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Struggle - an integral aspect of the laws of nature

 
EN
 
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EN
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21 March 2018 19:07
 

Often I relax by sitting on my back porch and watching the beauty of nature, sometimes augmented by a glass of cognac, a cigar, or both.  Spring affords ample opportunity to simply behold the wonder of what the laws of nature have created, and this evening that beauty was supplemented by listening to some fitting music by Donovan or some other flower child.  The effect was one of pure transport, but the idea of struggle was never far from my consciousness. Every living thing, whether white oaks, finches, red bud blossoms or otherwise, had to struggle to give birth to life. As life evolved it was met with one existential crisis after another, yet “life found a way”.  That struggle is recapitulated in our own existence - we struggle in the womb, being born, growing up, becoming adults.  It is that struggle, which I consider a fundamental part of the laws of physics, that has resulted in humans having intelligence, a moral sense, and empathy.  Without that struggle we would not be who we are, nor could we have come to the point of reflecting on its necessity.  We face challenges from the moment of conception.  Nature is, indeed, as the poet said, “red in tooth and claw”, but that is precisely where we get the will to conquer obstacles, both individually and as a species. The violence we see in the cosmos becomes a major theme in the life of each creature, as life drags itself over one land mine after another.  “We Shall Overcome” could be the theme song of our personal and corporate existence.

We are here, writing, thinking, acting, reflecting, because of the Struggle. “In this life there is tribulation” - everyone of us could bear witness to that basic truth. But look what the Struggle has produced!! Without it, there would be no Da Vinci, no Newton, no Mozart, no Einstein, no Botticelli.  I invite you to expound on how the Struggle has produced beauty in your own life.

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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21 March 2018 22:25
 

Nice!

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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22 March 2018 07:53
 

I would say that all perception of struggle is subjective. In actuality there isn’t any, just the working out of natural laws. No “struggle for existence” or “survival of the fittest.” It’s us subjective beings who see struggle as a projection of our own feelings of having to make efforts to get along in the world and avoid being eaten.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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22 March 2018 08:28
 

Struggling and striving, perhaps?

 
 
EN
 
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22 March 2018 09:49
 
burt - 22 March 2018 07:53 AM

I would say that all perception of struggle is subjective. In actuality there isn’t any, just the working out of natural laws. No “struggle for existence” or “survival of the fittest.” It’s us subjective beings who see struggle as a projection of our own feelings of having to make efforts to get along in the world and avoid being eaten.

I disagree. While we are the only species that has given the phenomenon a name, every living creature goes through it at some level. Sure, the experience itself incites subjectivity, but there is an underlying objective reality that involves conflict and challenge. We evolve and grow in a hostile environment. The objective facts lead to our subjective experience of struggle. The will to live and survive comes from somewhere, and it is the underlying conflict with our surroundings that leads to that.  Something is always trying to kill us.

 
brazen4
 
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22 March 2018 10:22
 

“something is always trying to kill us” I think it is more accurate to say “other things are also trying to survive and sometimes we die as a result”

 
EN
 
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22 March 2018 11:25
 
brazen4 - 22 March 2018 10:22 AM

“something is always trying to kill us” I think it is more accurate to say “other things are also trying to survive and sometimes we die as a result”

I’m fine with that.  Either way, it leads to a conflict with our environment.

 
brazen4
 
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22 March 2018 14:08
 

“the will to live and survive comes from somewhere” That,to me is the very large question and I am sort of waiting for the chemists and biologists to get to the core of whatever the answer to that is. I’ve wanted to know that for a long time and when I finally put in the effort to research it I was more than disappointed to find out that the smartest people working on it don’t know either. I wish them well as I would love to know before my time is up.

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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22 March 2018 16:50
 

Existence involves struggle, true.  But it also includes pleasure.  Just as you have time to sit and enjoy your drink and smoke and ponder.  Pleasure is an important driver of behavior too.  Since I judge that many other animals are conscious beings, I don’t see why they wouldn’t have pleasure too.  Imagine a mother cheetah sitting by her new kill while her kits eat and scamper about.  Pleasure makes the struggle worthwhile.

When Darwin said that nature is red in tooth and claw, that didn’t encompass all.  There is also much cooperation in nature and mutualism. 

But yes, struggle is important for building both our physical bodies and our psyches.

[ Edited: 22 March 2018 19:07 by hannahtoo]
 
Jan_CAN
 
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22 March 2018 18:04
 
brazen4 - 22 March 2018 02:08 PM

“the will to live and survive comes from somewhere” That,to me is the very large question and I am sort of waiting for the chemists and biologists to get to the core of whatever the answer to that is. I’ve wanted to know that for a long time and when I finally put in the effort to research it I was more than disappointed to find out that the smartest people working on it don’t know either. I wish them well as I would love to know before my time is up.

I would think that the will to live, the survival instinct, is a basic feature of natural selection.  However it first appeared (an early mutation?) in simple organisms, this characteristic would be favoured for survival.  With all sorts of interesting results.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-preservation

 

 
 
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22 March 2018 18:05
 

When I commune with nature in my backyard, sometimes augmented by a cup of coffee and a cigarette, I usually think about the connectedness of all living things.  About how dependent we all are on the natural world even though we don’t always spend enough time thinking about it.  Life is a struggle, but it is also cooperation and inter-dependence.

 
 
brazen4
 
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22 March 2018 18:37
 

Where or how the “will” or “impetus” to divide and make more of itself (simplest single celled organism) is one of the most intriguing detective stories going on at this time. All other life involved motivations can be explained pretty clearly and confidently from that point forward. Its the exact point where some minute piece of stuff exhibited what we call “agency” and (wanted?) to make more of itself that intrigues the hell out of me.

 
sojourner
 
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22 March 2018 18:43
 

To my mind the idea of ‘struggle’ is more or less synonymous with the question of ‘why is there suffering’, which makes it a difficult question that I don’t think I’ll ever be really at ease with. Even having a satisfying narrative to justify my own difficulties and struggles throughout life doesn’t justify struggles and suffering for all sentient beings everywhere, and I am deeply bothered by that. I strongly hope that one day I will find a meta-narrative that compellingly resolves all of this.


On the topic in general - it seems to me that the struggle for homeostasis and the struggle for growth are two fairly distinct kinds of human struggles. The former is arguably the basis for all pain, suffering, and unhappiness - feelings programmed in our nervous system to signal “Not right! Out of ‘compatible with life’ range! Error! Error!”. I think there is nothing for that, really - we can learn equanimity to a degree, but it is still true that going sufficiently far outside of our homeostatic range results in death. No coincidence there that religions talk about life as ‘samsara’ or a ‘vale of tears’. You can be happy with anything that happens and dead; or sufficiently unhappy with certain things to walk within the lines that amount to life.


The latter has interesting implications, though, I think. I was watching my youngest nephew (a newborn) lying on his back the other day, sort of like a poor little bug with his legs stuck in the air. They have so little control at that age, those legs and arms just shoot up and start scratching at the air sort of uncontrollably - just a few weeks into life, he already looks like he’s struggling for some unseen goal, trying to get control of those reaching, stretching little limbs, grunting and moving herky-jerky all over the place. It seems to me that the struggle to grow is different than the struggle to simply stay alive, and that interests me. Oftentimes we could do a minimum to simply continue to exist, and yet we seem programmed for development, growth, forward movement. I don’t know what that indicates, really, but again, it seems like a more encouraging concept that simply maintaining survival.

 
 
brazen4
 
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22 March 2018 18:51
 

As to “interconnectedness” of life forms, it has only been in my later yrs that I have felt an intuitive recognition that “of course it is true” even as I have always used the natural world as a personal refuge from lifes onslaughts.

 
hannahtoo
 
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22 March 2018 19:06
 
brazen4 - 22 March 2018 06:37 PM

Where or how the “will” or “impetus” to divide and make more of itself (simplest single celled organism) is one of the most intriguing detective stories going on at this time. All other life involved motivations can be explained pretty clearly and confidently from that point forward. Its the exact point where some minute piece of stuff exhibited what we call “agency” and (wanted?) to make more of itself that intrigues the hell out of me.

I don’t see it as agency or wanting.  Cells must have started from lots of sudsing and clumping, creating proto-cells with increasing stability.  They were little chambers with more concentrated chemical reactions and ever greater integrity.  At some point, oops, budded.  The forms that budded with fidelity eventually crowded out the random forms.

[ Edited: 22 March 2018 19:09 by hannahtoo]
 
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22 March 2018 19:25
 
EN - 22 March 2018 11:25 AM
brazen4 - 22 March 2018 10:22 AM

“something is always trying to kill us” I think it is more accurate to say “other things are also trying to survive and sometimes we die as a result”

I’m fine with that.  Either way, it leads to a conflict with our environment.

Funny, I see it as creatures being supported by their environment. 

I was just down in Baja California, and it is a dang desert with a zillion things living in it.  The snaggly bushes might look half-dead, but they’re sprouting bright red flowers at the tips.  The ultra-spiky cacti have blue herons nesting in them.  There are big black wasps with red wings, called tarantula hawks because they sting tarantulas, paralyzing them so they can lay their eggs on the spiders.  Crazy, crazy life flourishing in a place you and I would dismiss as inhospitable.

 
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