Monday, June 8, 2015

An Interesting Prospect

So I am currently reading Dwight Okita's The Prospect of My Arrival, and it's good, but I am not far enough in yet for an actual review. What it HAS done though, is cause me some deep philosophical ponderance (which bodes well for the book), and it is those ponderances I actually want to talk about.

The premise of the story is the Pre-Born Project, in which is a a chance for embryos... souls... people who are pre-born, to have a chance to come before they are born, meet some critical people and have some experiences, and then decide whether or not they want to be born. The scientist involved believes this will make for happier people, if everyone is here by their own choice.

But that got me to thinking... what sort of people would and would not decide to be born? Truly?

The Resilience of the Human Spirit

I am going to start with the assumption that most of us would like our chance... that there is an error toward the yes vote because, even pre-born, SOMETHING has to look better than NOTHING.

So I think it is easier to think about maybe who WOULDN'T choose to give it a shot.

People with really horrible people for parents... this seems relatively obvious... Oh, no, I am not stepping into THAT.

People with biological depressive tendencies... though would these have manifested yet? Seems they usually appear in the teen years... But there is an opposite that is thought to be a trait (as opposed to a state caused by circumstances). Hardiness. Hardy people keep on plugging away and tend to be more resilient than more fragile people (who take things personally and are hurt easily and hold those negative feelings longer). Hardy people have better outcomes in terrible circumstances than people lacking in that hardy trait in the same circumstances, so low hardiness might mean those interviews are critical.

Competitive people seem to be MORE likely to choose to give it a try... Not sure how I feel about that. Competitive people make me tired.

Optimists seem more likely than pessimists to want to give it a go. Pretty sure someone like my husband, who sees every single thing that might go wrong and really hates uncertainty would say, “Nope. Not doing that.”

Now lets consider whether all this might be good or bad. Fewer depressed people in the world, fewer nay-sayers, fewer fragile souls all sounds well and good. But don't these personalities offer us some balance? In my personal circumstance, a delusional optimist married to a glum pessimist, he is my reality check. I have a lot of things I would just dive head long into without him pointing out all the things I really need to think about first. Now sometimes I still dive, but at least I dive with my eyes open because I have that balance. What ill-advised things might we dive into as a society without the nay-sayers stepping in?

Then again, what might be possible without all the obstacles?

And SOME pessimists might be born—those who have good circumstances or convincing referrals telling them the help there is to get through the difficulties.

Would it be good if children could opt out of lousy parents? I sort of think yes on this one... some people shouldn't get to be parents and who has more right to decide that than their children? But then who would the world be missing?

There is also the other side: much of what life is is the things and people and experiences we encounter. I mean sure, we bring some personality at the start, but those things that we go through shape us, so how much is honestly predictable before we ever start? How accurate can those decisions BE about whether to be born or not?

What do you think? Can you think of sorts of people more or less likely to opt in or out if they got to interview some people about what their life will be like before deciding to be born? Does the whole idea terrify you, or can you see some promise to it?

[and good on you, Dwight, for really getting us thinking]


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Now that's a cool story premise!

I agree with your analysis here...and that we would end up with a vastly different (more boring?) world if we had the chance to decide *not* to be born.

Maybe also people who were going to face terrible tragedy...losing a child, etc. That would be pretty tough to endure.

Ted Cross said...

I would most likely choose not to be born. My early life was...not fun. It took a long time for me to develop some level of contentment in my life, and all that does is let me see how I'm going to lose it all soon due to neverending progress toward decrepitude. That's why I write about immortality all the time! Even worse is seeing just how awful most people seem to be in this world, with too few exceptions. Nah, I'd rather stay in the warm and comfortable galactic energy soup.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Would someone have enough brainpower and wisdom to make that decision before being born?
A few less pessimists in the world would be all right.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Although, I get arguments about if people can be realists (that it's not a thing) I know I'm for real. I am neither a Polly-Anna nor a pessimistic drudge. I worry, but check it at the door. I take off my rose colored glasses when, I can know longer see reality. People who go overboard with pessimism or optimism can stay away from me. They make me grumpier. SEE, I think I am a realist.

I would chose to have been born. I had a great childhood except for being relatively poor. However, because of that very thing, my life was richer.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Despite what you might learn before you're born, there is still the prospect of being able to change things once you are born.

Sarah Ahiers said...

this book sounds crazy!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I can't imagine opting out but there are places in the world where a child's life is misery from the moment it's born. An example of that in the city nearest us just recently. This one does really make you think.

Jay Noel said...

Fascinating. I think if a person's destiny is to live in squalor or violence, they might not want that life. I can totally see that.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

This sounds like a very intriguing book!

dolorah said...

Wow, I wonder if my pessimistic attitude would allow me to be born, if given the choice. I truly think you have to experience things first hand, as opposed to just watching, to know how you might interpret it. Hmm. And then, a soul choosing not to be born would likely change the equation for all the others that are born.

Interesting book plot.

Liz A. said...

You're coming from the perspective that pre-born people don't have a chance to check things out before they decide to be born. But what if they do? What if that's already built into the system? (We just don't remember making the choice.)

Helena said...

I've come across this issue when I read about alleged cases of reincarnation, and I think the Tibetan Book of the Dead explores it too. At least in some cases people supposedly choose to come back and also pick their circumstances, parents, and so on, the main point being that they must learn something in each life.

Me, I'm tired of learning. I wanna get out of school and have a good long recess. Playtime would be so nice for a change.

Powdered Toast Man said...

That is an awesome plot for a book. That does make you think. What if you knew you would be a murderer? Would you still want to be born?