Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!
Mature readers will recognise this title as being that of a popular operetta song by Victor Herbert:
"Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee,
Ah, I know at last the secret of it all …"
Well, I’m not claiming here to have found "the secret of it all," but I have had plenty of occasion these last few months to ponder life’s mystery, as a succession of friends & family members have succumbed to life’s inevitable ending.
"All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning,
The burning hopes, the joy, & idle tears that fall … "
… says the song. So why on earth do we bother when we know it’s all going to be snuffed out sooner or later? What the hell is the point?
In a flippant mood, I would answer, "I’ve absolutely no idea." In a serious mood, I would say, "Life - & our love of it – are a given. It simply does not matter what ‘slings & arrows of outrageous fortune’ life throws at us – ‘it sure as hell beats being dead,’ as I like to say on my radio show. Cases of extreme, intractable, incurable pain, of course, provide exceptions to this, for whom any lover of freedom would readily acknowledge the right to self-terminate, but as a general rule we would all rather be here than not. That’s just the way we are. Reality is what it is; things are what they are; A is A. The meaning of life is … life … so let’s get on with it!"
Personally, I find the idea of my dying profoundly irritating. I want to be here to see what happens … for ever! I want to see what becomes of my own "burning hope" for a society in which we are all free to assume ownership of our lives. I want to see whether the dazzling vision of space colonisation projected by Monart Pon in this issue comes to pass. I want to see whether the academic discipline – philosophy - that used to deal with questions such as those I’m raising now ever reclaims its former exalted stature, as urged by 19-year-old philosophy student Cameron Pritchard in the lead article herein. I want to see whether the idealistic spark ignited by 17-year-old James Gribble in the article that follows ever turns into a conflagration. Realistically, I know that I shall die before the answers to these questions become apparent - & that I regard as an infernal impertinence!
Yet there is so much to savour, regardless. There is the miracle of love, that exquisite union of mind, heart & body that obliterates any "Why do we bother?" questions in its tracks. It can be elusive, tempestuous & perverse, to be sure, but he who finds it, however fleetingly, has no doubt that it is, as Victor Herbert’s song would have it, "the secret of it all."
There is the glory of the human mind – the seemingly limitless conquests of nature that this creature called man is able to wring by dint, not of pre-programmed, unthinking, brute force but of the diligent, deliberate use of his distinctive means of survival: his brain. From it flow computers, deodorants, breadmakers, angioplasties, microwave ovens, genetic modification, space shuttles, sonnets & symphonies, odes & operas - on & on … "What a piece of work is man!"
There is the incomparable joy of animated conversation, lubricated by the juice of the grape, tamed for man’s pleasure, as Ayn Rand said of fire in the case of cigarettes. I know of few greater pleasures than that of mind engaging mind - passionately, urgently, laughingly, angrily, intensely - over good food & even better wine.
And a variant of this, if anything, is the theme of this issue – the mind versus the anti-mind. Cameron Pritchard exhorts philosophy’s exponents to rediscover their status. Chris Sciabarra, whether this editor agrees with him or not, exemplifies the philosopher’s truth-seeking disposition. James Gribble reminds us that the conclusions of one mind – or a majority of minds (or anti-minds) - are not, properly, something to be imposed on the rest of us, since we all have our own minds. Scott Sutton & other contributors draw attention to the way politicians & bureaucrats – they who live off the proceeds of force – are exploiting the bounties of the mind for brute, animalistic ends. Nick Wiltgen demonstrates how the concept of rights – which is mind-based & mind-derived – can, through wilful equivocation, be turned on its source by the avant-garde of the anti-mind. Derek McGovern examines the chickens’ home-coming – where "love" is reduced to "Suck my dick, bitch," where the mind is deadened & animated conversation rendered impossible by mindless jungle-noise. Monart Pon transports us to space & beyond, tantalising us with glories yet to be … if only the human mind is left free to function.
Finally, unusually, there is a page set aside for a dissenting view – a majoritarian/consensus/ statist view by Marcus Bachelor. I have high hopes for Marcus. He began e-mailing me more than a year ago, bombarding me with questions that I did not have time to respond to. Occasionally I would answer him via a Politically Incorrect Show editorial, referring to him as "my persistent e-mailer." No, I’m not going soft - the flaws in Marcus’ arguments are obvious enough, & I’m hoping that seasoned libertarian readers (someone other than myself) will take the trouble to point them out so that we can have an ongoing, meaningful dialogue with a thoughtful, well-meaning opponent within these pages. Yes, some of our opponents are thoughtful & well-meaning, & it behoves us to take them on. As David Kelley (with whom I have my own disagreements, well documented in previous issues) observes in Truth & Toleration, "There is much we can learn from others if we are willing to listen. And even where they are wrong, we strengthen the foundations of our own beliefs – the accuracy & range of our observations, the validity of our concepts, the rigour of our arguments – by the effort to prove why they are wrong." Mind engaging mind. As David also observes, "It is a gross non-sequitur to infer that because an idea is false, its adherents are evil for holding it."
OK, so I still haven’t unravelled life’s "sweet mystery." I’ve already told you I don’t know it (actually, I’m sure there’s no such thing)! One thing I do know, however - I present to you, in the pages that follow, something that will make your lives much richer.
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