On Being Destroyed


The constant churn of things means nature both creates and destroys. Most people like to focus on the “create” bit of the cycle, since like all creatures we are driven to maintain our existence, and creation serves that purpose more than destruction. But if we are to ever get beyond the one-sided, neurotic view of existence, then we need to firmly embrace the notion of destruction so we can integrate it into the way we direct our lives.

It doesn’t require much in the way of reflection to see that nature is constantly trying to destroy our bodies. Viruses, bacteria, fungi and natural disasters such as famine, earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, are ever-present threats to our physical existence. Our bodies continually fight invading parasites, and continued existence is an ongoing fight against disease and decay. Continued physical existence requires vigilance and the selection of those things which serve our body best – nutritious food, clean air, exercise, etc. Most people can get away with abusing their bodies during the critical years when they are charged with rearing the next generation. Nature makes sure that we remain strong until we reach our fifties or sixties so we can rear the next generation. After that, the body decays fairly rapidly, and health has to be earned through attention to diet, exercise, and a “clean” lifestyle. Of course, there are people, who have reached the age of 50 or 60 are not so enamored with life and will accelerate their demise through the abuse of the body. It’s a matter of choice.

More insidious than the constant process of destruction that nature employs against the body is the parallel destruction of our minds. At this point, it is worth mentioning that the whole of life is about power. The more power something has the more real it is. If a thing has no power it cannot exist even for a second. Maintaining the body is about giving it the power to continue existence. Maintaining the mind is similarly about giving it the power to continue existing. So just as the body affirms its power through action, so the mind affirms its power through acting. A depressed person has very little power to act, and as someone once commented, in severe depression, it would be too much effort to walk to the other side of the room to take hold of the cure for the depression.

The power of the mind is maintained by fighting things that would diminish its power. A child that is repeatedly told that it is a “useless piece of crap” is having its power attacked by an external agent – maybe a parent, sibling or teacher. When we are continually supplied with images and news that make us feel powerless (climate change, wars, economic doom), we are being attacked by an external agent and our power is being reduced. On the other hand, the power of our mind is increased through understanding. The more we understand the more we can consciously manipulate our environment to suit our purposes.

The natural relationship between every created thing and nature is that its very existence is an anomaly, and so nature is intent on destroying it. In the sciences, this would be called the process of increasing entropy. Each thing is on a downward trajectory toward increasing disorder (cancerous cells, degenerating organs, confusion), and this can be read directly as increasing entropy.

There is one symptom above all others associated with the process of destruction – pain. As nature destroys our bodies so we will experience pain. The same with our minds. A mind that is being destroyed is depressed, anxious, fearful (fear is the mind-killer). Only with understanding can we mitigate the awful effects of nature destroying our body and mind, since understanding is our own, and not dependent on nature.

Finally a quote from Spinoza:

Insofar as a thing … is affected with pain, it is being destroyed, and the more so according to the degree of pain

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