Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts on life's meaning?

By Michael Kennedy

If someone was to get a chance to see our creator for a day, what would
be the question they would most likely ask? "What is the meaning of
life?". Unofficially regarded as the big question of life. Why are we
here? What is the purpose of life? What function does it serve? All
forms of the same query, the same desire, to seek meaning for our
existence, to seek the goal the eludes us. Biologically, we have a
reason to exist, to procreate.

In its rawest sense, life is a system, a
self replicating system that has no goal but is as mindlessly driven as
the rotation of the galaxy, the crashing of waves on the shore and the
falling of rain. Like the forest fire that takes a life of its own,
fire creating fire, life is the complex outcome of simple chemical
reactions. The simple idea that one organism will create another as a
function of its existence, is the reason we are here, and the reason
life will continue. In fact, it could be argued that virtually
everything we do, is done in order so we can procreate. So much effort
is exerted by people, in order to make themselves desirable to the
opposite sex.

People have children, despite the fact that it there is
no economic gain. Clothing and make up make us look appealing. Why do
we eat? To live, so as not to die. Why do we not want to die? It's a
natural instinct that necessary to allow an organism to procreate. So
we fear starvation, because we fear the death that comes with it. In
doing so, we can procreate. Why are we largely attracted to the
opposite sex? Again, an instinct designed to make the organism
procreate. A living organism exists and functions, to make another that
is the same. It's a simple idea that is the basis of anything that
could be considered life, however, despite our awareness of this fact,
we still ask, why? The biological reality to us, doesn't explain why,
only how. The reactions that burn down a forest explain how, but not
why. We are part of a fire, but why are we burning? Why did it start?
Who started it?

Some look to religion, and it does provide a very clear account of our
purpose, what we should do, where we should and eventually will go. It
tells us why the fire was started and who started it. Religion can be
seen as a means of filling the void, of providing that deep, internal
satisfaction of being part of something greater, part of something
bigger than ones self. It provides a sense of duty and an eternal,
otherworldly reward for servitude and goodness and an eternal,
otherworldly punishment for rebellion and sin. For these people, the
afterlife, being greater than anything that can be found during their
earthly existence also makes the earthly deeds greater in significance.
The goal a good Christian works for is bigger than anything humanity
can provide and bigger than any reward anyone can give. This outlook
alone is sufficient to completely change a persons view of life, to
change the way they approach day to day activities. One person can help
feed someone, and only see only ending hunger as the result. Another
person can help feed someone, and feel that they are carrying out a
divine mission by being a good Samaritan in the eyes of God. Two
people, exactly he same action, but two completely different outlooks.
The latter person, no doubt, feels a greater sense of satisfaction in
their act of charity. Not only a greater appreciation for the
significance of their act, but a greater sense of fulfilment with their
life. He feels that he is living his life for a divine purpose, that he
understands why he is here, and he knows what he needs to do.

Does religion offer an answer, or does it indicate our desire to give
our life meaning, to answer the question, what is the meaning of life?
Religion may or may not offer the answer, but it exposes the holes in
our life. By seeking the answer, we learn what the question really is.
If the widespread popularity of religion in an age where science
provides comprehensive knowledge of the universe tells us anything, it's
this, that our existence is unsatisfying.

For many, the meaning isn't given by religion, but by popular society.
With the every increasing importance of 'happiness' and material wealth
and success, living the high life is ever increasingly becoming the
purpose of life for many. Their life is fulfilled with satisfying the
gut and the groin. Simplistic pleasures, short term goals,
near-sightedness and narcissism are terms that could describe the ends
that many people seek today. Their life is bereft of meaning, the
emptiness is exploited because human need is exploitable. By being this
way, they make themselves exploitable and this is evident in the
consumer society, which almost by definition, is a society waiting to be
exploited. Life becomes buying the better piece of technology, the
larger car, the bigger house, a faster car. Go get a good looking woman
to hang on your arm as some sort of trophy or personal ornament.
Witness professional team sports players, the idols of today, who are by
no accident, the most narcissistic, shallow and self indulgent people
that one will see in the media.

