Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Life, elephants and an A+ in creativity

The whole ‘abstinence programme’ thing has got me thinking about life. To the extent that it preevented me sleeping last night. Which in turn has made me irritable and grumpy. But that’s a whole other topic.
Anyway. Life. What is it? When does it start? What makes it special? What happens when it’s over? As you can imagine, hardly contemplations conducive to sleep.
I would like to make it clear right now that the following musings were born of insomnia and hardly scientifically based, nor are they fair and balanced, or even logical. Just thoughts, with the occasional ill-considered opinion thrown in for fun. I probably won’t tackle all of this all at once, but you never know. I might have a slow day at work!
Now, with that out of the way….

Conception or birth or somewhere in-between?
I once met someone with the most bizarre view on when life begins. Her view was that life has begun either when you realise you’re pregnant, or when/if you decide to get pregnant. Which could theoretically mean that life has begun even before you’ve had sex. Because the intention is there. Odd, but in a funny kind of way, I can see where she was coming from. It links into the idea of control by intention (or magic by intention and purpose). But does that mean that because I want to have children in 4 or 5 years time, then their lives have already started? A terrifying thought…
Personally, and I guess this is a bit of a cop-out, I think life begins at conception. However, for purposes of termination, I think that ‘sanctity of life’ begins when the baby/foetus/whatever it is could survive (relatively unaided). It‘s a tricky one for me as, having been adopted, I can think of very few situations when I’d advocate not carrying a baby to term (and then giving it up for adoption if necessary).

Accident or design?
What is life? Is it just the result of millennia of evolution? Are we plankton swimming in a universe of tepid water? Or is there someone/thing/things out there shrieking ‘woohoo! Look at what I did!’ And possibly a larger entity looking on approvingly saying ‘who’s mummy’s clever creator-god?’ Or ‘A+ in originality. Shame about the quality of the work though.’
But seriously. Is life for us simply ‘pink, supple and breathing’? Or is there something inside us that causes us to exist, to be aware, to act and react. Do we have a little spark inside, a little glow, a tiny bit of something that isn’t flesh, that doesn’t wobble when poked, or break when hit. Is there something more to life that respiration, reproduction, and other long words beginning with ‘r’ (any suggestions?!).

Which brings us nicely to what makes us special. (Yes. Slow day at work).
Personally I don’t think we’re anything special. Yes we build, we communicate, we use tools, we go to war, we’re technologically advanced (air conditioning for tanks? That’s just for starters…), we appreciate art and can create music, we conserve our history, we have a concept of time and space, we have religion and politics. And so what? Many of those things exist in nature (ie not human). Think chimpanzees, ants, bees, ravens, dolphins, birds, hummingbirds, orca whales, elephant graveyards, prides of lions…. Given that nature seems to achieve all that (with the possible exceptions of religion and deliberate art, but hey, who needs those?) without destroying half the environment in the process, are we really to be admired for those achievements?
If we aren’t special, then we have no right to ‘dominion over earth’. As ‘guardians’ of the planet, we’re doing a pretty crap job. It’s easier to jump in the car than take the bus and in reality, compared with the long distance flights people don’t hesitate to go on, what difference will a 20 minute bus ride make? Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth doesn’t change the gallons of water lost each day from leaky pipes. Turning off the lights (which I’m becoming quite obsessive about) saves nothing when compared with the office computers left on standby all night (and only wastes electricity if they’re energy saving lightbulbs. I know….)
Ok, how has this suddenly become an environmental rant? Ahem.
Anyway, I think what I’m trying to say is that we have an over-aggrandised opinion of ourselves. And we shouldn’t because we don’t deserve it.
But given that some of us in the world are aware of this, perhaps that is what makes us special. The ability to think beyond ourselves, not in terms of ‘preserve our young/pack/colony/hive’ but thinking beyond the good of the species, to the good of the future, maybe the fact that we can, and do, do this, we go some way to recovering our moral integrity.
And of course it’s always possible that the gods prefer us. After all, what’s not to love…?

Death to follow ;)