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….