1. What is a question of worth?
I used to watch a comedy called <Wu Lin Wai Zhuan>. In one of its episodes, an intellectual managed to kill a murderer by asking him a series of philosophical questions starting with “Who am I?” and driving him mad. In the end the murderer gave one last cry of “I murdered myself!” and then smashed his own head. My Chinese teacher, formerly a graduate student of philosophy told me that philosophy is a dangerous subject, because before it clarifies, it complicates, which is exactly what I’m experiencing. And if you learned well, you can cure the mad. If not, you become the mad. “There are just some paths you do not want to go down.”
Everytime I come up with some tricky question, take, “Why do we live” for an example. My mother would tell me, “Don’t burden yourself with questions of no worth, they won’t get you anywhere.” The unspoken words were: They won’t benefit you, not even in a spiritual way. So I began to wonder: What questions CAN get us somewhere? Should we only ask questions that can get us somewhere? Why do we need to get somewhere? Are the questions I’ve just asked questions that get us nowhere? And if I think too hard, I go nuts.
According to my mother, a question of worth is an answerable question that benefits us once answered. Exploring nature of the universe and human is definitely beneficial, if not to the founding of society; at least it satisfies our desire to know. So there you have it, I believe whether a question is of worth or not depends on the level of thinking one is going through. People come in varieties and it’s not fair to say an illiterate can’t have a better life than an intellectual. If someone chooses to stay simple, go to school, go to work, go get married, go have kids…fine. He will still have all the pleasures he needs without asking: ”What is the ultimate truth of the Universe?” The question bears no worth in the eyes of someone who holds no interest. We, as the more sophisticated, might pity him for a “frog in a well who knew only a small part of the sky” even when we’re in no position to judge.
Therefore, I say “worth” is not something absolute, but a matter of choice. If you choose to occupy your mind with thoughts, you’ll be privileged to experience both pains and pleasures of growing self-awarness. I love what Wang Xiaobo once wrote: “This life, this world aren’t enough for us, we need something beyond that.” But I also love another line from a poem of Wang Wei’s, it means something like: “All those floating clouds in life are too hard to grasp and instead of minding them, we should just lie back and have an extra meal.”
2. The right to be unborn and the right to die
It’s interesting that in the U.S. abortions are illegal and in China sometimes it’s illegal not to have an abortion due to the one-child policy. Set aside different childbearing policies. If we define delivery the beginning of a life, then before the delivery, the mother should have a say in what to do with the thing inside her tummy. Doesn’t she have the right to rid the tumor inside her since childbirth does trigger pain and damage to the body? But this is not my point. If we define the formation of a fertilized ovum as the beginning of a life, though the mother have no right to snatch its life, the fertilized ovum, I believe, still have a right to be unborn. Those against abortion argue that everyone has a right to be born, but what about those who don’t want to be born in the first place?
Admit it: life is hard in this cruel world. I’ve met a few people suffering from all kinds of causes who wish they hadn’t been born. Even I myself think about it from time to time. But there a problem with suicide: The suicide passes his pains to his family and friends. Life is harder to erase than to “ungive”。 Let’s just say right now is not a good time to be adding to the population especially if you’re in a unfavorable financial situation. Say, you live in the suburbs of Beijing and you have a baby. As he grow up, this child will very likely suffer from burdensome academic pressure, food safety problems, water contamination, lung cancer (air pollution, PM2.5), difficulty finding a job after graduating from college, difficulty finding a wife if he has no house and no car, difficulty buying a house since it’s 40,000 yuan/m^2 in a good district, difficulty buying a car (you have to pull a lottery to get a license plate number), difficulty driving a car (due to the odd-even number license plate rule), even difficulty getting a grave. It’s perfectly reasonable if some fertilized ovum saw all this and decided not to be born. But of course, they didn’t have consciousness back then. By the time they did, it was already too late. So if parents can decide to have a baby, they can as well decide not to.
What if they were bad decision makers? Well, too bad. Parents always make decisions for their kids, what clothes to wear, what school to attend, and even sometimes, who to marry. Some might argue: what if a child never born would have enjoyed life but didn't get to do so because their parents were bad decision makers? So just to be safe, shouldn’t we let all of them be born? But then what if a child grows up hating life but couldn’t travel back in time to warn his parents? Between having and not having the baby, is there a safe option? Not really. Because we can’t figure out which scenario is worse: To exist or to not exist.
Taking this opinion a litter further, I believe that babies with severe disabilities or diseases should be spared the torment of “growing up bravely” and just be put to death. Only few of those can be seen in TVs inspiring people with their positive attitude towards life, which seems a bit sad to me. The rest ends up begging in the streets or sitting home fed by overworked parents. I can’t speak for the whole world but this is definitely the case in China, where disabled and diseased people lead a very hard life.