, vulnerable to the influence of the arbitrary ideologies of the day.

It feels like a very post-structuralist concern, itself an arbitrary ideology of the day. Media studies by definition is self-reflexive, I learned in my very first class. I'm interested in how ideologies change over time, that's why I'm a media studies major, so I wonder: what comes after post-structuralism?

The questions I really mean to ask are much larger: what comes after capitalism? If socialism is the final state of economic development, what comes after economic development? How will humanity frame its project when production surplus is so significant that production relations become irrelevant, and the core axioms of economics are overturned? Will this day ever come?

This is the realm of science fiction, you might say, to which I say, precisely! Visions for the future excite me more than anything else, especially those that reflect my own present lived experiences. Science fiction and startup pitches alike outline technical visions for the future; I long for richer, ideological ones. Both practical and idealistic utopian visions are valuable for driving social (and from my own angle, cultural) change, a paper that my friend peer-reviewed argues. I want to explore, and perhaps eventually create, such visions, connecting today to tomorrow.

Ally says she is afraid of the future sometimes, that we'll destroy our habitat and wipe ourselves out before we get to see brighter days.

In excitement and fear for the future I'm reminded of Ernest Becker's deathbed theory that human activity is ultimately driven by the survival instinct. Once we realize that we can't escape physical death, we put all our life force into surviving in some other way: family, religion, civilization. Mark Manson argues that embracing this survival instinct and choosing healthy ways to express it, finding larger beings to survive through, is the only path to happiness in life.

The paradox is that sometimes survival can be boundlessly expansive, as the greats of history have become and my own excitement about utopian visions strives towards; while at other times it can be profoundly atomic, even bordering on fatalism: Man, Bon, and the narrator in The Sympathizer, Tomas and Tereza in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Sethe and her traumatic love for the eponymous Beloved, Candide's "little society"'s capitalism in Candide.

So run my thoughts at an hour too late for me to be distracted by them -- I'll be suffering for it tomorrow. For now, though, let this be a preserved snapshot of the beliefs and questions that define this moment of my thinking, the presently cursored-over nodes on my knowledge graph.


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