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Aristotle's Atrium > Sunday Philosophy Club

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message 1: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2299 comments The title of this thread is borrowed from one of Alexander McCall Smith's fiction series. His books seem, on the surface, to be light and heartwarming stories yet his characters often have ponderous thoughts about seemingly simple things, that is they are everyday in their nature. This passage from The World According to Bertiequestions purpose:

For a few moments, he thought of what lay ahead of him. Would he be doing this for the rest of his life -- sitting here, waiting for something to happen? And if that was all there was to it, then what exactly was the point? The artists whose work he sold were at least making things, leaving something behind them, a corpus of work. He, by contrast, would make nothing, leave nothing behind.

But was that not the fate of so many of us? Most people who made their way to work each day, who sat in offices or factories, doing something which probably did not vary a lot -- pushing pieces of paper about or moving things from one place to another -- these people might equally well look at their lives and ask what the point was.

Or should one really not ask that question, simply because the question in itself was a pointless one. Perhaps there was no real point to our existence -- or none that we could discern -- and that meant that the real question that had to be asked was this: How can I make my life bearable? We are here whether we like it or not, and by and large we seem to have a need to continue. In that case, the real question to be addressed is: How are we going to make the experience of being here as fulfilling, as good as possible?

message 2: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) This deserves some thought before responding.

message 3: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) While I didn't think it would take me almost a full month to consider, I did find the above commentary thought provoking. Which of us hasn't wondered whether he or she was wasting time in being the good old reliable drone? So many days I think some bit of notoriety might help that feeling of pointlessness along, but I have been to too many retirement parties where someone was in charge of things beginning with H. Six months later, it was like he or she was never there. You can't help thinking that one day, if you are lucky, it may be your turn...and why should that make you feel lucky because you evaded all the layoffs and firings over the years?

The greater question is where we place our value and, statistically, we do place a great importance on the work we do. We may not like it, but it organizes us, comforts us and keeps our spot in the universe warm. It is like an old Ziggy cartoon wherein he says that it gives him security whenever he finds his name in the phonebook. After all, the only thing worse than having a mediocre boring place in the universe is not having one at all.

Still the high rate of heart attacks or strokes in a few years after people retire shows how much we depend on other things for our organization. I remember that my father was an important person when he retired and I didn't think he would make it very far. Although he surprised me, adapting to find something new in life, he didn't last all that long. I was overjoyed that he at least accepted the challenge.

Perhaps we are afraid of the unknown too and would rather that, bad as it may be, just continue bumbling along with an occasional grumble or grouse. After all, as bad as it is moving papers and files from pile to pile, perhaps talking to people and helping out a bit, we can always look at someone like Michael Jackson. For many, maybe being famous and having people love and honor you is the thing that makes life valuable. On the other hand, becoming a twisted, tortured person without trust and a questionable kind of love must have been a hell that most of us cannot imagine. Maybe ultimately wisdom is all about knowing that whatever it is you have is quite enough.

message 4: by Vicky (new)

Vicky | 97 comments Bravo, And good luck to him on his soul searching questions to what is going to be my mark on life .In ancient egypt they were fixed on the after life ,so is it in contrast that all they're building and slaving was equal to the questions of this passage because both seem to have that ever longing and ever gawking feeling of what is the meaning of life? Or is it what I'm or your higher power planning going to be worth the struggle.

message 5: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2299 comments SPOILER AHEAD (in the slight chance anyone doesn't know this story already, lol, like me):

Frankenstein's dilemma: what do you think of his decision in refusal to make a companion/mate for his monster?

message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2231 comments If I'd been in Victor's shoes, I'd have made the poor Creature a mate. (Although, of course, if I'd been Victor, I wouldn't have made the Creature to begin with!) That isn't a decision born of any kind of deep philosophical reflection, though; it's just that I like to think I have a reasonably kind heart, sympathize with lonely people, and believe that every well-meaning guy --even if he's artificially made from stitched-together corpses-- deserves a gal (and vice versa). Re Victor's fear that such a pair would breed a race of malevolent monsters who might be a danger to humanity, I would contend that the Creature's turn to malevolence was stimulated by loneliness and rejection, which might be cured by having a mate. (And if Victor were really worried about them reproducing, it wouldn't be too hard to make her sterile --though maybe that would be unfair to the couple. Their kids, after all, wouldn't exhibit the "monstrous" physical features of the parents, which after all weren't genetic in origin.)

Of course, from Shelley's standpoint, Victor had to make the decision he did in order to produce the kind of plot she wanted. To evoke the reader emotions she was going for and to make the points she wanted, her storyline had to be bleak and tragic, and the Creature had to be doomed to loneliness and torment.

message 7: by Reggia (last edited Sep 16, 2013 09:38PM) (new)

Reggia | 2299 comments This was an excellent response... a very tardy reply from me but I appreciated yours all the same, Werner... thanks for sharing with us!

And what a good point that it wouldn't have been hard to make her sterile for that was the main concern of mine when I considered a mate for him.

message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2231 comments Thanks, Reggia! You picked a really good novel as a springboard for philosophical discussion (and sparking philosophical thought was very high on Shelley's list of priorities when she wrote the book; people who've only seen the movie don't realize that this is very much a novel of ideas). That's one reason why it was required reading in the correspondence course on the history of science fiction that I took from the Univ. of Iowa, back in the mid-90s.

message 9: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2299 comments Then, it was good for me that I had never seen the movie... certainly I was familiar with the Frankenstein character but knew not a thing of the story.

message 10: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2231 comments From what I've heard about the movie, Reggia, you could have seen it and still not have known a whole lot about the story in the book. :-)

message 11: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2299 comments LOL :-D I did finally watch it and concurred that I hadn't missed anything. In fact, I tried (unsuccessfully) to get my daughter to return the DVD, oops. :-o

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