The Creation-Destruction Asymmetry

T

I wouldn’t class myself as a misanthrope, I’m not interested enough to hate people. However I have come across a few misanthropy groups. It is something of an oxymoron to have a misanthropy group, since misanthropists hate people it is assumed they would not want to participate in a group. Nonetheless it is interesting to see what happens in these groups. Once the members have all told each other to fuck off there is absolutely nothing else left to say, although they do of course continue to find ways to insult each other.

The point that is being made here is that destruction is a limited activity. A child can kick down a sand castle and there the story ends. Cities can be bombed, individuals can negate their lives, explosives can bring down a tower block, and so on. Destruction is shallow and short lived, although there can be great pleasure in destroying things.

Creation however is wholly different. There is no upper ceiling to creation and it is usually not short lived. To create a sand castle involves much more effort and time than knocking one down, and the sand castle can be as elaborate as we wish. In the universe as a whole it is clear that creation wins in the creation/destruction cycle. There is stuff – it hasn’t all been destroyed, and the universe seems to find increasing numbers of ways to create exotic phenomena (black holes, supernova, neutron stars, life, dark matter).

As individuals we obviously participate in creation and destruction cycles. The body is created, maintained and then destroyed at death. We might labor most of our lives to build a pot of money but one bad investment and it can largely disappear. There is however one thing that we can create that has no ceiling, no downside and cannot be destroyed. This is understanding. I’m speaking specifically here about understanding ourselves and the world. All other pleasures we indulge in have a downside – hangover after alcohol, post-coital depression after sex, indigestion after gorging, the realization that nothing has changed after a weekend spiritual retreat. The roller-coaster of pleasure and pain does not apply to understanding. The rub is of course that understanding requires effort, whereas passive pleasures do not.

It was Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. A life without understanding is not worth living. We will be the plaything of life – elated when things go well and despondent when they do not. Understanding is our own and we can acquire as much as we want provided we are prepared to make the effort. It is the only way to escape the creation/destruction cycle.

By MB

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