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The Tuesday that Didn't Happen

4 min read

This is a story about not going anywhere...

Unmade bed

The question of free will - whether we have it or not - is one that often troubles me. The problem with assuming that we have absolute freedom of choice at all times, is that it does not take reality into consideration. Often times when we see people who have been affected by a natural disaster - or even a man-made one - we might naïvely ask "why don't they just move?". It must seem fairly obvious that a low-lying country like Bangladesh is regularly going to suffer terrible flooding, and in the long run it's going to be underwater due to rising sea levels. Surely people - with their free will - should just do the rational thing and move somewhere better than Bangladesh?

To now talk about not being able to get out of bed because I felt depressed, when I've just been talking about some of the world's poorest people, whose whole country is under threat of being wiped out, is rather vomit-inducing, so I'm going to need to find a segue which doesn't imply that I consider my first-world-problems to be comparable.

Why this obsession with comparison anyway? Why should we compare ourselves to a starving African child but shouldn't we compare ourselves with a professional footballer? Who gets to choose who it's right to compare ourselves to, and who it's wrong to compare ourselves to? Who decides that?

I often think about that one person - the only man or woman on the whole planet - who can genuinely claim in all honesty that their life is worse than anybody else's. It's obvious that one single individual exists at any one time, who by all objective and subjective measures, everyone would agree is the only person in the world who can feel sorry for themselves, because they're the most wretched and unfortunate; they're suffering the most. Nobody can say to that one person "things could be worse" because they really couldn't be. For that one person, none of the oft-quoted platitudes are applicable.

Again, am I inducing vomit, talking about the world's most unfortunate human being - the one who's suffering the most - in the same piece of writing where at some point, presumably, I'm going to segue into talking about myself, which implies that I'm comparing my own suffering with that of the world's current #1 sufferer, who obviously must be suffering unimaginably, given the very great suffering that the bulk of humanity endures.

Let's return to the troubling question of free will. Given free will - absolute freedom of choice at all times - why choose to have children in war-torn and disaster affected countries that live in dire poverty? Why choose to carry on living, when your life is full of misery and suffering? Are these not two sides of the same coin? Who wants to watch their children suffer and die? Are we not certain indeed, that all life eventually leads to pain, suffering and death quite naturally anyway? Who wants to grow old and infirm? Who wants to be sick and senile? This isn't one of my antinatalistic rants, this is a genuine puzzle to me: in a world of free will, who would knowingly inflict this moral suffering onto their offspring, and indeed continue to suffer themselves, when it seems far more logical to just kill yourself - quickly and painlessly - at the first opportunity.

Given absolute freedom of choice, why did you choose your mediocre life, with all its suffering and stress? Why didn't you choose to be the world's most attractive quintillionaire and king/queen of the universe? It seems rather stupid of you to have used your free will to make all the choices that have led you to the point where you're just waiting for you and all the children you've created, to die in suffering and pain.

The fact that my Tuesday didn't happen seems quite irrelevant in the face of the question: "why don't I just kill myself?".