Natural Law

Recently I’ve been reading too much of something called The Stone in The New York Times, where, as I mentioned on Tuesday, various contributors have been arguing whether Naturalism can essentially provide all the answers to life. As a writer, I must say the answer is, “No!” as no sonnet or sonata that you’d want to read or listen to has ever been written by observation and deduction. But the debate on The Stone is really a debate humans have had with themselves ever since an apple dropped on Isaac Newton’s head. Since there are all these physical laws that govern nature, is there a physical law for why we are here? Why are doing this life thing anyway? From a logical standpoint, the answer would seem to be, “To live as long as possible and make more babies.”

But ask yourself: “Would I rather live, A) 80 years unhappily, or B) 60 years happily?” You probably answered B. It’s really not even a choice. Though perhaps it is. Many, many people spend great swaths of their life in various degrees of unhappiness. Some people can hardly remember what it even feels like to be happy. And as Hamlet asked, “Who would these fardals bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but for the threat of something after death?”

Here I take exceptions with The Bard also. The fardals are born not out of fear, I believe, but because unhappiness is believed, not endured. This truth is known somewhere in everyone. We might tell ourselves we remain living only because we are afraid of dying, but in truth we are not willing to abandon a search for something that we cannot help but glimpse even within the wildest storm of discontent.

When I was living in Los Angeles, I was very unhappy. I didn’t really know how unhappy I was until I had a long phone conversation with the woman to whom I am now married. After we hung up I sat alone in my darkened apartment and felt something I had not felt in a very long time. Nothing had been promised between us; no plans had been made. All we had done was talked. But a pleasant residue remained from that conversation and I recognized it immediately. “That’s me,” I remembered. “I must find more of it.”

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