Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Gustave Courbet and "The Origin of the World"
by Manfred F. Schieder

"Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is merely the negation of existence which is the content of a human consciousness when it attempts to abandon reason." (From Galt's Speech in "Atlas Shrugged", by Ayn Rand)
If for any focus at all, the world exists for us human beings. It is not we who exist for the world, as the enemies of mankind would have, for a world without humans lacks every sense of existence.

Prove the existence of the world if you, dear reader, don't exist! You can't. The request may sound almost as a platitude; we don't even think of it and the whole structure of culture, semi-culture or sheer lack of culture in any part of the world acts as if the requested litmus test wouldn't even exist. Yet it exists, and very much so, as it clearly states and determines that the whole world begins with the start of each separate INDIVIDUAL person.

Perhaps others before him thought about it and no record remains, and perhaps he himself never became fully aware of all its implications, but French painter Gustave Courbet (1819 - 1877) touched the very point of it when he presented to the world his painting "The Origin of the World" in 1866, showing the torso of a naked woman lying in bed and clearly depicting as main spot her genitalia, the very place where the world begins for each and every one of us living human beings. For before, while we were still cuddling in the womb, we hadn't the slightest notion of what we would face. In spite of what nowadays so-called "neuroscientists" vainly try to demonstrate, our mind is born blank and the noises we might have darkly and dimly perceived under our mother's heart were senseless data out of which our ignorant mind couldn't make any sense.

The origin of the world starts, thus, at the sexual opening of a female. It is probably due to this that religions, a product of some male's feverish fantasies imposed on the rest of humanity by hook or by crook, despise women so fully and totally, because it clearly proves that the origin of the world involves for all of us a female and not a male (in spite of the male's contribution). Courbet, whose works inspired Whistler, Cezanne and Hopper, had the courage to point out this fact.

Just think of it: as long as you don't exist the world, i.e. the whole universe, lacks existence and will cease to exist for you again at the very moment you die. You won't accept this fact? Well, let me present it in a slightly different way: I invite you to prove the existence of existence while you DON'T exist. Of course, there will be no way for you to do so. And stop pointing at other people as if they could prove the world's existence, for they would be plunged into the same predicament if they were faced with the same request. Neither you nor anyone else can prove the existence of the world if you (or they, confronted with the same demand) didn't exist. Moreover, how can you even show the existence of these other people if you yourself don't exist? You can't know their existence, for something that doesn't exist not only can't prove anything but cannot even know of ANY EXISTENCE whatsoever. Everybody else is in the same situation. Anything not existing can neither know nor prove existence.

On top of it, this provides an additional proof for the non-existence of any kind of "god", however you may call such an imagined fantasy, for while YOU don't exist you can neither imagine a fantasy nor prove that such a fantasy has a real existence. And, once you exist, it is merely a whim of your mind. Only when you exist you can start looking and establishing proofs but, here again, you can only provide them for what exists as you can view, that is perceive it either directly or with the help of very sophisticated instruments. Hence, Ayn Rand's axiom "Existence exists" is fully true… as long as you yourself exist. Once you cease to exist, once you die, its own importance ceases to be for you.

While you cannot prove the reality of feverish or not so feverish fantasies, you do can prove, but merely as such, the real existence of drawings, paintings and writings depicting such fantasies (for example, some "god" or, for that matter, portrayals and descriptions of fantasy figures such as Batman, Donald Duck, etc.). All else related with such fantasies is mere make-up, protestations but not proofs of their real existence which, in the case of religions or such are, more often and more tragically than not, established through real threats against you and/or the application of real persecution, torture or death, such as the Inquisition with its burning of so-called "heretics", the killing furnaces of Baal, etc. But human brutality only proves the reality of human brutality and by no means the reality of what its purpose wants to establish.

Once you are dead, all of you will dissolve into its constituent elements. Thus, also your consciousness, which is a function of your brain (some will call it "spirit" and pretend to give it a "heavenly" meaning - whatever they may mean by that), will cease to exist (the world will go out) and neither you - for you have ceased to exist - nor anyone alive will be able to prove the alleged continued existence of your consciousness, since what has ceased to exist no longer exists. Only the works of a living consciousness (inventions, constructions, writings, etc.) remain but you yourself will no longer know of it. Further on, a non-existing being cannot prove anything. Only existing human beings can provide proofs and, at that, only of really existing things.

All this provides an extraordinary incentive to your existing life for, as Nathaniel Branden proved in his writing "Alienation" ("The Objectivist Newsletter", July to September 1965), the proper reply to A.E. Housman's poem :"And how am I to face the odds, of man's bedevilment and God's? I, a stranger and afraid, in a world I never made", is precisely: "Why didn't you?". Which is, in this one and only existence we will ever have, a stern call to all those who voluntarily surrender the possibility of building a useful existence, to dedicate themselves to study, work and the pacific, productive efforts that allow to seek and reach personal happiness.
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