Mental retardation is infuriating. Whether it’s an intellectual, aesthetico-literary, productivity- or benevolence-oriented drive, the reflexive realisation of not living up to active creative or practical potential is quite sufficient to lead to rancour.
Conceived as metaphorical modules and cravings of the mind, those drives do stand fellow to seemingly more basic desires for sustenance, sex, sleep, and other fundamental needs. Any system valorising activity and behaviour exerts an influence on its players, bending them to function inside the game. The units of account can be ‘fitness’, ‘money’, ‘status’, goals for ones team, dopamine rushes, frequency of adherence to some morality, etc. Hierarchisation, competition, and selection by “points”, “points” that may be hard tangible commodity, virtually registered, entirely notional / inter-individual, or simply by that which is, tautologically taken to have survived, replicated, etc. Many games obviously overlap and clash. It’s complicated and intrinsically difficult.
Talking about “games” is entirely necessary, for several reasons.
- Video games hijack the reward system of a tremendous (and increasingly growing) amount of people. Entertainment, a sense of accomplishment, personal progress, etc., are all easier to achieve in video games than in “real-life”, so those digital worlds effectively supersede “real-life” goals and hierarchy systems. Investing ones time in “levelling” or learning new skills in video games, is often prioritised over studies or social interactions.
- The numerous applications of “Game Theory”, in (among others) evolution, economics, and international relations.
- The odd sense that there’s something slightly artificial about all this.
Why artificial? Well, isn’t investment of energy and time towards survival, betterment, power, and replication within any selective system… biased? Biased in terms of valuing that system, that game, in the first place? Choosing to participate in it, over not choosing?
Obviously it can be argued that “choice” and “value” (value a priori) are odd humanistic concepts that have no purchase, that any attempts at renouncing the system are necessarily part of the system (or create a new one), that everything is necessarily inextricable from the “Game” (conceived abstractly), and that Cosmic Darwinism is basically true. I suppose I mostly concur with that.
Still, this inkling impression of a bias(-for-life) remains, insofar as one can conceive of “simply stopping”. That is to say — what us humans are concerned — stop eating, drinking, and sleeping – the quickest way to death if one doesn’t seek to it actively by committing suicide. Of course we’re all biologically primed to seek adequate food and shelter, not doing so results in immense suffering and eventually death, which defeats all the purposes of the game – survival, replication, power, winning awards, whatever.
Yet suicide is rampant among our species. Are suicidal people merely “failures” within the game, as some would argue? Possibly. Sometimes, of course, suicide for the benefit of something else, as in the examples of apoptosis, autothysis, and individual self-sacrifice as an antipredator adaptation. The “player” doesn’t have to be at the level of the individual, whose death may contribute towards the betterment of an overarching holistic player (the group, the kids’ genes, and so on). That’s not what I’m getting at. And neither am I getting at the Nietzsche’s description of the Ascetic (see ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’) – where a form of self-destruction is precisely a means of survival. Religious asceticism, in both its Western and Eastern variations, has evidently so far been quite a successful practice — sets of behaviour and ideas — hence as far as social-ideological-religious games go, asceticism is quite a good player. There are more examples. Thus suicide, sacrifice, self-destruction, or life on bare essentials can be advantageous what certain players and games concern.
However what currently interests me is pure renunciation, not playing anything, tout court. “I” awake one morning, plunge into daze, dip into pure nothingness, awaiting The End. It’s not even a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ to “stop”), just a feeling, in-itself, purely renouncing everything. Is that even possible on this human, individual level? Even if one dies, the particles that made up once body, will continue to drift, interact, assemble, be subject to the laws of time, survival, the game. And while “my” consciousness and body dissolve, the notion of “me” is not unique to myself, but exists in memories of others, tax records, etc. – the world will continue to conceive of “me”, despite “my” subjective death. Moreover, one has to ask, what did materially lead to that hypothetical morning pure renunciation, placing one on a death-awaiting listless journey? Surely if someone would just come over and tickle me in the stomach, pleasure and reactive receptors would active in the brain and do something? And what about thoughts, memories, desires? One can shun them, by way of prolonged meditation, but one can’t deny their existence. Many things are innate, the yearning for food will surely become all-powerful after some time, so relinquishing all that and everything would require an immensely overwhelming depression and anhedonia, which could potentially form the basis of that renunciating self-annihilation.
The individual aside, consider the Universe as a whole. Deus sive Natura. What are the temporal trends? “Time destroys everything”. “On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” “Bataille interprets all natural and development upon the earth to be side-effects of the evolution of death, because it is only in death that life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss.“
Cosmology predicts (besides other gloom possibilities) Heat Death. Is the Universe God gradually killing himself? Purely renouncing himself, and time being the way to do so? Perhaps even that is a too simplifying image of the world, since a lot could be lurking out there, but what the Heat Death is concerned, or the equation of destiny with pure loss, it could be taken as a form of pure renunciation. On immense temporal and spatial scales, the environment is one that doesn’t allow anything to “win”. Could some artificial super-intelligence achieve a form of deep-survival, or will the increase in entropy and acceleration of Dark Energy rip this normie hopefulness to pieces? Can anything truly survive? Only time will tell…