Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last Man Watch

If one were to look at my profile, they'll notice that I'm a fan of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Not because I agree with his solution to the problems of modernity, but because his description of the liberal (note: Not to be confused with American liberalism) world he saw is exactly correct, and still applicable today. He spoke of the "last man": those who were content with their own mediocrity. A professor of mine commented that if Nietzsche were alive today, he'd see modern man and not at all be surprised. MTV and its participants would be called "walking coffins"... a term I truly enjoy.

Because I am so heavily influenced by Nietzsche's diagnosis, I look for "these last men" that walk to Earth today. So, I was not at all surprised by an article I found linked by Tim Blair. The article from the Guardian tells:

Doctors from London University have revealed details of what they believe is the largest amount of ecstasy ever consumed by a single person. Consultants from the addiction centre at St George's Medical School, London, have published a case report of a British man estimated to have taken around 40,000 pills of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, over nine years. The heaviest previous lifetime intake on record is 2,000 pills.

Though the man, who is now 37, stopped taking the drug seven years ago, he still suffers from severe physical and mental health side-effects, including extreme memory problems, paranoia, hallucinations and depression. He also suffers from painful muscle rigidity around his neck and jaw which often prevents him from opening his mouth. The doctors believe many of these symptoms may be permanent.

I am less saddened by this than the recent protests happening all across the United States. The protests themselves are not bad, but the fact Mexican and other Lain American flags were so proudly flown was dispiriting... and disheartening. But this story about a man who-it is safe to assume-wandered aimlessly through life with no purpose other than the self is telling. We all, including myself, experience this aimless pursuit of meaning. Since it is no longer "rational" to believe in God ("God is dead!"), nor is it "good" to believe in patriotism (human rights, not natural rights), we are forced into pursuing meaningless; empty dopamine releasing experiences.

While we may or may not be at the "end of days" (whatever that may be), there is little doubt human excellence is still on the decline and we are the "last men." America is one of the few places left-because of the revolutionary principles disclosed in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence-where we still see a yearning for human excellence and human purpose. One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the mediocre movie Ice Harvest where a character played by Oliver Platt is drunk and looking at two girls hanging on the arms of a guy in the corner of this club. He says (cleaned up language here) that "all that is left for men is women and money." Something to think about as we continue to work and go through our lives. Are we really putting meaning in our lives? Or are we endlessly pursuing a rapid and extreme release of chemicals that make us "feel" the moment? Or possibly the better question is, is there a real, tangible meaning to life? All I know is that modern life says that there isn't, but I've never been one to listen to philosophical modernity...


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