This consumerism of the masses is feeding a smaller proportion of people
that desire to profit from it. This argument is well known and there is
no need to elaborate. Leftists, socialists and the like will have no
trouble pointing this out, along with many other disenfranchised members
of humanity, that have grown weary and become cynical of such
activities. However, acquisition of wealth is not the only motivating
factor for people. Power, survival and social goals can be just as
strong a motivating factor, if not stronger.

Those who claim that everything in the world is done for profits, that
money make the world go around ignore this. In fact, assuming the
profits move everyone blinds one to religious fundamentalism, tribal
warfare and many other aspects that mobilise many people into action and
struggle, even though they may not profit in the material sense. By
aligning oneself to a group of people, by taking up religion, you not
only find an identity, but offer yourself to the group. The profit
motive is strong our our society, only because other more important
motives are so weak. It is our decadence, our belief that we have no
further purpose to enhance and build ourselves, which leads to lesser
goals, such as material acquisition, corporate ladder climbing and
building a large financial portfolio coming to the fore.

Our profit driven society is a symptom of a weak society, one near death.

Patriotism, as demonstrated in the U.S. is not only popular and
financially profitable, but also a means by which a government can offer
meaning. By identifying with the government, sympathising with military
forces fighting a so called war on terrorism, and feeling that they took
part in the process they feel a sense of fulfilment, by achieving a
goal. Consumerism, popular society, religion and many other movements
are out there to offer answers to people, and when the people are devoid
of meaning, it makes the exploitation ever so much easier.

Whatever a person's thoughts are as to his purpose in life, it's one
that is both a discovery and a creation. People who dedicate their
lives to a task will see their purpose as one of carrying out that task.
A soldier would dedicate his life to his country, a preacher would
dedicate it to God and a comedian to making people laugh. A suicide
bomber gives his life for his liberation and by doing this gives his
life meaning. Except for the suicide bomber, over time, peoples goals
might change, they may re-appraise their life, find new goals and
priorities. Their purpose and meaning of life is a transitory one, and
for most people that is that case. Study, raise a family, leave a mark
on the earth. Someone's outlook on life will change with the change in
the seasons of life. The task of raising children is every increasingly
been make to seem a lesser and lesser task, and an ever increasing
burden. The spirituality and significance of childrearing has been
attacked and degraded, and with this, the sense of fulfilment and
meaning has been degraded. Tribalism has been attacked and degraded, and
with this, the sense of kinship and place in this world has degraded.
With the sense of kinship degraded, the need to create new members of
society is diminished as well. Without these aspects, the opportunities
to find meaning and kinship are limited and people feel empty and
alienated. Without kinship, the group is open to exploitation, is made
weak and can be moulded. Therefore, we need to view the trend against
motherhood with suspicion and look to whether there are ulterior motives.

These human needs exist within us, they are not manufactured nor dreamt
up and created by the minds of men and women. They are discovered, not
taught. Biology does not give a spiritual basis, religion does. Both
serve a purpose to humanity, yet neither is complete. We are driven by
biology, by instinct, but in humans, particularly Europeans, these can
appear weak, to the point where people en-mass rail against their
instincts towards their own destruction. Furthermore, instinct can
easily be overridden by indoctrination and thought control, as such
systems such as Communism or its younger cousin, Political Correctness
require. With the overriding of instinct, people can be given a
completely artificial purpose that does not benefit them nor benefit the
community. People can be given artificial instincts in which end up
destroying themselves, and to such an extent where people are not only
aware of their self destruction, but even consider it a virtue, part of
necessary progress, as evidenced in the Western world.

