We are fragile beings in a world of fragile beings

We are fragile beings in a world of fragile beings

Benon Lutaaya. The fragility of existence and emotion

I take this to be a fundamental ontological statement, and a central tenet of the philosophy that underlies Struggle Forever! I’ve never been so aware as I have in the past few months that my existence could end at any moment – that the existences of those I love could as well. It is amazing to me still – I once called it miraculous and was chastised for it – that anything exists at all. It is amazing because, in order to overcome the fragility that underlies all existence, things had to come together, to work with one another to produce the beautiful, vibrant, astonishing (but also dangerous, precarious, and troubled) world in which we live today.

From this perspective, cooperation and collaboration are at the heart of existence itself, and yet we live in a society in which the fundamental principle of existence is thought to be competition. We live in a world where what matters to my existence is not the labor of others, but that of a transcendent self that wrestles existence out of nothingness. In this world, what we have is exactly what we deserve, and one must “earn a living” as if life itself is not something that is inherently deserved. This is a philosophy that makes us all killable. It is the philosophy that took my brother’s life prematurely.

In spite of this, cooperation happens. In a world full of different kinds of beings with different ways of existing, it is inevitable that we will have to work to bridge those differences. This can be seen in the way we come together when we feel most vulnerable – when our fragile lives are threatened. However, it is all too easy, in those situations, to come together amongst those with whom we share little difference – where the work of bridging is not so difficult and the demands made of us are not so, well, demanding. This is especially so when cooperation – working with – is not taken to be inevitable or even desirable, where competition is the norm and it’s every man from himself. I see this happening now throughout our society, among liberals and conservatives, scientists and religious people, artists, intellectuals, and laborers. I see all around me a reactionary retreat from one another, and it saddens me. It saddens me because I know that, if it continues, we will never be able to solve the problems that face us all, or care for one another. It saddens me because I see the underlying fragility of existence coming increasingly exposed and our fragile lives becoming more vulnerable with every day.

This is why work isn’t enough. What’s needed is something more, something that pushes all of us beyond ourselves to encounter and engage with true otherness. This is what I call struggle – the intentional engagement with Others in a way that makes demands on ourselves in order to navigate and negotiate our differences. That isn’t to say that we have to agree with those others or that we have to convince them of our own world view. It is not about making the Others into ourselves, but of engaging with them, working with them, exploring the possibilities for connection across difference, and seeing what kinds of relationships can be built. This is an unending process (thus “Struggle Forever!”) because there will always be difference, and that’s exactly how it should be. But it is an essential process now because a new world is needed. Buckminster Fuller said that we now have the choice between Utopia or Oblivion. The philosophy of “struggle forever” recognizes that we can never reach the end perfection of utopia (the process is the product), but every day that we choose not to struggle – not to engage with other fragile beings with whom we share this world – we inch closer to oblivion.

This was written by Jeremy Trombley.  Jeremy is interested in environmental anthropology, science and technology studies, actor-network theory, object oriented ontology and other post-constructivist theory.

Source: Struggle Forever

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