Monday, March 17, 2008

What Do You Want?

Ambassador Kosh, the faceless Vorlon encapsulated in his encounter suit, went around asking a lot of people—and aliens, most of who looked pretty much like people—that very question. Some of them got very worked up over it.

BTW, if you're not an aficionado of the long-defunct TV series Babylon 5 (1 , 2) these references will mean diddly-squat+nada to you; but that's life anbd you'll just have to grin and bear it. There are people who have seen B5 and there are those who haven't. Thus mankind is divided into two camps forever—unless those who haven't seen it change their state of not-having-seen-it-ness, of course!

I've often wondered—and this just randomly came back to mind, as random things often do—why good ol' Kosh, for 'old' he was, actually went around asking this particular question and what he was wanting to achieve by it. He certainly stirred up a lot of stuff and contributed to setting significants events into motion!

What do you want?

So, I thought about it some more and came to the conclusion that, like Joss Whedon, Michael Straczynski—the creator, producer and writer of much of B5—is an Absurdist, and that, when you come to think about it, What Do You Want? is the question which, if it prompts the questionée to do what it ought to, will reveal his ultimate driving motivations.

Truth be told, it will reveal anybody's ultimate driving motivations; only that those not of an Absurdist disposition are much more likely to prevaricate and do their best to deflect the thrust of the question to places where it isn't meant to go.

Fools! Pussies! Or maybe they just don't know better. But for many of them, is ignorance really a valid excuse?

Bygones. The point I was trying to make was this: Absurdism implies that, on the big existential quasi-metaphysical scale, there's nothing whatsoever in this life of ours that we:

  • ought to do
  • are born to do
  • need to do
  • are 'designed' to do
  • are compelled to do
  • are obliged to do
  • are driven to do
  • and so on
There's nothing life is 'all about' except for, well, 'being'. And it isn't even about that. It just is.

So, what, apart from what we want to do, is there to actually make us do stuff? On the big, cosmic scale, I mean; and even, when you come to think about it, the more modest, daily life scale, where there appear to be a thousand instances from the list above that make us do this but not that—or do nothing at all, which is, of course also 'doing something', only in this case we label that 'something' as 'nothing'.

What, I ask again, apart from what we want to do is there to make us do? Even the apparent 'compulsions' that we encounter every day: are they really compulsions? I mean, even if, say, our lives are threatened and we just had to take this action or that to avoid ultimate clamity calamity...

But to we really have to? We could just not do this or that and die. I mean, if we didn't want to live, what's there to stop us?

Ahh, you say, but we are driven to survive! It's not a question of mere 'wanting'. The same argument could be applied to any perceived 'compulsion' of course. According to that line of reasoning, we have no choices about anything, because it's all 'compulsion'-type driven-ness, whether that's of the 'cosmic' or 'daily life' type. Which brings us back to the whole vexatious and convoluted question of Free Will, which I've touched upon some blogs back.

But cutting through all that bullshit is this simple proposition, the truth of which, after some reflection, becomes almost self-evident:

We always do what we want.

Hence the question What Do You Want? isn't just 'interesting', but a probe into the essence of what makes you you. And in that sense we may further state that:

We are what we want.

Which would nicely wrap things up, if only there wasn't another, much more basic question. I've been conveniently skirting that one, in order not to disrupt the nice flow of my argument.

But what actually is 'wanting'?

No comments: