Existential Crisis?

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
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I ever had only 1 grandparent.
OK, let me rephrase that.
I only ever knew 1 grandparent. my fathers mother. She was a rather dominant, rarely smiling woman. Not per se unkind or uncaring, just not showing it. On the pictures at my parents engagement she is the sole person not smiling. Perhaps she didn't think my mother was a fitting match for her oldest son. I’d say she was wrong. She passed away when I was 26.
That’s about all the grandparent experience I got.
Both my grandfathers died, within a year, when I was about 3 years old. I have no recollections of them. Weirdly enough, I do have a memory of me sitting on the lowest step of the stairs, watching my parents unexpectedly leave (me) because granddad was dying. I had no idea what that meant at that age.
My mothers mother died when my mother was a little girl of 3. She was basically raised by her elder sisters (she had lots of them) who did an amazing job. She became a kind and caring mother. Complementary to my father, who was much his mothers son in not knowing how to express caring or understanding.
My Engaged Parents.png


A picture of my parents around the time they were engaged. They met during WWII, survived artillery fire and triggered booby traps, lived through circumstances which formed them en matured them in ways I’ll never be. They married in 1949, once my mothers father had been convinced my father earned enough money to sustain a family, thanks to a job and payment he got as a teacher because he claimed to be married.

All this brings me (finally) to the question I intended to ask.
Considering my parents only met because of circumstances caused by the war, do I need to thank Hitler for my existence? :eek:
 

farntfar

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Well maybe. But only as much as any other historical figure that may have influenced their life in one way or another. So Kaiser Bill, Thomas Edison, Gengis Khan, Julius Caesar, Johannes Kepler, Nostradamus, Nebuchadnezzar (*) could probably all have changed events so your parents would never meet, by some seemingly random different choice.

Personally I feel a great sense of gratitude to various and unknown drivers of the number 38 bus for my existence. But it's true that Hitler probably had some effect on their lives too.
 

Venusian Broon

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Considering my parents only met because of circumstances caused by the war, do I need to thank Hitler for my existence? :eek:
There are a near infinite number of things you could 'thank' for your existence - your father's lie to get a job, the Chicxulub impact, Gavrilo Princip's bullets, the value of the fine structure constant....

But, the past, before you arrived is, as far as you can know, fixed. (The current and future world may also be super-deterministic and lack all free will, but let's leave that for the moment ;) ). There is nothing you can do about that. You can thank it, curse it, or be supremely indifferent to it. It does not matter, it will not change.

So you are really free to interpret the past anyway you see fit, I think.

Every human alive today could point to (any!) events in 1939-45 and how they impacted their families. Both sets of my grandparents met because of WW2, so do I 'thank' Hitler for that? No, I think instead that despite what Hitler wrought, they, along with millions and millions of others, acted positively, tried to live a normal life, and also in each of their small ways stand up to a great and horrifying danger.
 

Mouse

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My grandfather was in the army and was stationed in Hong Kong. He wanted to marry a Chinese girl. Her parents didn't want her marrying a white dude. He came back to England and met my grandmother. So, I thank some racists for my existence, I guess?
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Of course, the rise of Hitler is a major event that affected many lives in the world. But even changing the position of a single blade of grass can do that (aka the Butterfly Effect). Every action we take has unintended consequences, usually impossible to predict (because the word is just too chaotic). All we can do is try to lead good lives and hope the positive consequences of our actions outweigh the negative.
 

Biskit

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The only thing I would thank Hitler for is losing the war. Otherwise you might have been born into a far nastier world.

If you start poking at how things might have been different, you will tie yourself in a serious knot chasing down a trail of what-ifs. The obvious starting point is what if WW2 had never happened, but your parents still met, purely by chance, a random day out perhaps, or a chance encounter on the way to a job interview? Trying to assess what peoples lives might have been like without the war is pretty much impossible.

If I start analysing my own past, I immediately hit things that can never be answered. How different would my dad's life have been if his father hadn't died when he was two years old, or if my grandmother had stayed in Sussex in the aftermath rather than returning to her family in South Wales? Would Dad have still joined the army if he had been raised in rural Sussex rather than a mining town in South Wales, which in his words was "a hard life that bred hard people". Would I have even been born if some pesky local resident hadn't expressed his/her dislike of British squaddies in Cyprus and almost killed my dad in the late 50s? I wouldn't have been born if he had died, but what if he had been able to stay in the army, what would have happened then?

