The following question has been on my mind for a long time ever since my own parents told me that life is finite. I'm not sure how old I was when that happened (perhaps five years old) and I also don't remember what started that discussion but I remember that I cried afterwards, because I was scared. I didn't want to die or see my relatives die.
Now many years later I'm beginning to wonder whether I want to have children myself. I'm not married yet nor did I have any "real" contact with the opposite sex so far (only business relations) but in the case I find someone, I want to hear your opinion about having children, because I don't feel like I could discuss this "thoughts" with someone directly. The internet on the other hand allows mostly anonymous communication.
So my thoughts are actually rather simple. If I participate in the construction of another being with an intelligence comparable to average human intelligence despite the fact that I know that this being will die later on. Then am I not at least indirectly guilty for the death of this being? After all I knew beforehand that this being would die at some point of its existence and yet I decided to create it and introduce it to a world, where it would feel pain and fear at least once during its death.
I mean when we put children into the world, we do this not for the sake of the child but for our own sake. We do this in order to feel happy, to satisfy our own selfish desires, whatever these might be. Often the reason seems to be that people don't want to be alone. But what about the wishes of our children? You may argue at this point that a being cannot express its wishes as long as it hasn't been created yet. But who would want to exist in a world of death? We can only express our own wishes but not the wishes of someone, who doesn't even exist yet.
I fear death and would love to escape it and to be able to decide for myself when I want to expire. I also would like to have children but unfortunately I don't know how to overcome this line of reasoning above. This is, why I write here. I hope that you can find a loophole in this arguments.
The only "loophole" I was capable of finding so far is nature itself. Because (*) intelligent life in the universe that has concepts of individuality similar to ours and is mortal would cease to exist if it followed the argumentative chain above. However due to the physical laws of our universe intelligent life of this kind (*) would probably emerge again somewhere and thus the argumentative chain above seems to be flawed.
But are there even more compelling arguments against my thoughts above?
"Then am I not at least indirectly guilty for the death of this being?"
As if death is such a bad thing...
You said earlier, that when your parents told you about the observation, that life seems to be finite, you broke out in tears.
I personally don't think of death as being a bad thing.
Sure, it's nothing that I would find pleasurable either - after all, I feel somewhat entitled to "enjoy the ride", as much as I possibly can.
Especially because it is probably the only chance I'll get.
But death itself is neutral.
Your parents were a bit unaware of how fragile you are.
Forgive them. They probably didn't mean any harm. They were honest, as far as I can tell.
And that, to me, is far more important than simply telling what you want to hear, simply because it feels good.
It all comes down to one's priorities, I guess.
Think of it this way:
In order for you to live, things had to shape their forms.
All the materials inside you, were present at the moment of the big bang.
You are just another combination/configuration/arrangement of said energy and matter.
When you eat something, it will become a part of you.
It will lose it's current shape and trades it for another one - or it dissolves completely, only to be reconfigured in your body.
When you die, it's pretty much the same...
"But who would want to exist in a world of death?"
Death has to happen, so that we can appreciate being alive.
I approach it from a different angle:
Who am I to DENY another possible living being the chance to live this life, to enjoy this ride, to experience what it means to be "finite"?
Life itself has value.
It's a HUGE game to me - and If I can help others to play this game in the first place, that's already a big victory in my book.
If I can help them to ENJOY it, things get even better!
Nobody forces you to have children.
I think I want to have children, because as you said: It is somewhat gratifying.
Of course I want children for my own sake. And I don't see anybody else, for whose sake i should have children.
BUT: I would also want to have children for THEIR sake. So that they get to enjoy the ride. All I do is have to "enable" them, by passing on my genes.
Another fascinating thought for you:
Do you realize how many people had to come together so that you could live?
You have two parents - a mother and a father.
Those had to have parents, too: Your grandparents.
And those had to have parents as well.
You go up generation after generation... and around the 20th generation, more than One Million People had to "meet" their respective partners, just so that you could live.
Of course none of them had you in mind. They just "did their thing".
But if only one of them didn't meet his or her significant other, you would have never been born.
And by extension, one day, we become the ancestors of millions of people, simply by "doing our thing".
Seeing that I am the result of an unbroken chain makes me shiver...
An innumerable amount of ancestors was needed so that I get to live this life.
So that I can finally have my "turn" in this huge game.
This, among other things, is what makes it precious to me.
And this is purely subjective and arbitrary, since ultimately, life is meaningless.
