Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is the meaning of Life?

"In an uncertain world, here is certainty; in a world without foundations, here is a rock-solid foundation" - Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans

What is the meaning of life?  Ah, the age old question.  So many have asked the question, and so many have attempted to provide an answer.  This question must come up in the mind of man during his toilings on the planet Earth.  Of course it does.  We look up into the sky, across the wind swept horizon and ask: "Why?  Why am I here? What is the purpose in all this?  What is the ultimate end of life?" 

I wondered, what do the great minds of the world consider to be the meaning of life?  I did a quick Google search for quotes from the great minds of history regarding the meaning of life.  On a list from are quotes on the meaning of life ordered with the most "liked" quotes at the top.  I had to laugh as I scrolled through the quotes.  

The first and most "liked" quote is very revealing, regarding what the internet, and the intellectual prefer to believe about meaning:

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Albert Camus 

The second quote in the list is equally revealing:

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
Joseph Campbell 

These two "great thinkers" insist that you must not even ask what the meaning of life is.  Albert Camus seems to suggest happiness is the meaning of life.  For Joseph Campbell, you are the meaning!  You make the meaning.  I've heard that many times before.  That humans infuse their own meaning into any given situation.  Now why would that be the case?  It seems somewhat contradictory.  In addition, there is no rational there.  And that is something I simply cannot accept, that truth is simply my personal preference.  Sounds more like a selfish western view, very individualistic and conceited.  So the question remains, even when post-modernists shock us with the conclusion that "you shouldn't even ask."

Another writer that I've read, named Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn) said, "Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”  Given the debauched, erotic lifestyle of Henry Miller, the fact that his books are banned in many countries for their depravity might lead to the conclusion that Henry Miller himself may have a personal stake in a necessary lack of meaning.

Included on the first page of results for quotes on the meaning of life were three different quotes from Christopher Hitchens, a renowned atheist who died of complications from alcoholism at a relatively young age.  A quote is also included from Frederick Nietzsche, a man who fought God his entire life and eventually succumbed to inner madness later in his life.  Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King.. fascinating...  That we look to fiction writers to describe meaning in life.  

We can pretend life has no meaning, perhaps to fight for a clear conscience, but that is never quite satisfactory.  We know internally that there is something more.  We know it.  There is a deep desire within man to understand the purpose of all things.  It is an indescribable sense of meaning.  We know deep down that truth is not subjective, but objective.  We know deep down there are fixed truths.  

I don't buy it when someone tells me not to search for something.  I don't believe it when someone tells me that "absolutely" all truth is relative.  It cannot be.  Those around me cannot cancel my journey.  I have taken it.  Life is not a vacant search for pleasure.  Life is not a merry go round of self service.  Those ideas are at the roots of the problems of this world, not the solutions.

Now at the next level, perhaps up a floor, we have those who say we must look within.  That's a very appealing suggestion on the surface.  Look within for the truth, as they say, trust your heart!  Follow where your heart leads.  Yes, I've been down that road as well.  It didn't work out particularly well.  My heart was interested in.. pleasure.  My heart was interested in say, a penultimate happiness.  Or a constant state of satisfaction.  Unfortunately there was no way to arrive at such a place.  There was no perfect romantic relationship, or perfect concoction of prescription medications that could fill the void in my soul.  There was no perfect job.  There was no toy, car, house, or award that could keep me satisfied.  Ultimately there was always the hazy morning after, and a vacant feeling of loneliness, guilty, and emptiness.  And again the next day, after the hang over subsided, the neurotic search for eternal pleasure would begin again.  A great thinker once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  

Now one could approach the meaning of life in a sort of circumspection breaking down the variables and painting a four dimensional tapestry of man kind in space-time.  One could examine the various angles, and counter the necessary punches to reach a conclusion where-in spiritual thought is placed at the height of the terrain.  But I'm not going to do that today.  

One doesn't necessarily take that route when confounded with reality.  In my travels and discussions in small town America I've found that people just don't give it that amount of time and thought.  We just kind of move forward haphazardly, at the heights of pride, thinking we know something about something.  We really don't know much.  We've made up a lot of big words and a lot of people have studied long enough to be considered "experts" and they henceforth issue decrees from the heights of intellectual imbecility to the dismal masses below, to describe the state of things as they see it.  And people tend to accept that.  Yet we often grant authority and unwavering belief to anyone with a title, MD behind their name (aka Mdivinity) or a white lab coat on.

For me, after being prescribed medications by family practice doctors for years, I began to realize finally, that they really had little idea what they were doing.  Just kind of groping in the dark, burying mistakes and playing with brain chemicals.  After that realization... that my doctor is not divine in his/her decisions, I began to realize that the same was probably true for molecular biologists, nuclear physicists, Oprah Winfrey, Deepok Chopra, and my dentist.  Or as many have indicated: People will believe anything as long as the phrase begins with "new study shows" or "scientists have discovered."

My point in all this is that one must be capable of breaking free from the post-modernist nonsense to even approach the meaning of life.  One must also be able and willing to break out of materialism as well.  We come with many, many preconceptions whether we realize it or not.  In the past I might've argued from a preconceived desire for there to be no God.  Or from a scientism view of reality.  Or from a desire to defend a depraved lifestyle.

Now even further, one must then step out of the New Age as well.  Admittedly, this is a large umbrella.  But it is perhaps best summed up in the idea of spiritually "making it up as you go along."  I used to read the book of a woman named Doreen Virtue.  She was a new age writer, and her books were certainly an interesting read.  But it eventually dawned on me as I reading her books... shes just making this stuff up as she goes along.  I had reached the point where I realized a spiritual answer was logical.  I was looking for answers.  I read a great deal about horoscopes, the zodiac signs, tarot cards, Chinese spiritual beliefs, dream interpretation, lucid dreaming, and other sort of "spiritualish" ideas.  Pick what you like, leave the rest, right?  That's certainly entertaining, but hardly an honest approach to truth and meaning.  

