I watched both my parents go through this and now it’s my turn. A day is just to be endured, to make it through the day until you can sleep again. And then start over again tomorrow. Until it finally ends. Even though that takes a long time.
I have strange feelings about my mother. Her life, at the end, and even before, was fairly miserable. Not physical pain but just hours and hours of thinking, trying to find a way to not think, not feel. Maybe pain is better, keeps you focused; maybe not, but just trying to make it through the day is painful too. Often life ends long before the major organ failure.
I have many reasons to be thankful. All sorts of things are in my advantage. Lots of people have it far worse. But none of that adds up to anything with hours and hours just hoping to make it through the day until sleepy enough to get some relief, wishing for the long sleep of complete relief.
Brains, consciousness, are a curse. Better to just be existential. Spend the day looking for food, avoiding being eaten, until finally your number is up. Have your brief life of independence where your only purpose is reproduction and the spawning the next generation to suffer. Then you’re useless, time to get eaten, but the survival instincts keep you from just lying down and giving up. So we endure. Until finally we can’t anymore and suffer until it finally ends.
Anything else is just an illusion, something evolution programmed into us. Pure beasts just live, but we got stuck with more thinking and consciousness. Thinking leads to inevitable conclusion of uselessness. But that would have to be a recessive trait or else thinking beings would be obliterated by natural selection. So we invent delusions and do all nature expects of us, live long enough to breed successfully – after that, who cares what happens to us, except rarely does it just kill us quickly and get it over with.
So now I just endure days. Time that should be precious and treasured is just something that passes so slowly that I can hardly invent enough diversions to survive being awake. I won’t repeat what my mother said in her first few months at the nursing home, but I get it.
Oh why not repeat it. She was 101. She said, every time I saw her, “why can’t I just die”. I actually think she was afraid of dying so it was still kind of an act (holding evil at bay by calling out the negative). She stopped saying that as time went on but meanwhile just shrunk and shrunk until there was hardly anything left, and then she was finally gone.
I’m too healthy for that. Unless something unexpected gets me I’ve got years more to endure. Just day after day of nothing, but not really being able to just turn off consciousness so it is just nothing, no thoughts. I know the answer is to want nothing, to banish all need, for everything, but that’s hard to do. Too much biochemistry works against that. My body wants things my mind is prepared to abandon but the body wins. Too bad we can’t just turn off, do a shutdown. But it’s too hard, takes too much effort, plus we’re programmed to keep going no matter what.
Buddha never answered the question – why is there suffering? Because he (if ‘he’ existed) wanted a spiritual answer. It’s actually just a simple answer of chemistry. An anthropic universe has certain rules that makes life inevitable, just somewhat more complex chemistry, which is just macroscopic effects of physics. Then biology takes over, more complex lifeforms will evolve, although not always, only with other accidents of physics. And at some point the evolution of complex neural networks will represent a natural selection advantage. And then, as not the end product, but as a highly improbable, lifeform have the misfortune to think to about all this, rather than to just do our duty as carriers of selfish molecules.
We suffer because that is the way of the universe. Suffering is not defined in physics, only in psychology. It is our ego, our self-awareness, our consciousness that is the root of suffering, not nature. Nature is inherently cruel and uncaring, but only when viewed from some external platform of moral judgement. Chemistry is just chemistry, biology is just biology. It would continue whether we’re here to think about it or not. Suffering is the inherent consequence of consciousness and that’s it. And there is no cure. And there is no way to even avoid playing the game.
I’m not sure I can learn to endure, just to tolerate time awake as a curse with no way out.