2009-10-25

The Human Condition

Some people take comfort in delusion. But the comfort of delusion is not a lasting, secure comfort. We cannot afford to be complacent and we cannot afford to be delusional.  In order to become what we must become, we must understand how far we are from it now and what we must realistically do to change. Understanding the truth, however painful, is the beginning of change, improving the conditions of human life, and all life.

 

What are some of the problems before us?

 

We human beings rarely experience lives of joy. Instead, we often experience pain, sadness, anguish, and despair from the conditions of our existence, the "human condition", and the despair causes us to embrace delusion and apathy.

 

Our understanding and knowledge are limited - we are all ignorant of at least some things that are known by others - information and education are not equally available to all - but even the most knowledgeable are constrained by the present limits of human comprehension. Ignorance limits our opportunities and forecloses potential solutions to innumerable problems. But even the smartest and most capable among us are terribly ignorant and incompetent when judged against the scale of total knowledge of all things and the total power to do all things. Our minds are also afflicted by irrationality and heuristic biases and other faulty modes of thinking and decision-making.

 

Our present human bodies are filled with weakness, inadequacy, faults, and shortcomings. We often suffer terrible illnesses, diseases, and adverse conditions of the body and mind. The best medicine of this era cannot treat or cure many of these disorders, and many of us do not even have access to the best medicine of this era.

 

We are all of us today under the doom of death. We live for little over a century at most, and most of us will not even live that long. Some of us will die of conditions that could have been treated, because we do not have access to the best medicine. But the doom of death stands before us all.

 

As if our circumstances were not already bad enough, we human beings also foolishly stand in the way of our own happiness. We typically fail to appreciate the potential and actual value and good in others as much as we should. We typically fail to realize or learn how our own self-interests can be harmonized with others' self interest. We often act carelessly toward one another, harming one another or casually allowing one another to suffer. Many of us are obsessed with trying, at any cost, to achieve higher status compared to others, rather than working together towards shared happiness.

 

We are disorganized and uncoordinated even we try to help one another. We suffer from inequality - the physical inequality of body and mind compounded by the engineered inequality of injustice and lack of compassion. Many of us live under beastly conditions of life, suffering hunger or living in constant physical danger.

 

We human beings are also typically cruel and contemptuous of the lives and welfare of other animals on the planet. We have already begin the widespread destruction of our biosphere, partly fueled by desperation to survive and prosper, but also by ignorance of other alternative ways to survive and prosper, and ignorance or irrational denial of the consequences of the destruction for our happiness and survival as well as the happiness and survival of other sentient and sapient beings.

 

Although our powers to create are very limited, our powers to destroy are great, and increasing. The faults of our present human natures pose tremendous dangers to the entire world. And human beings are limited to this world - our bodies are so weak and constrained, we can live only on the very surface of the Earth, under optimal conditions. We require very narrow ranges of climate, pressure, gravity, radiation, and so on to survive. We cannot yet live permanently anywhere but on Earth, so humanity is in constant danger of extinction from our own actions and various natural processes.

 

The human condition is a terrible condition compared to what it could be and should be and what we, deep down, want it to be.


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