Looking back, we can see that biological instinct and natural law exist
to aid our survival. Many of our impulses are designed to ensure that
happens in obvious ways, such as seeking a mating partner, and in less
obvious ways, by a desire to help the community, as a strong community
aids our chances of survival. Religion is a system that provides meaning
and purpose to these desires. The laws laid down in the bible regarding
sexual behaviour are designed to make any form of sexual activity that
does not lead to conception a sin. For a biblical community, especially
a small one, such behaviour can be harmful, where child mortality is
high and violent competition prevalent. In this instance, biology lays
down the law, religion re-invents it with meaning.

So far, three sources of meaning have been discussed, the first is the
innate biological drive, the second is indoctrination by religion and
society, and the third is the personally created meaning, such as a
profession or hobby. With so many drives and priorities, no wonder we
can't find the one true purpose! Except for religion, none of these
purposes are universal anyway, and they don't answer the question, why
am I here? We can exist, for no apparent reason, and then find or make
some sort of reason during the course of our lives. But still, its
personal, doesn't explain humankind, and its different for each person.
The fact is, unless there is a God that we are eventually going to
meet, we'll never know. The only thing that is known, is that a
combination of natural forces, evolution and selection pressures gave
rise to a species that, because of selection pressure, grew in
intelligence, and until now, kept growing. We are a product of the
universe, the outcome of millions of years of evolution. We adapted and
used intelligence to survive, the best kept on going and got better
until we became not only the dominant species on the earth, but its
masters, able to control it at will.

Nature, the dominant force in our lives until civilisation moulded us
into what were are now, a species able to create a civilisation that is
so dominant in its life. That civilisation, not nature becomes the
primary moulding force. We have taken natures guiding hand, natures
powers of creation over us away from her and made ourselves the
custodians of our species. We are literally domesticating ourselves to
be suited to an environment we created! That environment we create is
then a result of our self domestication.

Evolution for humans has stopped. There is no more natural selection.
Disease and weakness is less and less a force that culls the unfit. Our
ability to provide for ourselves limits our numbers, not nature. At
least in the Western world, such as in Australia, artificial
limitations, such as seemingly arbitrarily high house prices, or the
economy, have a greater impact on the size of families, than natural
carrying capacity.

Our ability to create a strong society decides which group of humans
survive, not nature. No longer is our genetic make-up changing and
being selected, but our ideas are. The best ideas will decide who
survives and doesn't, not the genes, though our genetic make-up does
influence our ability to create ideas. More importantly poor ideas,
such as mass immigration and assimilation have the ability to destroy
types of people. Memes can destroy genes. An idea can find success,
yet be detrimental to those who hold it, such as Liberalism, an idea
which dooms itself to existence by its own actions and takes those who
don't abandon it with it.

We are still somewhat the product of our genes, but also our ideas. We
hold the destiny of both. Originally, procreation was mentioned as the
reason for our existence, but we've inherited everything else that goes
with it. Our purpose, our meaning in life, is to do what nature did.
To be custodians of ourselves and the society that supports us, to keep
the ever present urge for ourselves to advance alive and to keep
carrying out the advancement of ourselves to whatever goal is possible
and to protect ourselves from corruption and de-evolution.

Like a Christian Samaritan who may take in the homeless, and felt that
they was doing this for a purpose bigger than themselves, our existence
and contribution to society can be seen as more than just survival, but
as a means to advance us physically and intellectually. We can see our
simple tasks as being part of something greater. We can view our nation,
not just an a state vehicle that just 'exists', but as a creation, a
work in progress, an entity that can be whatever we want it to be.

It may seem rather ambitious to talk about the meaning of life, and to
offer an answer, but the question isn't really all that difficult. We
know the laws of the universe, the laws of nature which govern our lives
and dictate what is possible and what is not and prescribe for us with
almost perfect reliability, the outcomes of our actions. We know what
nature has created and we know the nature of creation. Why this all
exists we don't know, but that may not matter, as its a philosophical
question of little practical importance, because we also possess an
awareness of the nature of life, with its joys and misery.