I have to die, and, probably, suffer. If now, well, nothing to do. If not now, then I may as well have lunch, pointed the founder of Stoicism. After lunch, consumed only if it were excellent, or really necessary (thus excellent), I would have fun, make fun, give fun and offer love (a philosopher in New York, Massimo, pointed out this Epicureanism, not Stoicism. Well I claim they are related, see Note to appear soon…)
My integral of love, fun and games better be greater than my unavoidable integral of pain and suffering.
“In the Martian”, the stranded astronaut is turning as much as he can, into a joke, or turning to good humor. This is not just because he is a happy fellow. It’s because he is also an engineer, absolutely obsessed by “science the shit out of this“. Cheerfulness moves him into action, it’s the engine which gets its engineering spirits in gear. Cheerfulness as the engine of humanity is an everyday lesson. Action, by opposition to depression, requires to celebrate the animal spirits. Should we never celebrate animal spirits, what’s good being an animal? Moreover, never letting the animal spirits roar is contrary to the owner’s manual (as many writers and philosophers have pointed out, including Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Abelard, Sade, Nietzsche, Foucault…).
I remember once sneaking onto a mountain antelope. It was too busy having fun, it did not see me. Antelopes are not supposed to have fun. Their lives are supposed to be all about sex, supremacy, fighting for females, flight, survival, grazing, climbing impossible cliffs. To my amazement that chamois had found a suitable snowfield, and would slip on it on its back, as if it were skiing. Then it would rush back up, and repeat. It looked delighted, It’s all the more amazing, because the area is prowled by wolves and lynxes (and I have even seen a wolf hunting a chamois; it missed because I intruded).
Thus fun is not restricted to primates and other advanced animals. All birds and mammals are more or less social, and many probably need to have fun, be it only to operate their brains properly.
I read critics who were mystified by the stranded astronaut’s cheerfulness. How could it be? He is stuck on Mars! His food is going to run out! What about his oxygen?
Well critics ought not have been mystified by the good humor of the astronaut: good humor was the key to his survival. (Or actually to anyone’s survival: a mass injection of good humor in the Middle East would do wonders!)
For the stranded astronaut, it was either a cheerful disposition, or depression, thus death. But not just that: the astronaut is not really alone. He is in a dialogue with posterity, even before he re-establishes contact with NASA. Indeed, he records everything.
That makes the fictional, yet stranded, astronaut just as the best thinkers ever were in the history of humanity. He is happy, because he is not working for himself, but for the ultimate patron, humanity itself. No wonder he is cheerful: by working for the greatest moral “person”, the greatest moral entity, out there. So doing, one gets on our side the only god the existence of whom we can demonstrate. Humanity, or, at least, the Holy, Loving and Cheerful spirit it certainly has to exhibit for nurturing others, and, necessarily, children.