Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Dialogue about Bus Stops, Dead Fish, and the Value of Life

I've decided to continue my dialogue experiment. What follows is the encounter between Ezekiel Snider (a character from the previous post) and a character named Maude Patterson about suffering, life, and death. Also, if you're interested in Ezekiel's ideas, know that they were inspired by my reading of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation.

Ezekiel Snider is sitting at a bus stop. He has an air of restlessness about him, and you could easily infer from his expression that the bus is quite late. Suddenly, a young woman walks up and sits down (almost) next to him. Ezekiel looks at her as s
he pulls out a magazine and begins to read. 

ES: Greetings! I'm Ezekiel.

Ezekiel looks at her expectantly. Maude peers over her reading, hesitantly.

Maude Patterson: Hi.
ES: I'd like to ask you a question.
MP [confused]: OK...
ES: What are your thoughts on suffering?

A pause.

MP: Wait, what?
ES: I have just returned from an encounter in yonder park. There, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting someone in the throes of distress, who made me think quite deeply about the nature of pain.
MP: I'm sorry?
ES: But I wonder - what are your thoughts on the nature of suffering? 
MP: OK - I'm just waiting for the bus. I'm not your therapist.
ES: Are you perhaps a philosopher?
MP: You're not serious.
ES: Quite.
MP [sighing]: No. I'm a nursing major.
ES: Have you perhaps experienced any pain recently?

Maude puts her magazine completely down.

MP: Do you normally ask girls at the bus stop if they're "suffering"?
ES: No. Only the ones who seem intelligent enough to respond meaningfully.

She looks at him, skeptically.

MP: If you're trying to flirt with me, you're doing a piss-poor job.
ES: Not primarily...perhaps only in an auxiliary or tertiary sense...

A pause, while Maude's face grows more dumbfounded.

ES: But the question remains: have you recently suffered in any meaningful way?
MP [sarcastic]: I fish died yesterday. 
ES: Was it exceedingly tragic?
MP: Not really...
ES: I offer you my deepest consolations. If I can offer anything to ease your suffering, I would gladly do so.
MP: No thanks, I...
ES [interrupting]: I have a theory about death, you know.
MP: Oh. Great.
ES: Time, you see, is an endless striving after satisfaction.
MP: Striving, huh?
ES: Yes, most relevantly on the part of your deceased fish.
MP: And what was he striving after?
ES: Satisfaction, primarily after food.
MP: Well, he's not eating anymore.
ES: Yes, and that necessarily means that time has stopped!

Maude looks oddly at him

ES: For him, at least.
MP: That doesn't really make me feel any better.
ES: But don't you see? Time stopped for your fish because he transcended it. He is free from the bonds of temporality and the chains of cause and effect.
MP:'re saying that if I stop wanting things, I'll die.
ES: Well, that's the only way you can cease to want things. As long as you're alive, you'll always want food, water, and air, and you won't be free of them until you're free of life.
MP: I like those things, though.
ES: But that's only because you've never been free of them. The prisoner is fond of his jail if he's never left it, after all.
MP: My life isn't a prison. I happen to enjoy it.
ES: But of course it is! The same is true of everyone who's ever lived.
MP: OK...then what's so great about life after death, according to you?
ES: It is ultimate freedom. The world, you see, is only an illusion. When to die you shrug off the veil of falsity you bore for your entire life, and you see the world as it really is.
MP: Does that mean that those mountains aren't real?

She points at Mount Timpanogos

MP: What about laughter? Or hot chocloate? Or Disneyland?
ES: They're illusions on all fronts.
MP: You're crazy.

She starts reading her magazine again.

ES: And why do I deserve such a descriptor?

She puts it down again, frustrated.

MP: Life is awesome. Anyone who doesn't think so is insane.
ES: On the contrary, my dear. Life is full of suffering, and the only ways we can escape it is when we come closer to death. Death is the great liberator, and by quieting the unceasing barrage of life, we can come closer to its paradise.

Suddenly a bus pulls up. Maude begins to get on, when she notices that Ezekiel isn't coming.

MP: You getting on?
ES: No. I'm waiting for a different bus.
MP: OK. Have a good life, I guess.
ES: I won't. But good luck with your endeavors, in any case.

Maude rolls her eyes as she steps onto the bus. It pulls away, and leaves Ezekiel sitting alone.

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