Lee of Tar Heel Ramblings (http://tarheelramblings.blogspot.com/) recently posted for World Peace. I’ve been in a philosophical,
introspective mood recently, so his comments have percolated in my mind. Questions and possible answers that just lead to more questions tumbling in my thoughts–that half-obsessive, lazy, roundabout way I have of thinking about things. To paraphrase, Lee states that
“the U.S. should use its vast resources to improve the quality of life of peoples around the globe, rather than wage war upon them. Perhaps then value of life would be realized and people would put aside ideologies and work instead towards living in peace.”
On that matter, the following comment (which I posted on Lee’s blog) is what all my thinking has come to:
Would that it were so easy! But its not, is it? Why is it hard? I hesitate to chalk it up to “human nature”–its too easy an answer: a dismissal of the problem instead of a consideration–but I do think there is something in human biology that contributes to (not necessasrily causes!) intergroup conflict. But just because a thing is “genetic” does not mean that it is inevitable: under the right circumstances, biologic phenomena can be suppressed. Regardless of all that, the primary causes of war and violence and oppression are social, not biological, and are just as capable of being rectified. The question is, are those with the power and the ability to do any rectification desirous of doing so? Apparently not. Why should this be so? Can the common man and woman and child do anything to influence our leaders? Perhaps only en masse–and when has an entire population (or a significant majority) ever agreed on anything other than War?
There’s an endless array of questions that follow. The idea of world peace and the problem of violence are not simple issues with simple solutions. There are a multitude of variables involved, each with their own attendant causes and consequences, and none of which that can be “fixed” with band-aids.
One of the “big questions” so important to philosophy and theology, the one that everyone ponders at some point in his or her life, is also one that now annoys me most. That question I call “The 42 Problem” (from D. Adams’s “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) which is: “What is the meaning of Life? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my life?”
I have often pondered this question, of course, how could I not? Our culture is steeped in a mythology of purpose–so much of our daily interactions and speech consistently refer to this nebulous concept. Whole scholary tomes and fantastical fictions are devoted to this question. But for all those thousands of years of questioning, pondering, postulating, conjecturing, and pontificating, there as been few, if any, satisfactory declarations of “Eureka!” Many current thinkers now state that the meaning of life is whatever you make of it. Typically post-modern in its utter meaninglessness!
As for myself, my countless hours of questioning have led me to conclude that this question is as meaningless as that antique koan of the glass being half-empty or half-full. My answer to that is that it doesn’t matter: the amount of liquid in the glass is the same, either way–it is pointless to assert anything about the fullness or emptiness of the glass–the point is only to drink from it.
Likewise, trying to find the meaning of life is pointless. Life is the liquid being contained in a glass–is that glass Meaningful or Purposeful? It doesn’t matter–what matters is that you drink what is within it. As for that drink, that elusive nectar, Life…
There is no evidence or reason that life must have any inherent “meaning”. Instead, life is simply an inevitable consequence of the structure of our universe. If any meaning does exists, it will be in the conundrum the Universe itself presents: the meaning (if any) of Existence itself, not just Life. Whether you chose to ascribe that Meaning to God(s), Self, or the Universe is up to you.
Myself, I believe such activity is pointless, for if there is no meaning, if the universe is but a chance confluence of events, then any pursuit and discovery of meaning is naught but illusion. And if indeed meaning exists and is inherent to the universe, then we are all already living it–and knowing it would not drastically change the quality of my life or my understanding of it. If there is no meaning my life continues as it is. If there is meaning, my life still would continue as it is.
Knowing and not knowing are the same.
The glass is neither half empty, nor half full.
(As a postscript, I must say that I suspect that the actual question to which 42 is the answer is: “How many times must I seek the meaning of life, the universe, and everything before I realize that there is no meaning?”)