On Depravity

This post is written for a Philosophical Essay Challenge about depravity by the Literati Mafia. 


Today I spent an hour staring at a blank computer screen while trying to answer the question of human depravity, watching the cursor blink in and out of existence, and waiting for the words to pour out of me. I noticed the X key, which was a little bit less worn out than the rest of the keys, and wondered exactly how many times I had pressed it in the six years that I had owned this laptop; more times than I could probably imagine: an insignificantly large amount. I looked out the window into the arriving darkness: another day had gone by. I fiddled with a stray coin. I sipped some tea that had already turned cold. At that moment I had wanted too much, I now realize.

In an exploration of human depravity, I wrote a series of two stories to explore the meaning of purpose in our lives. The first piece, “When Darkness Lingers,” is about a woman attempting to manipulate her surroundings to create the illusion of a world that cares about her. She talks about how she blocks out the morning sun with her hand, and enjoys the feeling of the sun eagerly insisting on reaching through the cracks in her fingers: it makes her feel powerful. She also describes walking along the edge of the ocean and embracing its peacefulness but also avoiding its tantalizing whispers of oblivion: this makes her feel powerful. She walks through the supermarket with a satirical understanding of the commercialized  trap we are all caught in, but the repetitiveness of it all makes her feel useful, like a link in a giant chain: this also makes her feel powerful. She tries to emulate the melancholy of rain and dying leaves, ignoring her neighbors attempt at conversation in the process: and this also makes her feel powerful. She tries to find a purpose and look for the little bits of happiness in everyday life but instead catches herself in a depressive spiral, completely shuts herself away from the world, and creates a pretentious illusion of a meaningful and important existence. Is that depravity?

The next piece I wrote, called “Consumerism is Weird; A Poem,” mocks our silly attachment and reliance on meaningless products as a way to give our lives meanings. I gave an example of someone boiling a slice of cucumber and feeding it to their fish, which is an essentially inanimate creature and couldn’t care less whether it eats a cucumber or not. I wrote about how we pay so much attention to almost insignificant aspects of out existence, such as the type of peppers we want on our salads or that our ice cream does not melt during the car ride from the supermarket to our homes, that it almost appears as if we are mocking much greater problems of this world. Is that depravity?

As I was contemplating which postmodern philosopher to accentuate my argument with, I noticed that “depravity” and “to be deprived of” began to adopt the same definition in my mind. Indeed, I had explored the seemingly corrupt and utterly selfish ways in which we strive to find a purpose in this world. These two stories were meant to emphasize our greed for power and the institutions we build around ourselves as a means to create empty and numbing comforts that provide us with a sense of purpose: whether it be walking through the ocean waves or boiling cucumbers. We are deprived of a purpose, but our purpose is also fabricated through our depravity. Our eagerness to capitalize on our deprived universal existence is our depravity.

I often wonder what the purpose of humanity is; why we’ve organized and compartmentalized our lives into convoluted and precise patterns and rules; how we’ve managed to delude ourselves into believing that everything is somehow important. As I had sat waiting for the words to come to me, I preoccupied myself with distractions such as letters on my keyboard, coins, and tea to kill any genuine thoughts and to prevent the feeling of emptiness. Our fight against boredom, perhaps, is the cause of our depravity. Or maybe it is our refusal to accept the ghastly truth about humanity, whatever it even is. As such, we seek empty comforts in selfish and corrupt ways, killing the planet, restricting our own freedom, and preventing genuine thinking and individuality.

Whatever depravity is, it is too big for me to understand. Yet through all of this I wonder, what else could have caused the world to turn out exactly this way?  


Here are the posts I’ve mentioned: When Darkness Lingers and Consumerism is Weird: A Poem


22 thoughts on “On Depravity

  1. … and exactly what way is “this”? Is the whole world depraved? If so, of what? Compassion maybe. Yes, if we had a world of compassion, there would be no depravity. Because there is enough (more than enough) to go around. Don’t you agree?

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    1. By “this” I meant the world as it is today: our institutions, governments, economies, people, values, ways of life, cultures etc. I was wondering how the world managed to come from seemingly nothing to all of what we have today. Could there be an underlying motive/ reason, and is that depravity? There is a difference between depraved and deprived, which I talked about in this post, so compassion could be another construct that we are deprived of but pretend to have because of our depravity and need to have some sort of purpose in our lives. That’s just me playing the devils advocate, but I wonder whether compassion is a truly genuine aspect of humanity or if it’s something we made up.


