Monday, 17 September 2012

A delicate condition

Today I was editing a piece of writing about the human condition. At university I was taught to avoid talking about how a text articulated universal truths, that everything was a product of its own time and culture and that the impulse to read like this was very old fashioned and imprecise.

Of course there must be some consistencies with our past. We still love, hate, live, die. And we still appreciate so many of the stories from the past, so we can't be that different. But isn't it a bit fatuous for anyone of use to try and define the human condition, or say that a particular thing emulates the human condition.

Wikipedia of course has something to say on this matter:

The human condition encompasses the unique and believed to be inescapable features of being human. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not dependent on factors such as gender, race or class. It includes concerns such as the meaning of life, the search for gratification, the sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, or anxiety regarding the inescapability of death.

Is my condition the same as yours? Is the condition of a man the same as that of a woman? Come to think of it, is the condition of a black, disabled woman, who has grown up in poverty likely to be the same as that of a white able-bodied man from a privileged background? To say no, I suppose is to de-humanise one or the other. If you say we are all essentially the same, you are claiming equality, which has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

Are we all the same deep down? I think probably not. We have impulses: we're never satisfied with what we have,

And what if the reason we haven't yet discovered the meaning of life, is that it's different for everyone? Call it 'raison d'etre' instead of meaning of life (I know that's not meant to be the same thing) and it seems more likely that everyone will have their own. Why should the meaning of my life be the same of yours?  Maybe I live for other people, maybe I live to be loved, maybe I live for my religion, or maybe I get a kick of the sheer fucking amazingness of just being alive.

Just saying.

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