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?