      1. Well, my take on compassion is that it is a built in aspect of human nature – if as humans we grow out of our self-centered, depraved spirit into the persons we are meant to be.
        It’s a subject worth contemplation. Thanks for getting the wheels turning in my squirrel cage.

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  2. A mindful post Kat. It would be easy to try to search and document root causes of depravity. We just prefer our distractions to the pain of finding truths we aren’t prepared for. To ponder depravity in depth and to act on the wisdom gained is to liberate ourselves from depravity.

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    1. Depravity is difficult to think about; it’s like trying to understand some very innate and unexplainable aspect of humanity. I don’t know if it is possible to find its causes, but probably because that would create some sort of contradiction about humanity that we humans won’t be willing to accept. All of this is too introspective.

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      1. Yes, I think for most outside the neurological sciences the journey to discovery might lead to ourselves and we don’t want to go there. Still, it’s good that you reflect on it momentarily and decide.

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      2. I think concepts as these are very important to think about, not just by those in neurological fields. Though its interesting that you would bring up exactly that science. Does that mean that everything important only happens within the confines of our mind? That’s very interesting.

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      3. Everything happens within the confines of our minds. The body is only a sensor for the mind, feeding it data about the environment. The nervous system works autonomously with the body to keep it alive while the mind is the decision center. Where the head goes the body follows. Neurological science has made tremendous advances in the last ten years and most of the old basis for psychology, psychiatry, and sociology have been disproved or improved. Sadly, the transition from science and discovery can take many years to get to the common practices. I know there is much scepticism and distrust of the scientific community and this has always been the case starting with the Clascic Greek philosophers. Science in all disciplines is a methodology practiced imperfectly by humans. But to deny science is also to deny the existence of mathematics, music, art, architecture, industry, and technology. All of these parts of our daily life were brought to us by discovery and a disciplined approach to asking the questions why, how, how much to all the stimulus in our natural and human made environment. But, the human connection is not infallable. In our own minds untethered to any truth or facts, we will invent our own truths and facts that we will velieve as if they are real. A person deemed a heretic or insane is only a mind different from our own with thoughts that do not conform to a group norm. Does the insane person gice up their intrinsic right to life or does the group take those rights away? Many a very sane and intellectual person as persecuted by those that could bot grasp the truth of what that person understood and conveyed. We are different now with our muddled sense of human rights, but our base nature has not changed in 25,000 years. Now, we are on the verge of understanding the deep science of the mind. There is much more to explore and new discovery occurs almost daily. Where does that leave us. Well, for those not subscibing to the discoveries of science in nuerology, we are left as was socrates and Plato, to ponder the universe that settles on our own senses and imterpret it as we see fit. There is no need for us to be scientifically correct. Finally, this is the very reason our deep reflections and introspections should be toward satisfying answers so that we can live happy and satisfied lives. This was the concept of Buddhism, flawed as it is as all religions are, it implied we could choose peace by avoiding darkness. It did not say darkness did not exist, it said choose to dwell in the light. That might also be a sign of insanity but its a comfortable insanity. 😉

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      4. LoL, it used to be a terrible sin to send out correspondence littered with mistakes, but I use my iPad most of the time and my fingers don’t always find the right spots and autocorrect often has a different idea about my intent.

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      5. I agree with most of what you say here, but you seem to be implying that it is a flaw of humanity that we seem to be always behind in the knowledge that exists. But is knowing the latest developments in neurology necessarily going to make someone’s life more happy and satisfied? This reminds me of the saying that ignorance is bliss. In my experience that is generally true. Of course, it is human nature to adopt beliefs like religion for example. Religion ruled the world prior to the industrial revolution, I believe, and may have been the greatest factor that had motivated humanity to continue. For example, life during the Dark Ages was terrible. People suffered, but believed that it would grant them passage to heaven. Of course, this dissuaded many people from wanting to improve their lives, but it also may have been the only governing force that kept humanity in line. All beliefs are flawed, like you said, but the alternative, a life fully enamored in science, would be extremely boring. A big part of our human intelligence in the ability to understand how unique and improbable our lives are; its the ability to appreciate the magic that comes with humanity, and its offspring: art, music, writing. A life governed by science could save the planet and improve out healths, but it won’t make us happier on a personal level. So I guess it just depends what our priorities are now….

