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The Stoics would say that every cup of earth contained some part of a dead human being – some matter that once was part of a body. Not only do we find ourselves in a graveyard, but we see all the creatures that will soon become part of it. This graveyard recycles itself over and over again, with a smooth, ruthless efficiency most of us would rather not contemplate.
Hungry ghosts, demons, zombies, and vampires haunt this graveyard world. The hungry ghosts forever in search of something that will fill the void within them, and demons bringing cruelty and suffering to fellow-creatures, with humans being the most demonic of them all. Zombies are the walking dead, running entirely on automatic, and incapable of joy. Vampires are people who suck the life out of others with their narcissistic demands and psychopathic behavior.
Most people make the graveyard tolerable by denying its existence. They focus entirely on their ambitions – fame, money, power, sexual conquest, luxury and endless forms of competitive behavior – no matter how subtle. To pursue these aims, human society manifests as one large competitive game, and to hell with the losers. This game is all-consuming, ensuring that the eye never sees the ultimate futility of it all. And meanwhile, the graveyard is recycled – the real outcome of all sentient activity. It doesn’t matter how rarified or esoteric human activity becomes, the result is always the same – as Solomon expressed in his despair in Ecclesiastes.
The central issue is this. The second a creature is conceived it is sentenced to death. This sentence is the value nature puts upon each life. We are almost worthless as far as life is concerned, with one exception. Procreation ensures the continuance of the species, and to this end, the sex drive is all-powerful. The graveyard must keep recycling, for reasons that are not at all clear. And maybe it is best that we do not know, and that nature has blinkered humanity so that it pursues its futile ambitions.
Life has quite openly given its opinion of your worth – you will breed and then you will die. This honesty that nature has expressed is a gift. It tells us how to form an attitude toward our life. Ultimately we are not important as individual creatures, and that is our liberation. While the survival instinct drives us remorselessly onward, tying us up with endless concerns and worries, we need to step back and realize that the will-to-life serves itself and not us as individual creatures.
That we are not important, means we can, as best as possible, arrange our lives, so it is not all about serving the great beast – the graveyard that recycles. We can rest peacefully in the cemetery when we shed all sense of self-importance, all feeling of ambition, all illusions of gain, and sit back and watch the circus that is both within and outside us. Life has passed its verdict on us as individuals – we are almost worthless. We, in turn, can give our opinion on life – apart from the primary effort to maintain our existence; we should make efforts to reduce our pains and increase our pleasures – Epicurus would approve of this. While we all ultimately serve the great beast, a few can to some extent make the sentence more or less pleasurable.