On world peace and the meaning of life.

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?”)

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23 thoughts on “On world peace and the meaning of life.

  1. War is perfectly natural. We only do it on such a large and destructive scale because we have the technology. Otherwise we’d be throwing our poo at each other.

    Peace is boring; there’s no money to be made there and no one to exploit. Besides, you give a mouse a cookie and he’ll want some milk. If a president can’t provide the milk then the people get angry and he loses power, not something he wants. Modern society demands rich and poor people, which inherently breeds conflict. Not a pretty outlook on humanity, but it’s what I got.

    The meaning of life it so survive for as long as possible, like a virus. You are here to live and die (in Dixie), and you are supposed to enjoy it in any way you see fit-short of serial killing.

  2. I love this….
    “Knowing and not knowing are the same. The glass is neither half empty, nor half full.”

    I often wonder if we knew the meaning of life.. would we want to live it? And if we found out there was no meaning… would we want to live it?
    Maybe not knowing is best… and as you said… “what matters is that you drink what is within it.”

    Great post Rachel!

  3. I love this….
    “Knowing and not knowing are the same. The glass is neither half empty, nor half full.”

    I often wonder if we knew the meaning of life.. would we want to live it? And if we found out there was no meaning… would we want to live it?
    Maybe not knowing is best… and as you said… “what matters is that you drink what is within it.”

    Great post Rachel!

  4. Hmmm, I know you rate Mr Dawkins, but have you read ‘Conversations With God’ by Neale Donald Walsh? It’s not preachy or religious, but it is full of insight and it may help you ponder your way through some of those issues.

    Puss

  5. Humm. . .your question begs for clarity: Is there meaning and purpose to life or is there meaning and purpose to YOUR life? Beware those hasty generalizations! I gave you life but you must give it purpose.
    Love You!

    My 2 cents: There will be peace in the world only when the parties making war on each other want peace. For example, if the Palestians and the Israelies actually wanted peace, they would make it. Clearly they want power over one another rather than peace. Woozie has a good point, not that peace is boring, but war is profitable. (I must challenge the communist Woozie to a duel someday because I’m no virus, I am Mom.)

  6. The “peace is boring” bit was said from the viewpoint of ‘war profiteers’. Although the “if it bleeds it leads” journalistic mentality and the corresponding ratings/paper sales/website hits shows that peace really is considered boring by the masses.

  7. Gin; many sociologists would agree with you.

    Woozie: just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it should be accepted–or encouraged.

    dawn: you raise some interesting questions yourself. Thanks.

    puss: I tried reading “Convos with God” but I honestly couldn’t get past the first chapter: I felt the author was making a lot of unfounded assumptions…I cant remember what they were, because it was a while ago. I felt annoyed with it. Though, maybe I’ll give it another go…

    Em; the question I am addressing is the philosophic issue of meaningness to Life/Existence itself. A hasty generalization it may be, but it is one that entire genres of Philosophy make. Also, one must differentiate between “meaning” and “purpose”: purpose conotates a goal for individual lives, whereas meaning conotates something more metaphysical. I’m dealing here with the metaphysical meaning of being.

    woozie: War defintely is not boring, but there is a difference between being unable to tear one’s eyes away from a train wreck and being entertained by it. One is horror, the other is pleasure. Entertainment is pleasurable. I would hope that a majority of people feel more horror by the spectacle of war, than pleasure from it. So, I disagree with your premise that people are entertained by war: they are horrified by it, but are unable to turn away, and the media profits from that horror. and the capitalists–are behaving NATURALLY. (Which does not have to be tolerated, or encouraged, as I previously stated.)

  8. Excellent response Rachel! But does your young, romantic inner philosopher beg the question?

    Perhaps we could get Ms.Interrupted to weigh in, we might could benefit from her inner Wittgenstein.

  9. Hi, my name is Timothy Tang and I have just completed the book, “Real answers to The Meaning of Life and finding Happiness”.

    Many people feel that the interpretation to The Meaning of Life question is too subjective to have any definite objective answer but I have managed to formulate a real and objective answer to the ultimate question of human existence.

    I have made a blog that introduces the book. Do check it out.

    http://ultimatemeaningoflife.blogspot.com

  10. Personally, I’ve always wondered why the focus on half and half.

    It might go:

    Do you see the glass as seven eighths empty or one eighth full?

    Or, more optimistically, seven eighths full or one eighth empty?

    We should definitely get a choice about the glasses. That right there would be a plus in terms of the meaningfulness of at least that one metaphor and a net gain for us all.

    I say we go for the low hanging fruit first.

  11. i can’t help it… i’m not trying (at all to preach… i know that would be futile here, and am not a preachy type anyway)… but…

    i just can’t fathom how so many people who love and appreciate and create so much beauty and think so deeply about such unfathomable thing can possibly believe this (the universe, life, people, love, relationships, humanity… all of THIS) was just some cosmic accident that just came into being and has no/serves no purpose.

    THAT to me is insanity.

  12. to clarify…
    agnosticism, i understand.
    atheism bewilders me.

    (and because i can’t stand to see my own horrible grammar mistakes… up there, i mean to say “think so deeply about such unfathomable things…”)

    [and i hope i don’t come across as harsh in either of these comments. i don’t mean to. just confounded]

  13. Em: might be a good three-way email convo for us! I’m open…want me to toss the ball to Ms. Interrupted?

    Paul: you raise an interesting outlook, but I must ask, what is this “low hanging fruit” to which you are referring?

    Woozie: you make a very bold, assertive statement, that in my mind, requires rhetorical and evidentiary support. It seems you have a pessimisstic perspective of humanity, and that is one perspective I cannot share. So long as humanity remains biologically and socially capable of change (and evidence of this ability abounds!) I must have hope that War and Violence (though perhaps never conflict or aggression) could someday be eradicated. If ever that hope yet remains, then as socially-conscious humans beings, we should strive to acheive that change, rather than accept the negative as inevitable.

    Martha: you have nothing to worry about or apologize for. Nothing you said was preachy or offensive. Only dishonesty and disrespect offends me. 🙂 That said, I will say this: I find the belief in an almighty intelligent creator just as bewildering as you find atheism. But that’s a discussion for another post, another day–not something I particulary want to get into here. But that’s neither here nor there. The question I am wondering (which I failed to make clear) is why must our existence have a reason? Why can’t it be enough to know that we exist, and let all else be?

  14. I got your reason. And the answer is it doesn’t need a reason unless you need it to have a reason. Some people need more direction then others and they need to know their actions have impact not just in todays world but life in the after life. SO, it means that if you need more direction, you seek it. If you need less direction, you justify the absence of forced direction.

  15. I got your reason. And the answer is it doesn’t need a reason unless you need it to have a reason. Some people need more direction then others and they need to know their actions have impact not just in todays world but life in the after life. SO, it means that if you need more direction, you seek it. If you need less direction, you justify the absence of forced direction.

  16. We are, by our nature, meaning-makers. Idon’t know that things intrinsically have meaning, but I think we are driven to try to explain anyway. But, really, we all have peace and war in us. Sticking with peace takes a lot of effort.

  17. WHAT ANSWER?

    All things must live, and all must die,
    It is the way of earth,
    Law to which matter must comply
    As death must follow birth.

    But it lies in the interim
    Becomes man´s mettle known:
    When heinous deeds are done to him
    What answer has he shown?

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