Saturday, December 31, 2005

Why Not Bother?

I’ve just seen “March of the Penguins.” It’s about emperor penguins in Antarctica. They endure incredible adversity each year in one of the harshest climates on Earth to survive and continue their genes and species through their offspring. In watching the starving males huddle against 100 MPH winds in –80 degree temperatures to keep themselves and the eggs they incubate alive while their starving female mates trek scores of miles across the ice to replenish themselves with food, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why bother?” What is the point in struggling year after year just to suffer such terrible hardship and to procreate other penguins to suffer just as pointlessly as they do?

And how are we human beings so markedly different from the penguins? Even if a small percentage of us are fortunate enough to reside in places and circumstances where we can enjoy a modicum of happiness and help others to do the same, what does it all ultimately amount to, and why bother?

I do it because I’m too much of a coward to kill myself directly and because I don’t want to leave my wife and cat without the husband and caretaker they love and depend on. But here on the eve of a new year, I confess that I often believe that my wife, my cat, and the whole world would ultimately be better off without me. I look back on my life and think that it’s been a terrible waste of space and resources at best, and I honestly don’t believe that I have anything of real value to offer anyone or anything. I am too defective to the core of my being to be better than a burden.

Some might read this and think that I’m suffering some kind of holiday depression that many people go through this time of year. But I know depression intimately from past experience, and I’m not depressed. I’m just seeing myself and my life as they are without the usual adornments of platitudinous false optimism.

And yet, I will keep on keeping on and trying to be a better husband, caretaker, son, nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, friend, writer, student, and person regardless of how much or how little difference it makes in the overall scheme of things. Why bother? Why not?


Jess said...

I think everyone gets in these moments at one time or another. Asking why am I here what am I doing? Am I living the life I am supposed to. Personally ,I think it all part of the journey that is life. It is how you act on the feelings after taking the time to interpret them. I have felt like this at many times, am I the best kid I could be, am I the best person I could be. At times the answer is most definetly a big yes, at others nyaa who knows. As far as being defective to the core of your being. I DON'T believe that for one minute. You have inspired me to get back into things spiritual because of some of your entries. I have quoted you from time to time as you know on several forums I have been on. You started me reading Easwaran(who by the way is fantastic). In his book Conquest of the mind he says " you are what you think you are". Peace

Nagarjuna said...

As always, thank you, Jess, for your kind words. I'm delighted that you've found inspiration in my words and that they turned you on to Easwaran. He truly was a wonderful writer and sage. Have you read "Original Goodness"? I think that's his best book of all, and it has a decidedly Christian emphasis. Its chapter on love is priceless in itself.