Thursday, May 29, 2008

Three Cheers for Angst

When I ask, "Is life worth living," what does that really mean?

The very notion entails that there is a "worth" to be evaluated here. Normally, when we ask something like, "Is X worth doing," it suggests that we ought to examine whatever activity "X" represents, then determine whether its expected return will compensate for the expected investment.

So, is life worth living?

Living, under all meanings of the word, requires quite a bit of an investment--it involves suffering, tedium, labor, constant maintenance of and vigilance toward a physical shell. In fact, simply by choosing to continue to live, we open ourselves up to the possibility of undergoing every torment that could possibly be experienced by a human in a similar situation.

On the other hand, living also yields the possibility of every greatest joy that we could conceive. On the more mundane level, it is normal to experience pleasures, happiness at friends and family, food, bits of luck, enjoyment of love and sex, etc.

So, to evaluate whether "life is worth living" for a particular individual, she should determine whether her expected benefits will outweigh her expected detriments. Often, when someone reaches the point of suicide, it is because life no longer seems worth living: to the severely depressed individual, the expected suffering far outweighs the expected pleasure--and, perhaps, at some point it seems impossible for there ever to be any future pleasure again.

When I consider this post--I think, implicitly, is it worth it to try and keep working and rewriting until I come up with something more coherent? Something that others will be able to appreciate, that I will be able to look back at with pride (or something resembling pride)? Apparently the answer is no--or at least, it's not worth the extensive reworking that calls out to me--the post almost has a life of its own, in how it shouts to me, "There are parts of me that are wrong! Fix them!"--but sometimes--as now--it does not seem worth the revision and editing process. The striving. I mean, don't get me wrong--I'm doing some minimal reworking as I go, of course--but I keep needing to sort of grit my teeth and continue on past the glaring errors in order to make progress at a ll--because I lack the perseverance, dedication, and motivation required to bring it up to the standards it should be. For example, as I write, I am conscious that this paragraph (nor the post as a whole) does not flow particularly well; it skips from one subject to another without preamble or continuity, and it contains long, ill-formed sentences--often broken with m-dashes, because that's easier than figuring out how to make it into something elegant.

(I wonder how much my need to be free of errors stems from a fear that others will mock me or think less of me for them?)

But yes. That calling-- that anthropomorphization of error. Maybe it's not so much an anthropomorphization as--I don't know. But it's nearly tangible sometimes--the wrongness of a given object (compared to its ideal standards). I feel thus when I compose music, when I write a paper, when I long to be perfect in any way. In fact, too often the world as a whole seems this way to me.

And when I don't have the energy or ability to make it right--or at least to put forth a good solid effort, if nothing else--it doesn't seem worth continuing with.

Hence, perhaps, why I have no motivation?

I don't know. Is the problem that I lack motivation or that I lack competence?

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