Someone contacted me to tell me they didn’t like much of what I had to say on this site. Too negative, most of the time – depressing, regardless of the subject matter, and obsessively repetitive in particular on the subject of religion, and disrespectful of people of faith regardless of whether they represented a completely harmless strain of beliefs or not. Then, most perplexing, my references to “the larger context” … what in the world does that mean, if not someone seriously confused about what their own life means to them? Thank you …
Well, the best I can do to address this critique is to say, first of all, mea culpa, in particular when it comes to being negative, depressing and repetitive regarding the subject matter I like to write about.
As I stated up front – in so many words – I’m writing this primarily for myself in the attempt to figure out what the world is all about beyond the twists and turns that life can throw your way, and beyond the typical humdrum of daily tasks that – while not necessarily meaningless in themselves – tend to obscure the larger existential questions, and so by extension what life might mean to everyone else.
I know that sounds rather presumptuous, but given that each of us is just one of many – and, when it comes down to it, not all that different from each other when it comes to what we bring to the table to take on the challenges of everyday life. That is to say, how different can we be in our overall approach to life, when as members of one species we are primarily driven by our shared biology and our DNA, and the differences between us are no more than varieties on a theme, i.e., they are differences of degree, and not of kind. Beyond that, they are the circumstances of our birth such as the place and social-economic environment that we grow up in that help shape us into the individuals that we are today. That this will leave each of us as distinct and unique individuals with needs and desires and expectations from life possibly as different between two people as day and night is undoubtedly true, yet at the same time the differences again are a matter of degree, and not of kind.
And if I can shed some light on the meaning and purpose of life for myself by sharing my thoughts about it, perhaps this might help someone else to start thinking about it, and add some definition or context or value to their outlook on life in a world that, in my humble opinion, is going down the wrong path in terms of pursuing the best possible future for our species. This is not say that I think the human race is going to hell in a handcart, although there are many among us who are doing their best to make this happen.
About being overly negative : Who can begin to enumerate the number and variety of social economic, health and environmental issues ranging from poverty to homelessness to starvation across the globe? Just this week the NY Times in an article titled The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem showed a tally of those living on $4 a day or less in selected developed countries, and it included 5.3 million people living in the US. I don’t necessarily want to pick on the US, but with the highest GDP in the world you wonder how this can even be the case when a country is deemed the wealthiest country in the world.
Beyond that there is the disturbing statistic that half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%, while the top 10% of adults hold 85%, and the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth. If you believe that these discrepancies are simply a function of some folks working harder and smarter than others, and reaping the benefit of it, then bless you, but you may have to learn something about how some people, organizations and certain governments operate in order to produce the incredible wealth that they have accumulated.
So against these things – and with the brazen assumption that there is a lot more going on in the world than meets the eye – I am introducing “the larger context”, which, I postulate, is the true intent behind the world, and the reason for it being there in the first place, including our very own presence in it, and something I hope we will be able to get a glimpse of once we look beyond the infantile gobbledygook of religious dogma of whatever flavor and the unsupported and hence gaseous notion that someone else is in charge of our world.
Why do I think there is ” a larger context” or “true intent” to life that we are currently not aware of? Only because we are the offspring of the greater cosmos, and as such contain its “DNA” within every particle of our being. As a result, what motivates it likely motivates us, either directly or indirectly, and then at a level where we would be capable of initiating some course of inspired action commensurate with the evolutionary achievement that we currently represent, although at the moment one might be hard pressed to think much of that, given the aforementioned sorrowful status of the world today, and that would include the questionable quality of leadership of some of the most powerful nations in the world at the moment..
But it is without question that our evolutionary path shows that the cosmos is on a mission, and to date we appear to be that mission; it is just that we don’t yet know what that mission is about. But it would be unreasonable to think that this is a multi-billion year mission of self-destruction, given the kludge that we are currently making of it, although I hate to think that we are doomed to end up that way because we haven’t evolved enough in the gray matter department to be able to take care of it.
And so my hope is that gaining even an inkling of understanding of the world’s greater mission might eventually enable us to abandon the current seemingly runaway path of self-destruction and allow us to rise to the occasion and take ownership of our destiny, to determine as best we can what our role should be in this fantastic cosmic adventure that we have only just woken up in. Evolution is providing us with some pointers here, but we need to be able to understand a lot more of what has moved us along its path before we can start making more sense of it.
In the end, much of this is about not being able to see the forest for the trees, or, for that matter, the universe for the stars, when, usually, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts; we’re just not seeing it at the moment, and my greatest fear is that we might never be able to too.
I know, all of this sounds astonishingly naive, if not desperately so, and maybe I should have thrown in little Kant or Hegel to provide a seemingly more erudite account of what I am trying to express here. (I must admit both Hegel and I share a fondness for the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, but I digress.) Or maybe injected something more currently in vogue, e.g., a dash of Derrida, but as he seems to have invented his own language there isn’t much I can relate to in his universe other than seeing the familiar shadow of Heidegger there, e.g. along such lines as “standing in the clearing of Being,” as “being open for the openness of Being”, und so weiter.
But feel free to contact me if you have more profound thoughts on these matters than what I am able to deliver here, provided your account, brand of metaphysics or eschatology does not include any aliens, angels or demons, or any other mythical beings that are in principal not able to be accounted for – at least not by observation, logic or reason – and neither should it include virgins expecting around Christmas, nor ancient tribal rituals requiring a human sacrifice or genital mutilation in order to connect to your concept of the Almighty, or celibacy for that matter. Indeed, how stupifyingly naive can one get!
And when it comes to religion – it is one thing to have beliefs about the origin and destination of the world as individuals – but thinking of such periods as the Dark Ages and the Inquisition I’m letting history speak for itself right up to today when it comes to deciding whether our species has benefited from organized religion (as claimed by Teflon Tony Blair) , either as theocracies, in cahoots with national governments over the centuries or as stand-alone paternalistic institutions such as ruled by a papal throne. The fact remains that religious beliefs cannot be substantiated – and while in principle they maybe nonsensical and hence harmless beliefs– it is precisely the unsubstantiated and irrational nature of these beliefs that allows them to be used as an excuse to control or otherwise abuse people, including killing them. When you think you have the creator and eternity on your side – all your actions are justified; you cannot be wrong! Until we shake off the influence of these nonsensical beliefs, our species will continue to be murdered for them.