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      6. I think you make the case for the part of human existence that makes us great, which is the ability to engage art, music, and writing as a sample of human endeavor. We are individually unique but quite predictable as a larger demographic. I apologize if I misinformed my thoughts on neuroscience as opposed to existing outside of a scientific approach to understanding ourselves and our natural universe. What I most wanted to point to was our understanding of what makes us who we are clinically versus what we percieve ourselves to be outside of fundamental truths. The thing is, the human mind is a perfect world creator. It can use all the stimulus it receives internally and externally, combine with memory, and percieve what it wills. This allows art or music or creative writing that captivates another. This is definitely a good thing. But, I mean to say, like the car that drives to work and home, we need to know just a little to operate it but not every property or part it uses to achieve the task, still, not knowing doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and this was what filtered through my mind although, I don’t think I got there with what I wrote. Of course, I am employed by the base science of all sciences and it geeks me up pretty nicely. It’s never boring to me but then I do realize the quickest way for me to get people to walk away from me is to talk about the things I love or do. I love the arts but create things that make physicists and engineers wet their pants with excitement. The secret is just add quantum in front and it’s on! 🤓 I should say I deeply appreciate your willingness to explore and engage. The world needs that. I also think civilized disagreement among diverse people is also a tool to enlightenment. If we disagree and share our views with one another without one feeling coerced by another, we grow and learn. You are definitely a mindful person whose insights are kind and worthy of admiration.

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      7. Sorry, I did not see your comment until just now. But anyway, I appreciate your perspective on the world and I do understand the world’s need for, and understanding of, science. But I still believe that science and that arts cannot coexist as two separate entities in a person’s mind. Of course, they can mix, but one side will loose some of its excitement and power while the other side takes precedence and becomes the winning mindset. As a student, I take advanced chemistry classes and literature classes, I like the problem solving and logic aspect of science, and the creativity and ambiguity of the other, but I do not think I can fully appreciate both. Soon, as I will have to pick a major, I will have to decide which side to agree with. Maybe it is just the kind of person I am, but I find it very difficult to transition from solving difficult stoichiometry problems and then write a philosophical essay about the complexity of humans when it comes to accepting pain, just as an example. I just can’t do it. To me, it’s like trying to believe in too different things at once. It has been great talking to you and gaining a new, interesting perspective on my internal conflict. And thank you, I think you are a very mindful individual as well.

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      8. Thank you Kat. I think what you describe is a way of saying normal but in this case normal is positive. For you, having the intellect to do chemistry or other science disciplines is a credit to you, but it doesn’t mean you must enjoy it or even pursue it. What is normal for you is what you enjoy and what you want to believe and pursue. Being remarkably intelligent means you have a lot of options and you can choose what is best for you without being forced to settle. I just happen to be a person that has equal balance on both sides of my brain. I can write as well left handed as right handed. In fact, I do all things equally well from the left or right side. but I choose the right side simply because a lot of things are subconciously designed for right handed people. Also, I can do art and music, philosophy or quantum physics with relation to designing and developing new solutions in the measurement sciences. I was born this way, probably by some freak of nature. So, forgive me if I seem ambiguous. We all have our challenges. I do love to see every angle of any subject.

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  3. Well we only just came out the trees relatively recently – so I hope this current depravity is just a glitch, or throwback! I don’t think we are too bad as a species overall, just that we struggle to get a grip on things and sort it all out – thats our biggest flaw, like when the answer is staring you in the face, but you’re caught up in some dreadful complicated messy situation, and you feel obliged to deal with that one first! And so it goes on! 🙂

    There was a thing on TV the other night called “Above us only Sky” a film about the John Lennon song “Imagine” so direct, beautiful and all that everything stuff rolled into one – if you get that on tv, its worth watching 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVX2vWcjma4

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    1. I think that there are many good aspects of humanity too, just as there are bad. I don’t know if depravity is simply a glitch: in my opinion it is something very ingrained within us all. But I do agree that we are bad at sorting stuff out. There are just too many distractions that prevent us from genuine thinking.

      I will check it out. I really like do John Lennon song “Imagine.” I actually heard it on the radio the other day.

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      1. I never stop learning & thinking about it, just been to Edinburgh for a break, we learned about how they all used to live in all that poverty and disease crammed into the city, pressumably cos it was too dangerous to live outside alone? Humans are so depraved, they are maniacs! That’s my conclusion, however did we get this far?? 😆😆

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  4. I hadn’t thought about the link between “depravity” and “deprivation”, that’s interesting. In my mind the concept of depravity would include the idea of cruelty in the sense of the utter depths to which human beings can morally sink. In that case it’s a deprivation of compassion, love, decency…?

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    1. Could a deprivation of compassion and love necessarily cause deprivation. Or maybe it’s the other way around? When I wrote this, I didn’t really think about love/ compassion etc. For some reason they don’t seem very comparable to depravity. I don’t really know why….


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