—an irresistible whatever ...


We are likely to use the word "life" without qualification, but quite often we mean clearly different things whenever we do.

Basically, there are two types of life, social and biological.

When someone complains that, "Life sucks," they are clearly talking about life in society. No one would ever say something like that and be talking about plants and animals. It just wouldn't make any sense. But there is something about life in society that makes us understand what it means when anyone spews forth with such negativity.

Life in society and biological life are different things, to be sure, but there is at least one feature they have in common. They both seem to be taking place in a manner that is completely outside of our personal volition. I know I have mused on this before, but not in this particular context.

Life brought me here whether I wanted to be here or not. My personal desires do not seem to have had any bearing on it whatsoever. I woke up one morning and found myself here, like it or not.

It is true, I could leave if I really wanted to, but I don't, which of course begs the question of why I don't want to leave?

The answer is connected both to a primal urge to survive as well as an exposure to (and an acceptance of) certain standards of social decorum. I have been assured (and most solemnly) that leaving voluntarily is a bad thing to do. Not knowing any better, I believed it.

There seem to be inexorable forces at work in both arenas of life. There are all kinds of social forces in operation, and in a manner that is similar to their biological counterparts they have been evolving for thousands of years. As a result, they have acquired a certain momentum, and momentum is pretty hard to withstand.

Another (extremely important) little item that is also very similar to Life is that highly confusing dynamic we conveniently refer to as thinking. It seems that whatever we say of Life also applies to the process of thought.

For example, as with Life, thinking is completely involuntary. We cannot keep it from happening. It is going on completely outside of our own personal volition. In the same way that we would have to kill ourselves to stop our life process from continuing, we would also have to kill ourselves to stop the thinking. In the same way that we did not ask to be here, we also do not ask to think. It is just happening—as is Life.

We also talk a lot about Life's unpredictability. There is even a verse in the Bible that refers to it:

Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
(Proverbs 27:1)

The same may be said of thinking. We never know what sort of thoughts might suddenly go flying through our heads. They seem to be flowing all by themselves, regardless of anything that we may do, unless of course it is something extreme, like taking drugs.

Both thinking and Life are easily compared to a river on whose banks we are somehow just—often helplessly—sitting, watching the inexorable flow.

This leads me to consider one way in which thinking and Life do not seem to be alike. While observing the stream of consciousness drifting by, something unusual may come floating along that prompts us to say, "I just had an idea."

The truth is that we simply noticed an idea come wafting by, and either from an inability to accurately describe what really happened, or because we simply do not want to engage in the effort, we take the easy way and just say that we had a thought.

Then again, maybe we say it because thinking is Life, Life that is close to us, so close that we think it is ours.

September 27, 2005


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