Everything is meaningless, since there is only one thing that can assign meaning. And this thing is the Psyche.
The Mind of every person is capable of assigning meaning.
Nature is indifferent.
Evolution is indifferent.
The Universe is indifferent.
We, however, are capable of assigning meanings and labels.
And out of that position, I want to assign positive labels, that empower me.
Since ultimately, nobody else can assign labels for me.
Even if I accept other people's labels and meanings, the mere act of accepting them requires me to make a decision and form an opinion, thus giving it my own spin.
I will talk about this later, when I mention the existential loneliness.
"Often the reason seems to be that people don't want to be alone."
Those motives are a bit ulterior, at least by my standards.
My approach would be something like this: You should be able to remain an independent person - and enable your children to be independent, too.
Most people completely lose themselves in relationships, parenting, duties, etc. and take those things as a substitute for a flawed or even non-existing personality.
This is usually why parents, once their kids leave the house, think they are living with a total stranger, rather than their significant other.
They lost sight of their own identities, which is potentially harmful.
If one wants to be a parent, then they should not be a parent because of their children, but rather in spite of them!
They need to have strong inner personality.
This does not mean being egoistical. It simply means having a clear sense of what it means to live life.
If you do this correctly, children will be vastly more able to become happy and functioning people - as a side-effect of knowing who you are, without trying to substitute your personality with certain roles like "parent", "mother", "father" etc.
I went a little bit off on a tangent there, but I think it will help you big time, when you figure out how it ties in.
You seem to be somewhat stuck in some kind of victim-role.
Maybe because people usually enforce this role in you (by pitying you, thus gratifying you) or because you have a hormonal imbalance.
It all sounds a bit gloomy and usually, when people try to be gloomy, they do it for the effect.
They see that they can get a small hit of that drug called "gratification and acknowledgement ", which keeps them in such a self-defeating state of mind.
It's a vicious cycle, for the most part.
And it is a pretty sticky one, at that, because it removes every obligation to take responsibility over your life and over how you want to live it.
It's a nice little bubble, which slowly descends into depression, if one refuses to leave it.
Read this. It's fascinating.
If you think that you are gloomy (or any other adjective, for that matter), think again.
Until you take total control over your own personality, you can never be sure whether your self is the "real self" or just the product of how people around you trained you to act.
It's a mild form of brainwash.
"I fear death and would love to escape it and to be able to decide for myself when I want to expire."
Live a full life.
again: simply live a full life.
If you are afraid of death, it simply means that there are things that you want to do, before you lose every chance of doing them (when you die).
Get out of your victim-role, take control over your life, decide for YOURSELF, what kind of life you want to live.
Simply ask yourself this: Were you this gloomy when you were a child?
You probably had all kinds of hopes and dreams.
And slowly, people have taken them away from you.
They weren't trying to be mean, when they did it.
They probably weren't even aware of what they were doing in the first place.
Sentences like: "You're a bit too young for X." or "It's unlikely to achieve Y" might be valid assessments, but they are not -binding- in most cases.
When we are children, we have all kinds of dreams and are super-enthusiastic about everything.
It's just that we don't have the means or the abilities to make them become reality...
And when we grow up, it's the other way around:
We have all the possibilities, but lost the dreams we had as children.
"intelligent life of this kind (*) would probably emerge again somewhere and thus the argumentative chain above seems to be flawed."
It is flawed, because it is unlikely that another identical life gets to re-live Life.
As far as we can tell, we are more or less trapped in our own perception.
In our own psyche, in our own ego and our own mind.
This is the existential loneliness.
You can only look through your own eyes. You can't look through the eyes of somebody else AND have the some thoughts he has at the same time.
Even though we might interact with each other, the fact that we are bound to our own bodies still remains.
The existential loneliness.
"But are there even more compelling arguments against my thoughts above?"
No arguments needed, since your evaluation of death is arbitrary - and can replaced with any number of arbitrary assessments.
I simply chose the one that doesn't paralyze me and instead, describes death for what it really is:
Just another re-configuration.
I lose my shape and become part of something different... and that's a beautiful thought, since other things had to "die", so that I can live.
As long as get to play this game called "life", I'm happy.
It's probably the only chance I get to play it...
I want my last words, before I die, to be:
"This was fun..."
Thank you for your detailed reply, Answerer! I'm going to think about it and let it sink in.
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The ACA Lecture Series continues Sunday, March 8th at 12:15pm at the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon. Ryan Bell will talk on "My Year Without God: Now a Permanent Condition."