Leave the what-ifs alone and enjoy your life. :giggle:
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Would I have even been born if some pesky local resident hadn't expressed his/her dislike of British squaddies in Cyprus and almost killed my dad in the late 50s?:giggle:

Right, but the Universe is even more fluky than that. An ejaculation contains 200M to 300M sperm cells! Each with the potential to produce a different human being. I wouldn't have existed if my father had paused to take his socks off! One of those other 299,999,999 cells would have got there ahead of me! Forget Cyprus and World War Two!
 

M. Robert Gibson

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Stanisaw Lem, in A Perfect Vacuum one of the fictitious books reviewed is De Impossibiltate Vitae, which amusingly ponders the question just how far back do you go with what ifs.

"...consists almost entirely of tracking all the things that must have happened for the author (Kouska) to have been born: his father must have married his mother, which in turn depended on them meeting during the War, which in turn depended on multitude of other events. Here Lem argues for the butterfly effect: changing one thing has an almost infinite number of unimaginable consequences."

The work can be read here, under the English title of Odds
(You might need to increase the font size in your browser :rolleyes:)


As to your crisis, another way of looking at it is your parents met despite Hitler :giggle:
 

Swank

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Considering my parents only met because of circumstances caused by the war, do I need to thank Hitler for my existence? :eek:
I'm going to confess to being utterly intolerant of this line of reasoning.

Human sapience largely depends on the ability to model complex conditions in our heads and act upon that modeling. Empathy is the modeling we do of other people that allows us to interact with those of even vastly different temperament, culture and experience. And our modeling of the past allows us to better understand cause and effect, making future decisions more wisely.

The fact that we can do this sort of thinking seems to allow all sorts of related magical thinking, such as wondering if an event in the past could actually have happened differently, rather than just been simulated to have happened differently in our minds. Maybe it is important that the gravity of our actions and the actions that we analyze have an emotional impact that makes this kind of thought feel real and important. But it is not important.

The past is immutable. There is no more reason to regret or rejoice in the events that already happened than there is to regret not being able to fly when you see a cat caught in a tree. The past is a fact, like the sun.


Seeing our lives as the products of past choices designed to hurt or help us is one of the reasons we fall into depression or assert our undeserved privilege. Our ancestors were not acting for or against our behalf. They do not deserve our thanks or regret. Their actions are the same as the stars and geography - the preconditions to what came later, not axes of choice that we ought to consider as being quite nearly something else, or remotely influenceable from the present.


People would do well to stop playing the what if? game and get themselves into the present. It is a fascinating place because you actually can make choices here and influence others.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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And while we are on the topic: We all know someone who always joins the workplace lottery because they can't bear the thought that the week they don't join will be the week of the big win. But by not joining the lottery they would actually change the Universe in such a way that the winning ticket would be different. So there is no reason in their reasoning!
 

Astro Pen

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Maybe if Eva Braun could make a great Black Forest Gateaux Hitler would have stayed home for nice tea and a game of gin rummy instead of burning the Reichstag.
 

Elckerlyc

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Well maybe. But only as much as any other historical figure that may have influenced their life in one way or another.
Certainly true. Even the Allied bombing of Walcheren and the subsequent inundation of the peninsula played a role in how my parents met.
There are a near infinite number of things you could 'thank' for your existence - your father's lie to get a job, the Chicxulub impact, Gavrilo Princip's bullets, the value of the fine structure constant....

There is nothing you can do about that. You can thank it, curse it, or be supremely indifferent to it. It does not matter, it will not change.

So you are really free to interpret the past anyway you see fit, I think.
I see the past as a unchangeable series of highly complex sequence of events, which led to the Here & Now. I am not exactly concerned about how things came to pass, nor entirely indifferent. I have become increasingly interested in history, ever since I started doing some genealogical research. Trying to place my ancestors in a historic context, how it influenced them.

But even changing the position of a single blade of grass can do that (aka the Butterfly Effect). Every action we take has unintended consequences, usually impossible to predict (because the word is just too chaotic).
Is that why to place those signs at lawns, "Do Not Walk On The Grass"? Out of fear for the 'unintended consequences'? ;)
The only thing I would thank Hitler for is losing the war. Otherwise you might have been born into a far nastier world.

