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Abraham

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Well, as long as we as non-artists are posting bad fiction to make a philosophical point, I might as well post mine.

For those unaware, see this thread for the source of the debate: 

 

Here's the story I sent Eiuol before he posted his, titled "Abraham":

 

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He was lost in the desert.

How it happened was irrelevant at this point, except that it wasn't his fault. All that mattered now was the sand, the wind, the dry rocks, and the empty horizon in every direction. And the thirst.

Lips chapped and cracking, throat parched, every step heavy and dizzying, the last of the water he carried was long gone. There was no natural oasis. And no human necessity would have been left behind by others – none would be spared in this inhospitable land.

He marched forward in the midst of nothing. Visions of his life swam in his mind: a beautiful girl in a field of flowers, with a carefree smile – his wife and his greatest love, whom he had married eagerly after a short, passionate engagement. He saw his home, a house he had designed and built by hand – a place that he loved, a place that was truly his own. And inside was his brilliant young son, whose future was full of promise, and who meant the world to him.

He arrived at a tent on the verge of death. He didn't care who owned it. In such a desperate emergency his only thought was to rush inside and seize upon anything to drink. If he ever found who it belonged to, he would pay any restitution the owner of the tent demanded; he would owe him his life.

He reached the tent and threw back the flap. Inside was a man.

“Water. Please. I will do anything you ask.” he begged the startled man.

He saw that the man's face was old and hard, and that he was thin, small, and his skin was tight, with the look of someone who was accustomed to little water. Someone who knew all too well the insidious subtleties necessary for the long-term survival of a human in the desert.

“How did you get here?”, the man asked him, astonished. “I can tell you have been walking in the desert for some time without water, and that you are about to die.”

“There was an accident. Events out of my control landed me in this place. Please share your water with me, I see you have two bottles. Let me have just one.”

The winds shook the tent threateningly and the ubiquitous sand billowed in through the open flap.

“Believe me, I wish I could help you. I don't want to see you die. But I am as helpless as you are. I've seen many die in this unforgiving place due to unfortunate events that were beyond their control. Such circumstances are not unusual out here in the desert.” The man looked at him respectfully, but firmly, “To survive here one must expect the unfortunate, one must expect failure, one must expect disaster – because it's surely coming.”

“You are going to deny me this water and let me die – because you might need it in a possible emergency of your own?” he asked with incredulous fatigue.

“I will not give you the water. And that is absolutely final. There is nothing whatsoever you can say to change my mind.”

The two men stood looking at each other. In his last moments he felt a desperate strength. His body screamed with thirst. His heart raged to get the water - for his love, for his home, and for all of the value and promise of the world, for his very life.

“Are you thinking you could force it from me? You probably could. I am old and frail, and you are young and strong and desperate. But I will fight you for it.

“So come on, attack me if you want, or leave here empty handed. I think in your desperate situation – which I could barely imagine if it weren't happening here now – there is no right answer for everyone. There's no rule for this situation. I think whatever a man chooses in this case is right – for him, personally. If I would do one thing, you may do the opposite. Nobody can truly say what's right or wrong in such an emergency.

“What are you waiting for? What are you, principled? Do you want to live – but only live a life of principle? Rights, justice, morality – they are all impossible when everything you are, when everything you value, when your life itself is at stake. How could you choose to cause your death? How is that just? How is that moral? How is that right? In a civilized society, where water is abundant, where you earn a living and pay your way justly for what you need to survive – where if someone refuses to trade with you, then you can just as well take your business elsewhere - there perhaps you can justify the idea that men's interests do not conflict, that it makes sense to say there are such things as rights, as justice, as standing on moral principle – there, in a free society, where your long-term life and flourishing are possible. But not here! Not in the desert. Not in this desperate emergency. Your life and flourishing are not possible here. There is no long-term. No principle can apply here except the will to live.

“So fight me now. Do you have any will to live? I'm not looking forward to this, but the logic is unavoidable. If you value your life you must fight. The context has abrogated any other moral consideration except your survival. Fight me, kill me, steal from me – if you have the might to do it. It will save your life. You are in the right. You are justified.”

The winds had calmed, and an unexpected thunder quietly rumbled in the distance. It seemed out of place in the desert.

“I think you have spent too much time in the desert, my friend. The nature of reality doesn't change depending on the situation. Just because we are in the desert and this is an emergency doesn't mean reality itself is any different, only that the situation is abnormal. Moral principles that are ultimately grounded in the nature of reality do not change. They are not abrogated by the situation – they are applied to the situation.

“You asked if I have any will to live. My will to live is a force of nature. Life is a fundamental characteristic of man's nature, and thus of my identity. It's not something I chose, it's something I was born with, as a given. To contradict my will to live is to contradict myself. That means as a basic rule – as a fundamental normative moral principle – I support my will to live with all my heart, always, and I never go against it. And I cannot, if I am consistent, will my life to end – but rather I can only will it to go and on, that is, infinitely. So I am always looking to the long-term, to the infinitely long, to the eternal.

“How can one live infinitely long-term? Every living thing has a body, and those bodies are susceptible to breaking down and dying, as mine is doing right now before your eyes. This process can only be prevented, repaired, and reversed through the scientific discoveries and technological innovations made by the minds of men. The invention of immortality and resurrection is the only long-term solution to staying alive.

“So, what should I do now in order to live long-term? Should I act on principle or not? Should I respect the rights of others and the integrity of their property, or should I violate them? Should I support their productive work or sabotage it? Should I kill you and steal your water, or not? You are a man, and my life, in the long-term, depends on the productive work of men, and by extension, on their rights to their life and to their property. Acting on principle is the best possible way to support and pursue my life in the long-term – even if it kills me in the short term.”

He turned around, opened the flap of the tent, walked back out into the sands of the desert, and collapsed.

 

 

Edited by epistemologue
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