Thursday, June 07, 2007

The [Real?] Meaning of Life

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No, the question isn’t a profound one, by a long shot.

It’s a simple existential query that each person should address, but most do not.

For instance, is life meant to be enjoyed haphazardly, in the sense that one should merely indulge their senses hedonistically, as golfers, outdoor grillers, party-goers, cruise-ship mavens, and other pleasure seekers do?

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Or is life meant to be contemplative, in the Socratic sense, where moderation in all things physical is seconded by intense rumination on the purpose of being?

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Lecomte du Nouy, in his book Human Destiny, posits an evolutionary tendency for mankind, which has the purpose of reaching an Omega point.

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We’re not sure what happens when and if the Omega point is reached, but the idea is enticing in an amorphous Thomistic way.

Aquinas thought we – mankind – were supposed to join the Godhead, as John of the New Testament gospel indicated also.

Joining, or rejoining some say, the Godhead is what life is all about many theologians tell us. But we don’t find comfort, philosophically, in the vagueness of the outcome. What happens after we join (or rejoin) the Godhead?

Do we just partake of the Buddhistic or Hindu concept Nirvana? That doesn’t strike us as satisfactory in some ways, but it intrigues if one sees passive bliss as a better “existence” than the one we now struggle with.

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Is life meant to be enjoyed, emotionally, sexually, physically, sensuously, in the here and now, every moment, of every day? Most persons live life exactly that way.

But what is the purpose of that, since such activity always is deterred or halted by the aging process that men and women are cursed with?

And what happens to the transcendental elements of the sensual life, such as hearing a Beethoven symphony or viewing a Michelangelo sculpture or tasting a very fine Chablis, when one passes on?

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Do the memories of those delights linger, and are they able to be recalled in an afterlife?

Or do the pleasures cease when the body ceases to exist in this worldly milieu?

Do we cease altogether, even though Einstein told us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed – it just is?

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Scientists cogitate on the origins of the Universe, life, various species of flora and fauna, and lots of other things that are certainly transitory in that they will stop existing, for those who die or in and of themselves.

The aim of evolution is to perfect the organism that is struggling to be the fittest.

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But to what ultimate end? After an organism (man?) reaches perfection, what happens? What’s the point?

But let’s look at the final destination of evolutionary constructs: death.

Is it possible that the pinnacle of humanity – evidenced by Plato, Aristotle, K’ung Fu-tse (Confucius), Chaucer, Dante, Copernicus, Maimonides, Leonardo, Copernicus, Shakespeare, Newton, Chopin, Darwin, Einstein, et alia – is thwarted by death?

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That is, how does evolution, especially the kind that du Nouy and Teilhard advances, account for the stoppage of mental or spiritual progression when, in fact, the fittest of the mental giants die, and their thought processes with them?

Freud presented the idea that there is a death wish (Thanatos) inherent to the psyche of man.

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Does mankind really want to revert to an inert state, Sartre’s “nothingness”?

Certainly not. Men (and women) want to live forever, usually. Or, at least, as long as Methuselah.

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Personal evolution benefits civilization’s evolution. And if there were a purpose to being, that would be the sine qua non.

However, death obstructs evolution altogether, so the purpose of life, its meaning, is not evolution, not physical evolution anyway.

And a spiritual evolution, per du Nouy, is iffy, since it has to complete in a hereafter, and that milieu is not quite a reality, not even in the Platonic sense.

So what is the meaning of life? No one knows. Not even us.

Yet, it (the meaning of life) is grist for discussion, so we’ll continue to do so, here and elsewhere….

5 comments:

Kollarrow said...

We are born.

We reproduce.

We pay taxes.

We die.

Rich said...

Yup, excellent post and good comment made by kollarrow. The world at large (universe[s] or whatever/whoever) is "better than us" mere INDIVIDUALS. Right? You can be deaf, dumb and blind and know this....relying on belief or feelings or whatever...to make yourself feel better...more important.

EVERYTHING since/before you were born was GIVEN to you...WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION! Think about it! Still feel important as an species, let alone as AN INDIVIDUAL? If you do, call a doctor right away....ask for a ten dimensional brain scan.

Bruce Duensing said...

The meaning of life is reciprocally enfolded into the meaning of death, whose ultimate empirical realities are behind the same sensate veil as molecular life, electricity, the atmosphere, subatomic physical realities etc.
We either recognised the possiblity that these other realities or aspects of reality existed or as a consequence, would not attempted to find them to find them in the past. Some prefer self comforting rationalizations to challenges, some would prefer to rule the world and drive their and our car off a cliff whilst asleep at the wheel, some prefer to be nail rather than a hammer. We are the Wizard of OZ hidden behind the curtain, in a game of self deception that replaces fear of the unknown with the illusion of will.

RRRGroup said...

I'm not sure, Bruce, that we humans are the Wizard of Oz, but there surely is a wizard at work.

Now it's a matter of finding out just who that wizard (or Wizard) really is.

Rich said...

Why do people continue to make excuses for the world?

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE WAYS OF SUFFERING AND DEATH!

N O N E

It is sickening the crap we come up with to try and explain away ---- GIVE MEANING ---- TO WHAT SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN IN THE FIRST PLACE!