Leave the what-ifs alone and enjoy your life. :giggle:
I am not worried or concerned about the 'what-ifs.' And yes, I agree. Enjoy life.
As to your crisis, another way of looking at it is your parents met despite Hitler :giggle:
That is at least partly true. One day my father, having just barely survived a triggered booby-trap, was at the point of being shot by a German commanding officer, in front of his parents. It was only because an alerted doctor told the officer he could spare himself that bullet, because my father would die anyway. I do not know how much of a lie that was, but my father survived.
I'm going to confess to being utterly intolerant of this line of reasoning.

The past is immutable. There is no more reason to regret or rejoice in the events that already happened than there is to regret not being able to fly when you see a cat caught in a tree. The past is a fact, like the sun.

People would do well to stop playing the what if? game and get themselves into the present. It is a fascinating place because you actually can make choices here and influence others.
It is not a matter of regret, rejoicing or wish to change the past events, only a fascination with how things work out. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word 'crisis' in the Thread Title, even though I added an question-mark. I agree 'what-if' isn't very useful if it comes from wondering how things could have been, but can be intriguing to see how things came to be. I'm not sure I expressed that distinction properly.
There's also the possibility of, you know, God and providence and so on, but we don't talk about those things here.
Absolutely. As a point of fact, my parents met in a church. My father had a hiding-place there which he used when necessary. The reverend knew, but not his wife (they were refugees from aforementioned inundated Walcheren) or his wife's sister - my mother. She stayed at their place, by order of their father, to aid her pregnant older sister and had traveled for 2 days, cycling (on wooden tires), to get there. Yeah, it's complicated.
I have no intention whatsoever to thank Hitler, no point anyway, he is long dead) or any other accidental turn of a blade of grass. In a way Hitler himself was a peg in History's Roller-coaster.
But it was interesting to explore that line of thought.
 

Swank

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Before we met, the woman whom I married lived in Kansas City, Missouri. She had an opportunity to go out for dinner and dancing that evening at a well-known place but was tired and decided not to. The date and location are described here.


We met and married and have four adult children.
There's a version of our universe where she is a single, angry building inspector.
 

THX1138

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Things go as things go.
My father was a kid in Eastern Europe during WWII then and like many, had every side occupied and or 'Blow' through their village. Then came the 50's with a revisit by the Russians. To make it short, he entered a lottery, got picked and wanted to live in Western Europe. Couldn't get into any country so headed for Australia by way of a ship transfer in the States. On the way to the States got severely ill, facing possible death from it and needed surgery. But in order to have the surgery, he had to take on US citizenship. So, he did and meet my mom a few years later. And after some ups and many downs, and a cross country chase, they got married.

It's a big web of 'what ifs', too many 'what ifs'. @Extollager and @Biskit both put it best. I take it the same way too.:)
 

Extollager

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This discussion is reminding me of a couple of literary moments of crisis. We realize only retrospectively that great things hinged upon what was decided then.

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo freely offers Galadriel the Ring. But she refuses it and gives the phial to him. I didn't realize it when I first read the book, but in fact Galadriel just saved the world.

In the first paragraph of Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," a newlywed wife pleads with her husband to spend the night with her because she's uneasy about his intention of a night away, in the forest. Brown might genuinely have thought that Faith had nothing to worry about, but even so the loving thing to do would have been to honor her request. Instead he puts her off with an insincere and patronizing remark and sticks to his plan. Everything that happens afterwards is the consequence of that moment. The crisis of the story has already occurred when the first paragraph is ended. But you don't realize that when you first read the story. Everything is lost. The moment of truth passed and nobody realized it. I've said before at Chrons on a Hawthorne thread that this is a really disturbing story. We all naturally like to think that, if we were put to some supreme test of love or courage, we'd give it our all and do the right thing. But the moment of truth might come and pass without our perceiving it at the time. Brrrrr.
 

paranoid marvin

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Well, at least it's thank and not blame.;)

But no, there's no one person responsible for your being in existence. Those you thank (or blame!) are those who brought you up, taught you and have had influences on your life choices; the people who made you - you.
 

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