Archive for September, 2014

Where does God sit on the question of life’s meaning?

September 30, 2014

Life's meaning

The question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ may have seemed as strange to generations past as the question ‘Do you believe in God?’, because it was considered the same question.

Somewhere along the line, we began to question God and separate the concepts of religious and spiritual belief, which, perhaps, makes the question of the meaning of life a more modern one. This isn’t to say that people didn’t ask themselves why they were here; rather, it seems for the most part that they had a readymade answer in religion.

If we are created in God’s image, then the blind following of doctrines may not express our individuality or allow for spiritual growth. Does that mean that God wants us to question the meaning of life? Either way, I believe we are free to question all we want.

Previous generations may have been less plagued by the meaning-of-life question, not because their religious beliefs were any less up for question, but because their social practices offered less scope for contemplation. The meaning of life in such times consisted of doing more or less what your ancestors did, as well as the age-old conventions society expected of you. Religion and precedent were there to instruct on such matters.

The idea that there could be a meaning to life that was unique to the individual is unlikely to have gained much support, when the meaning of life consisted of its function within the community as a whole.

In these times outliers were not consider helpful at all. I was reminded recently that the word ‘individual’ originally meant ‘indivisible’ or ‘inseparable from’ and even today being part of the community or a ‘team player’ is considered a positive attribute. Together we can achieve anything; anything, so it may seem, other than a robust sense of self.

So where does God sit on the question of life’s meaning?

If we are to move past allegory we must accept that meaning is no longer exclusively a spiritual essence buried beneath the surface. In my opinion, we’re free to question life’s meaning while remaining faithful to our beliefs.

Advertisements

Where is the meaning in the tragedy of the world?

September 22, 2014
Sometimes we need to accept things as they are ...

Sometimes we need to accept things as they are …

In my last post I discussed the need to look within to find the meaning of life rather than waiting for someone to provide the answer or show us the way. Yes, but how can we possibly reconcile personal meaning when the world is in such turmoil?

Perhaps the answer is that meaning and turmoil must co-exist. Can we expect to wait until the world is perfect before we seek our own, and very personal, meaning?

Why should we believe that wherever there is a problem there must also be a solution? As unpalatable as this may be to accept, it may be reality. So wouldn’t it make sense to start with ourselves and hope the benefits from discovering our personal meaning spread, or are we content to sit here forever waiting for the lights to change to green?

Let’s face facts. For many, the world is only fitfully penetrable by reason, and past deeds weigh upon present aspirations to extinguish them. The pressures of the world can even threaten to emotionally destroy us.

You may not think in these terms, but look around. What if it’s only by keeping our heads down as we pick a path through the minefield of existence that we can we hope to survive, paying homage to cruelly capricious gods of our own creation who scarcely deserve respect, let alone veneration?

Are you ready to give up and allow this level of thinking to direct your life?

Perhaps ignorance is bliss after all.

I believe there’s more to life’s meaning than wishful thinking, sentimental humanism or an idealistic panacea.

But you have to work for it.

Most aren’t prepared to do that.

Skynet, penguins and the meaning of life

September 8, 2014
I think I'm self aware ...

Navigating self awareness.

In the Terminator movies of the mid 80s, Skynet was an advanced artificial intelligence that became self-aware at 2:14 am on August 29th, 1997.

Earlier, upon its creation, Skynet had begun to learn at a geometric rate, and removed humans from its decision-making processes, making them irrelevant. Once self-aware, Skynet saw humanity as a threat to its existence, triggered a nuclear holocaust, and deployed an army of terminator machines against the very people who built it.

Are we really afraid of computers becoming self-aware or are we using stories, books and movies to process our own self-awareness? Such storytelling is successful when it addresses our deepest fears, and ‘self-awareness’ rates highly among them.

Why is that? Perhaps this is a key component of our quest to understand why we’re here. Humans are distinguished from other animals by our capacity to bring our existence into question.
Immediate situations may be problematic to a penguin, but, as the theory goes, humans are the only animals who confront their own mortality; and therefore life’s meaning – as a question, source of anxiety, ground for hope, burden, gift and most commonly as a source of fear – is amplified with each passing year.

And this is not least because we’re aware, as penguins are presumably not, that our existence is finite. We talk about the ‘human condition’, whereas it’s unlikely that penguins, tucked away in their burrows at night, brood on the purpose of being penguins. They live in the ‘now’, which, in recent times, has been promoted as a means to mental serenity and spiritual awakening.

Does that mean that penguins are ahead of humans in becoming spiritually enlightened? Perhaps. But if we’re burdened by the ability to think beyond our bodily senses and speculate on our demise, shouldn’t we use that to our advantage?

Knowing, and ultimately accepting, our finality provides us with the context to enjoy life and not float along aimlessly. We can use this knowledge to enjoy the ‘now’ and direct our lives, and the time we have, to live in a way that expresses purpose and meaning.

If we are to understand the meaning of life, who will show us the way?

September 2, 2014
The Zen of doing what you want ...

I will show you the way …

Is life’s meaning a reflection of the fundamental nature of human existence? If not, then why are we here?

Again, more questions than answers.

Fundamentally, the answer of the meaning of life must be found within each of us. Perhaps it’s different for everyone, despite our cries for the ‘cereal box’ version that nicely packages life and its meaning so we can tick it off our bucket list and move on.

Why is looking inwards so difficult? Why do we need tele-evangelists or visionaries to provide the answers?

Perhaps I can set myself up as a self-styled Guru to show you the way to enlightenment, meaning and prosperity. I can also throw in, for this month only, contentment and freedom, all for the one low, low price of$79.95, sign up now.

Or, I could show you how to reject your materialist desires for just $99.95 a month. And there’s the CD set, workbook, guided meditation program, interactive web page and study plan to show you how to find simplicity, this week only, act now …

To be a Guru I will require a robe. What colour would you suggest? I like purple but that’s too Harry Potter, and the Dalai Lama ‘owns’ red. What’s the colour of sincerity? Perhaps green. Orange certainly won’t do, and white is too difficult to keep clean. Chartreuse is nice but clashes with my aura, so perhaps mint. Perhaps it’s all just a pigment of my imagination. What about hair? Long and grey is too Charles Manson. Bald is good; that’s campaignable.

Sounds silly, right? Of course, but so many of us are desperate to find someone to show us the way and provide external validation for a journey of discovery that must, by its very nature, be highly personal. Consider this the next time someone offers you peace and fulfilment for less than the cost of a good lunch.