Of course as these things were going on, the reading and the spiritual journey and all that, life was happening too.  There were problems in my life.  There were pains.  Addictions were starting to gather.  Stress and depression were becoming issues.  Relationships were not being well maintained.  It was becoming more and more clear that I could not function well on my own two feet, making it up as I went along.  

In life I've found that there is nothing like pain and suffering to refine the parameters of a search.  I was forced to ask my questions more honestly than in the past. 

It was around that time when the sorrow mounted, that I began to study a Bible and carry it around with me.  I read it for fun.  I liked the stories, especially in Genesis.  

Did I think the Bible contained the meaning of life?  I don't know really.  Maybe.  Probably not.  I was more concerned with being entertained.  I never truly realized until looking back, just what an arrogant, entitled little snot I was.  

I was dumb, didn't even understand basic logic.  And I had been educated in one of the best school districts in the United States.  The D.C. Everest district.  I recall several families who had moved to the area for just that reason.  In fact I met some kids whose parents had bought a house for them in the area just so they could attend the district.  Guess what we did at that house?  Public school though, is still public school.  Reminds me of one of the lines from Malcom Muggeridge I believe, who said that man has educated himself into imbecility at his own academic institutions.  In addition, I had started my college studies at one of the most well respected college systems in the United States: the university of Wisconsin system.  Didn't really matter.  

Western civilization has really taken on the philosophies and ideologies of Marx, Freud, and Darwin.  They aren't too functional in my humble view.  But that's a whole new topic. The point is we have to remember what has worked empirically in western civilization: Judeo-Christian principles.  

So yes, with a devestating sigh, we come to it.  Christianity.  The Bible!  No, not that old thing!  Truly truly, I can understand that reaction to the Bible.  It was the last thing I wanted to be true.  It seemed like a book of nonsense fairy tales to me.  But my best research had been reading a novel called "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown.  I hadn't actually read any research, or done any serious investigation.  Yet I found I didn't really have to.  That could come later.  The issue was that my life was falling apart.  I needed not just an answer to the question, I needed a functional solution.  I needed a cure to my malady.  I malady I didn't even fully understand that I had.  The age old "God-shaped" hole in the chest as they say.  

In desperation, collapsed on the floor by the fireplace, I prayed a little pray, "God help me.  Jesus save me!"  And I kept repeating it.  Louder and louder.  And after that day, everything changed in my life.  That was the irrefutable evidence that I had so sought after.   Was it the answer I preferred?  Definitely not.  It was more like a worst case scenario as far as the answer went.  Oh no, please no, anything but the Bible, anything but that Christian stuff.  Because I despised that Christian stuff.  I really did.  I hated it.  I wanted it to go away and stop telling me what to do.  It seemed so stupid.  Yet now.. here I am, a follower of Jesus Christ.  In my own unique way.  I go to a church.  But not a dumb church full of hypocrites.  I go to a church full of sick people who are trying to get well through the power of Christ. I go to a church with people who really want to get out there and do something real for Jesus.  Not just some token effort, but a full force mission of Christ.

I'm sorry to leave you there friends.  I really am.  But it's the truth.  I discovered that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  Just like he said.  Before that I was a Liberal, New Ager, Agnostic, civil rights, free sexual, pot head, hippie, cigarette smoking tripper free spirit.  And now I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, outspoken, organic-eating, Libertarian indie rocker, occupier, anti-Gmo, truth teller, activist, free spirit, set free by God himself.  I still held onto a lot of my beliefs and ideas, yet my life was also fundamentally transformed by the indwelling presence of God himself.  God-sized hole = filled.  Not bad, not bad.  I still listen to Sonic Youth and the Helio Sequence and complain about things being too mainstream and decry corporate and government corruption, yet with even more power and effect, given the indwelling Spirit.  It's great actually.  And I don't have to be addicted to drugs or alcohol anymore either.  I don't have to smoke cigarettes anymore.  I don't have to chase girls endlessly, hurting people and constantly ending in feelings of guilt.  I still drink coffee and laugh loud with my friends.  Yet it's transformed.  It's better than it ever would've been.  I've got real friends today, brothers.  All thanks to Jesus. I'm asking you today to consider that possibility.  Because let's just be real, it's mainstream to be a sex addicted, gamer, liberal, pothead, druggy, drinker hippie these days.  Everyone is doing that.  For me, it's indie to be a Christian, not like the weird church people, but a radical follower of Jesus, a total sold out on Jesus kind of guy, going anywhere and doing anything in service to my savior.  It's awesome.  And it's real.  It's the real truth of life.

What is the meaning of life? 

Answer: The meaning of life is to wake up on the Earth, and smell the roses, and see the fields and the snow drifts, the mountains the oceans, and the night skies, and to be touched deep down, by an awe in the power and complexity of life.  The meaning of life is to live and make mistakes, until we realize that the problem of evil in the world, the troubles of the planet are not outside us, but within us.  The meaning of life is to inquire, to seek out, and to read and study and learn and by doing, discover that a life as complex and harmonious as this requires a first cause architect.  And in coupling those realities together, we see the need outside and the need within us for a savior who is not like us, a perfect savior: Jesus Christ, a God who does not just tell us how to live morally, but a God who comes down and walks the walk, shows us how to live, and then dies for us, to offer us reconciliation to himself.  The meaning of life is to realize our need for God, and to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ our own Savior.  And to tell others.  And to live that for the rest of our days in joy, awe, and trembling love.

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