Delete Yourself (Part II)

As I said the other day, in a lot of old societies with warrior classes, the meaning of life was found in death. It seems that the old world value structure venerated, or at least wrote down in its history books, an attitude that usurped fear of death. It goes against the typical human response to life, which is to hoard it.

In On The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche writes an allegory of hawks and sheep to explain the creative structure of human morals. As is expected of Nietzsche, he determines that an individual or group’s strongest drive takes priority and primary function within one’s will and lifestyle. In the case of the hawks that drive is preying upon the sheep and for the sheep it is submission and aversion to the hawks. Thus the sheep deem the hawks to be evil, because they are preyed upon by them. The hawks, on the other hand, merely believe the sheep to be bad or pitiful for their inferior drives. The hawks (i.e. politicians, noblemen, business moguls, military overlords) don’t even assess a moral judgment over the sheep. They are just sheep to them — they’re livestock. It sounds like Nietzsche believes this too or he wouldn’t be writing about it. He later points out that there may have been a point when the hawk’s drives were not deemed evil, but considered good. Or that they might be considered good by other groups preyed upon by sheep. Thus, the nature of good and evil moral values are in constant flux and neither is permanent.

For me, this brings to mind constructs like religion and the church, and also the old “masculine” ideals that wealthier nations have pushed to the subsconscious in modern times — concepts such as physical strength and power. Society represses these latent desires, channeling them into violent sports and art, while replacing them with ideas of democracy and political correctness. Further, modern society pushes everyone to rape the earth and gain material wealth and hoard their lives over those of others — but as friends!

(As an aside, my main concern with environmental pollution and climate change is that everyone’s greed for power and wealth far outweighs their passion for peace and health. Not that I don’t try to do my part, but it looks pretty grim…)

So, is life pathetic when the goal is to hoard possessions, health, relationships, sex? In European folklore, dragons always appear where too much treasure is accumulated. They’re accompanied by a foul stench and are death to all who come near. Serious calamity follows those who hoard far too much wealth.

I think the attitude that is striking about our most recent generations of human culture is its rank nihilism and blatancy. The romance found in death metal, black metal, gangsta rap, gang culture, black magick, punk, hardcore, etc. sounds to me like an exhaustion with life’s luxuries and social organizations. It’s all a romantic tribute towards death and yet an affiliation and obsession with the grimy, self-destructive nature of urban life today. It also sounds more than ever like a generation cloaked by ignorance and distrust, while yet plagued with the desire to understand things; a drive to transcend the newest, shallowest quality of life which is ironically so much more ideal for humans — at the great expense of nature and aesthetic beauty. It’s truly quite sad. Ah, but dry those tears! No ideal society ever existed, remember?

Strong desires in modern society seem to be pursued in different ways than they once were in older times. Business has largely replaced all other elements of life. Everything is a business, as that’s how members of democracy sustain “freedoms” and functions — by not conferring power to the state, which ends up tied together with business anyway. I think the old values placed on virtuous death also stemmed from the fact that life is so boring. And it used to be so slow and devoid of distractions! Really, what better thing to do than give one’s life for one’s god or ideal? After all, aren’t we only really alive when we look at death? I think people like Jesus, Socrates, the Cambodian monk who burned himself alive, real deal bodhisattvas and samurai realized that life isn’t worth clinging to or hesitating over; there is no reason to hoard it.

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4 Responses to “Delete Yourself (Part II)”

  1. Hmmm…I think my surrogate for violence is the difficult, torturous prose I like to read. Hence the necessity of being an *angry* nerd!

    It seems true enough that, if you can’t live well, at least you can die well. That truth, however, is contingent on the reason why one can’t live well. For either Socrates or a samurai, to denigrate one’s present existence in favor of a hereafter seems awfully…cowardly? Detachment towards life doesn’t mean much if one is just attached to something else.

  2. wizardsmoke Says:

    Yeah, that’s certainly true, although I don’t know if cowardly is the word I would choose. And I don’t know what it means to be attached to death, although people certainly have fantasies about the afterlife. Though I don’t think that would describe these gents.

    My point was that there was nothing in life that these guys still were desperately grasping onto in their lives, so they made a strong example and impression of their teachings in openly accepting their deaths. The parallel comparison with old “pagan” warrior cults was that people looked forward to dying in combat because life was boring without combat. A crude description, but I think my point is valid.

  3. I certainly think it’s valid, too. Also, it’s not like I despise the fellows I mentioned. Being both a philosopher and a martial artist, I have enormous admiration for both Socrates and the samurai, but, for the same reasons, I wouldn’t identify (wholly) with either.

    The intended meaning of my comment was this: lacking a prejudice towards any particular aspect of existence would allow one to fully enjoy all of them. To me, that means it’s just as bad to be obsessed with death as it is with living…both obessions commit the same error of equating possession with satisfaction. Neither are “uncontrived” or authentic attitudes towards existence.

    Or am I full of it?

  4. wizardsmoke Says:

    I’m sure it’s unhealthy to become obsessed with the idea of death, just as with anything. Contemplation of one’s transient life is a dangerous method to be obsessed with because it’s so extreme; as opposed to typical lay meditation practices like zazen or vippassana, which are more gradual methods and focus on the breath (but honestly, most stuff people practice today are the watered-down hippie versions of real practices). These aren’t quite as scary because the individual isn’t thrown head-over-heels into the explosive, roaring power of the present moment. But that is what happens to everyone regardless, every so often in those moments of horrific violence or heartbreak or crushing love — that make up life’s memorable experiences.

    So yeah, it’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Kind of like tantric practices or magick. And almost any kind of dogma is bad, ultimately.

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