This Absurd Life
The following consists of a collection of smaller thoughts and ideas,
like a Cubist painting, shows different perspectives of the same concept.
Do you remember looking forward to birthdays? What happened to those
days? My friends now have birthdays and never mention it. They have an
obligatory lunch with the co-workers and may go out to dinner with
their spouse, but no party. No celebration. What happened?
When you were young, you looked forward to birthdays like you looked
forward to your future, for every day was an increase. You were
improving yourself and your life and each future day was fecund and
rich with potential. Oh, and you got presents. Can't forget the presents.
This optimism settled inside well past your prime, and you didn't
realize that the choices you were making began to limit future
possibilities until one day, you realize the future wasn't going to be
better than the past. And birthdays began to symbolize your
not-so-different and ultimate death. Oh, and the presents morphed from
cool toys to almost-attractive paper-weights. Just how much hot air do you
think blows around my office?
But even if you don't fear death, most of us aren't looking forward to
that door. Postponing death becomes reasonable, and that usually ends
in trying to be young. These bad backs makes us painfully away that we
really can't be young, but perhaps if we can just look young,
maybe death won't recognize us. So, we get ourselves a mini Cooper and
some hair-plugs and others call it a crisis.
At some point, we accept the door, but often by this time, we've
fallen and we can't get up to answer it. Acceptance, I think, may be a key,
but who is mature enough for that?
You remember our discussion on intelligence, right? In a way, it
seems strange that any species would invest so much in gray matter,
for it doesn't normally make a creature's survival any more likely for
the amount of energy required to build it. And yet, hominids grew
brains instead of claws, and it appears to have been
successful. Perhaps a bit too successful, and now bordering on viral.
But there is a downside to such cranial capacity. We think and act
based on perceived cause and effects. We think and create objects we
imagine. We think and assume meaning for ourselves. Just as we hit a
couple of rocks together to bring into existence a spear-point, "our"
existence must be due to some higher meaning or purpose. It seems so
logical… so rational.
But what is the meaning? Surely this meaning must be as univeral among
people as limbs and a heart. With a lack of evidence, we bound ourselves
together in groups to invent meaning… gods, country, religion,
society. But these are far from universal as every war by every
religion or country can attest.
It appears to be a cruel joke that we have the intelligence to hope for
a higher meaning or purpose to our intelligence, but not finding any
evidence. This is a contradiction that makes life absurd.
As Joseph Campbell once said:
"Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning."
This is the crux of existentialist thinking.
I sit here on my cushion and stare up at the faint glow of the Milky
Way and see the cold beauty of a universe that doesn't give a shit
about me. How should I respond? How would you respond?
One approach is depression and even suicide. But most of us haven't
evolved our brains to overcome our biology and go against our
survival instincts I'm not sure if I can agree with Albert Camus when he said that If life is veritably absurd, then it is even more absurd to counteract it. .
However, in my own soul, there is a twinkling of an answer, so I'm
putting down the dagger for a moment.
Another response that many of us choose is to go against rationality
and espouse blind faith in a higher plane to give us individual
The problem with such a response, as many philosophers illustrate, is
that it abandons reason, and that just seems like shirking my
integrity, and I can't cheapen myself Albert Camus calls such a Leap of Faith, "philosophical suicide." .
Faith, may be as great an answer as some people claim, but if you don't have
this faith, you just aren't going to get it.
But life's meaning can't come from science. For finding a meaning to life is
science ultimately end in meaningless abstractions, and stories full of
metaphors. Besides, no scientist claims such preposterousness. Reason and
rationality of philosophy is no help either, otherwise, you end up with
Platonian forms… essentially an abstract god. Or you do as Kant, and leave a wee
bit of room for God of your original desires. Distasteful answers.
But what if I accept the door of death as final and ignore the past as
gone and unimportant. How does the world look? The glow from the Milky
Way begins to illuminate another fact: I have no chains. Without
inherent meaning, I have no bounds.
In fact, I don't even have the bond to create my own personal meaning.
My life becomes fecund once again as we move beyond existentialist thinking.
Now the people of faith are screaming, but let's put down the pitchforks and
discuss this. I believe you are saying that without meaning or God, every one
may be free to do as they please. And if so, they will certainly choose
immorality and the world as we know it will be destroyed.
This is the classic conflict between the individual and the collective
(society), but as we've learned from Adam Smith's invisible hand , sometimes
the individual looking out for his own best interest can actually be the best
interest of society.
I've addressed the origins of morality , so let me explore morality without
any dictates from on high or any absolutes in this matter, and see where this
ship sails. However, we must assume a normal person who wants to personally live
a "good life".
Familial morality is often described as "within the home", however, defining family is like
defining pornography, "You know it when you see it." Before I purchased my wife and
kids, my family included close friends. We looked out for each other like siblings, and I
believe that many people outside the wistful traditional family still belong to families.
And this familial morality is straight-forward. There doesn't need to be any absolute
rules, for as I said before, "you see it in the faces" of your loved ones. So having no
absolute meaning, won't change things within our homes.
But what about in society? Don't we need the absolute dictates from on high to guide
our morality and our legislation? Well, no. Societies "rules" are defined by compromise.
We, as a group of people, define the rules that we are willing to live in and by. We bind
ourselves. It is a covenant between me and each of you… and those rules change as
our time changes.
So a lack of meaning to life and the lack of absolute morals that many think come with it,
doesn't go together.
It appears as if I need one more thought to personalize this meaninglessness.
Then again, if life is really absurd, maybe I need to be a Buddhist and just sit in it.
Perhaps you can finish this thought?
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