Sunday, April 15, 2007

Solopsistic Nihilism FTW !!1!

Flying... working on too much... so reading on the plane. Been reading Ian Banks' Algebraist - and it compares favorably with most of the *really damned good* sf i've ever read. The characters are good - though he does tend to 'forget' them after he uses them up. Y'Sul was a favorite - and I think the character's sudden head trauma was a bit too convenient - a 'oh, he's not really important to the story right now, I suppose i could 'stranger than fiction' him but i might need him later' so lets just leave him dazed in the corner for a while... Still - it's a thought provoking book, like Sundiver, which is typical for a Hugo Award winner I suppose. Just as with those Uplift books, or even the old Vonnegut stories - it's back to 'use SF to explore the human condition'. So - as I was reading on the plane - there was a passage that said things in a way that I'd love to have said (I just cant help but love it when an author writes something that encourages me to do the unthinkable - and fold the corner of the page). The section in question:

He looked up from the books and scrolls, the fiches and crystals, and etched diamond leaf and glowing screens and holos, and wondered what the pont of anything was. He knew the standard answers, of course: people – all species, all species-types – wanted to live, wanted comfort, to be free from threat, needed energy in some form – whether it was as direct as absorbed sunlight or as at-a-remove as meat – desired to procreate, were curious, wanted enlightenment or fame and/or success and/or any of the many forms of prosperity, but – ultimately – to what end? People died. Even the immortal died. Gods died.

Some had faith, religious belief, even in this prodigiously, rampantly physically self-sufficient age, even in the midst of this universal, abundant clarity of godlessness and godlack, but such people seemed, in his experience, no less prone to despair, and their faith a liability even in its renunciation, just one more thing to lose and mourn.
People went on, they lived and struggled and insisted on living even in hopelessness and pain, desperate not to die, to cling to life regardless, as if it was the most precious thing, when all it had ever brought them, was bringing them and ever would bring them was more hopelessness, more pain.

Everybody seemed to live as though things were always just about to get better, as though any bad times were just about to end, any time now, but they were usually wrong. Life ground on. Sometimes to the good, but often towards ill and always in the direction of death. Yet people acted as though death was just the biggest surprise – My, who put that there? Maybe that was the right way to treat it, of course. Maybe the sensible attitude was to act as though there had been nothing before one came to consciousness, and nothing would exist after one’s death, as though the whole universe was built around one’s own individual awareness. It was a working hypothesis, a useful half-truth.

But did that mean that the urge to live was the result of some sort of illusion? Was the realtiy, in fact, that nothing mattered and people were fools to think that anything did? Were the choices either despair, the rejection of reason for some idiot faith, or a sort of defensive solipsism?

Valseir might have had something useful to say on the matter, Fassin thought. But then, he was dead too.

By the time I got to 'who put that there' i was folding the corner... Yes - the classic allegorical 'bring it back to the reader...' moment - the Vonnegut 'i'm going to grind this axe - then i'm going to hit you with it' approach. Still - there I was - grinning like an old perv at a catholic schoolgirl recess - 'how damned many times must I remind myself that the stressy crap in my world is unimportant... that it's just a game...' and that's me - who KNOWS better. There's always a catalyst for bringing me back to center when I get too very caught up in it - and I know that at the levels things are being played right now there's enough energy transferrence that it's almost guaranteed to immerse me in shit (how many hundreds of millions of dollars are hanging on the next big meetings? how many people's lives will change?) ... but I cant do any of it at all if I cant take it from the right angle.

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