aporia of faith

In recent years I’ve been rumi­nat­ing on the ques­tion of whether or not humans have inher­ent val­ue, per­haps because my sui­ci­dal ideation caus­es me to won­der whether life itself is worth­less. The sub­jec­tiv­i­ty of such a idea means I don’t ask any­one for an answer, but I do probe for opin­ions. My friends have all told me that they believe peo­ple are inher­ent­ly valu­able; or, at the very least, they know they’re valu­able because they val­ue them­selves, even if they can’t say the same about any­one else.

This sur­prised me at first; I can remem­ber believ­ing that each per­son is a bur­den on soci­ety who has to earn their place, as soon as I was old enough to under­stand such a con­cept1. But a few years ago when I told this to Jesse, he expressed dis­be­lief based on the way he’s observed my treat­ment of oth­ers.

Being chal­lenged about my views by a per­son I so high­ly respect­ed cer­tain­ly gave me pause to recon­sid­er. When I thought about a stranger I might meet on the street, I felt that that life would be a ben­e­fit to the world, that that per­son deserves to be loved, hap­py, safe, and healthy as much as any­one else sim­ply because they exist. Suddenly, I real­ized that it was myself whom I believed to be worth­less, and I extend­ed this belief to oth­ers to soothe any pains I had over such a thought. I did­n’t despair about my worth­less­ness if every­one else had just as lit­tle val­ue.

I can trace this warped world­view to my child­hood, when my par­ents treat­ed me sim­ply as an exten­sion of their lives. They made it clear that their love was pure­ly con­di­tion­al, based on my obe­di­ence, achieve­ments at school/work, friends, roman­tic part­ners, and how those all com­pared to oth­ers. I was always work­ing from a deficit of love, try­ing to earn their approval and affec­tion by doing the “right” thing, which was defined as what they want­ed2.

This is no more appar­ent than when try­ing to show myself com­pas­sion (or per­haps mag­na­nim­i­ty would be the bet­ter word). Imagining myself as anoth­er per­son before me, every time I say to him “You deserve to be hap­py”, my mind can’t help but fin­ish the sen­tence with “…as long as you…” as if that hap­pi­ness is con­tin­gent upon some lev­el of per­for­mance at a work­place.

Unfortunately, aware­ness does­n’t resolve the issue. Even though I had an epiphany that helped me under­stand the fal­la­cy of my world­view, try­ing to sud­den­ly believe that I have an inher­ent val­ue seems as implau­si­ble as find­ing a ran­dom peb­ble on the ground and believ­ing that it’s worth the same as a pol­ished gem­stone. No won­der the opin­ion I have of myself has been so great­ly influ­enced by oth­ers; I’ve been rely­ing on the approval of my peers to give me the val­ue I so des­per­ate­ly desire3.

So if the worth of a per­son is sub­jec­tive and there are no absolute truths, how is it pos­si­ble for me to gen­uine­ly believe that I have val­ue after a life­time of believ­ing that I don’t?

  1. I’m sure that grow­ing up in a cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety that views any­one who does­n’t work (includ­ing seniors) as lazy and worth­less con­tributed to this belief. []
  2. Not only would this cause me to feel like I had to con­stant­ly earn my hap­pi­ness, this would also cause me to believe any dif­fi­cul­ties I faced were my fault — that I must be to blame if some­one did­n’t find me attrac­tive, or I must have deserved any­thing I suf­fered. []
  3. I even­tu­al­ly learn that exter­nal forms of val­i­da­tion like this are unre­li­able and gen­er­al­ly unhealthy. []

3 comments

  1. I think the incred­i­ble unique­ness of an indi­vid­u­al’s life expe­ri­ence gives it ​inher­ent val­ue.

    Whatever you have expe­ri­enced in your life here on Earth is unique and can­not be dupli­cat­ed or even record­ed just because there are so many vari­ables.

    ^ I sup­pose you can argue the same for a kit­ty cat’s life.

    All this hap­pened once, and can­not and will not hap­pen again. That’s pret­ty cool!

    • I think the incred­i­ble unique­ness of an individual’s life expe­ri­ence gives it inher­ent val­ue.” This is a con­cept that res­onates with me, but one that I’ve only recent­ly begun to appre­ci­ate. Is it some­thing you’ve always “felt”, or some­thing you learned along the way?

      Still; even if I rec­og­nize that human (or feline) life is quite a spe­cial phe­nom­e­non in the uni­verse, it’s hard for me to com­plete­ly agree with the sen­ti­ment that unique­ness can give some­thing mean­ing or val­ue. It’s hard for me to come up with any exam­ples, so per­haps it’s a reflection/projection of my own view, cause I feel like a unique per­son yet this fact alone isn’t enough for me to have feel­ings of inher­ent val­ue.

      • Not sure if I’ve always felt that way, but I can think back to mid teens when I start­ed record­ing dai­ly events with the idea that they will nev­er hap­pen again and no one else wit­nessed it or felt it the way I did, and writ­ing it down cre­ates a per­ma­nent record that the uni­verse is pre­sum­ably back­ing up. Like the “pos­ter­i­ty” con­cept in Tenet!

        Also, same rea­son I start­ed the blog and hey that’s how we met :)

        It might be that I’m just cre­at­ing spam and the uni­verse is annoyed it has to wit­ness and man­age it, but hey that also feels cool and fun!

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