One day last week, while running a number of errands on a day away from the office - the state of PA neglected to send us a renewal form for my wife's driver's license, and, on top of that, her mobile phone was pilfered - I noticed a bumper sticker new to me, printed in that semi-florid script which usually distinguishes vacuous new-agey pseudo-profundities. The text, which I have not been able to locate on the internet, read, in what is at least a passable paraphrase, "The blessing of life lies in the consciousness of the blessing."
My thoughts immediately alighted upon memories of downs syndrome folks I have known, with the realization that it was doubtful, for all of the innocent joy they often exhibited, that they were exactly conscious of how blessed it was for them to be alive. Their awareness was undifferentiated, pre-reflective, and assuredly bereft of the recursion of the bumper sticker wisdom. Hence, the bumper sticker certainly seemed to me to be designating them as untermeschen, as un-blessed life.
Then, however, I reflected upon the natural realm, and an idle thought I once had as I contemplated a cat I once owned. An exotic animal, a cross between a domestic cat and a wild Asian cat, it was spotted like a miniature leopard, and exquisite to behold - though tempermentally, it was a minion of the antichrist. I did say that it was a cat I once owned; she now resides with someone far more tolerant of the wiles of darkness. My idle thought, not profound in itself - although it can be a gateway to profundity, if pursued, I suppose - was that the cat, like so many other creatures, was beautiful, albeit entirely incapable of reflecting upon its own beauty. Its beauty, as a quality, existed as a testimony, by analogy, of the infinite beauty of the Creator, and as an object of admiration and reflection for persons such as myself. For the cat, it was nothing more than the inadvertent byproduct of physical traits with survival value.
Suppose, therefore, that our bumper sticker can be reformulated thusly: The blessing of beauty lies in the consciousness of the blessing. A logical implication of this reformulated statement will be that the blessing of the cat's beauty is not really a blessing at all, merely a misleading metaphor, at least insofar as the cat is concerned. Relative to the human perspective, of course, the beauty becomes a blessing, insofar as it affords aesthetic pleasure; this, however, is merely to instrumentalize that quality, to impute value only to the extent that human purposes are served. Such a perspective leads, and has led, to no end of mischief in our relations with the natural world
The vacuous gnosticism-lite of the bumper sticker leads logically to the diminution of all that is not-consciousness, and hence, to the devaluation of all that is, in the continuum of being, of diminished sentience. This piety, seemingly so exalted, is in reality a form of ontological violence and degradation, from which we escape only if we restate it thusly: the blessing of life is the fact of its existence. Period.