The miracle of life is pondered deeply, if not always clearly, in this philosophical treatise.
If “to be or not to be” is the question, then these fragmented musings have a ready, albeit somewhat belabored, answer: “Right now, rather than never existing, Rather than having already ceased to exist, I exist.” That dichotomy between being and nothingness can seem rather obvious, and perhaps the nameless author harps on it too often. (“To never exist—do you understand what this would mean?...You would not be alive now. You would not have been alive previously. Nor would you ever live.”) Little by little, however, the author molds the theme into more complex ideas: the importance of cultivating individual experience and judgment rather than blindly accepting conventional wisdom; the duty to respect others and understand their viewpoints; the oneness of all beings and the kinship of all people; the desirability of living in the moment. Finally, the meditation converges on an arresting insight that unites existence to meaning: Without living beings, the author reasons, there are no experiences, perceptions or sensations to be registered, and “everything would be totally oblivious, dead, to everything”; it is only awareness of consciousness, then, that confers “innate value” on existence. The author conveys these ideas in a simple, aphoristic prose that’s readable but tends toward the abstract. At times, though, the writing achieves a kind of lyricism, as in a passage that asks readers to imagine themselves “seeing something from many sides…falling from the sky with multiple raindrops simultaneously; floating and shifting with numerous clouds at the same moment.” At their best, the author’s ruminations get at profound questions—What does it mean to be one thing instead of another? Would the world exist if there were no one to behold it?—that every child (and many a philosopher) has puzzled over.
Intermittently intriguing pensées on some very basic conundrums.