My Views on the Darkness are Well Known

by Ben Marcus

First published in Harper’s in June 2009.

People are pursuing different strategies during the hardship, and yours would seem among the most severe. How long have you advocated the cave?

Advocate is the wrong word. If I occupy a life raft out on the ocean, and people are drowning, I don’t “advocate” the raft to them. I enjoy the raft and my relative security. If the people in the water choose to survive, they will swim to me and petition the raft, and of course I’ll give fair consideration to their request, weighing the relevant factors. In such a case, advocacy of the raft is hardly necessary, and the same is true for what you call the cave.

So you don’t need to promote what people cannot live without?

Right. But even if I hold a deep conviction about survival, particularly during the hardship, our species is too complex for me to assume that everyone wants or needs to survive. There will be people, to follow this life-raft example, who must stay in the water and perish, for reasons peculiar to them, and it’s not my business to probe their motives. Oceans require people to drown in them. That’s not just a line from a popular song. To me it’s beautiful that our survival strategies are wonderfully diverse and not all of us can succeed.

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