Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Appointment in Samarra

"Conatus" is a key concept in the philosophy of Spinoza. George Bernard Shaw used the term “life force” to describe a similar demiurge.  The idea is that whether it’s mind or matter, there’s a propensity for things to exist and continue on. Perhaps this explains why a fly, a creature who doesn’t possess consciousness (at least in human terms), still runs from the swatter. Have you ever chased a water bug which seems to know you’re  coming? And also why human beings, when deprived of one faculty after another, still seem to have the desire to live. In fact, one of the most unnatural acts is suicide since it contravenes the impetus most organisms express to persevere, often against the odds. Camus once said “there is but one really serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” Suicide is a radical act that is to cite the title of the famous Huysmans novel, Against Nature. Depression is often offered as an explanation when someone ends their life, but it's a dismisive almost mechanical explanation that doesn’t take into consideration the radicalness of the act. Humans are the only creatures in nature that end their own lives. It’s often said that a person is unwittingly killing themselves by virtue of their self-destructive behavior. Is accident the right word to use for the crash which took James Dean’s life at the age of 24? John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra charts the downward path of a character, Julian English, who eventually ends his own life. The same can occur in societies in which genocidal civil wars have the quality of an unacknowledged collectively self-annihilating impulse. 

Read "Suicidal Ideation and Other Thoughts" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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