The meaning of life

Eoin McLove

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Reply #45 on: November 09, 2019, 09:49:48 PM
Funny enough,  I'm off to Oz in five weeks as the wife is from Melbourne  8)

That said,  I love winter,  I love its darkness and dreariness and coldness.  It's like living through Turn Loose the Swans!


Pedrito

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Reply #46 on: November 10, 2019, 02:46:33 PM
Have any of you read Joseph Campbell's 'a Hero with a thousand faces'? I'm eager to read it as I have listened to much of his stuff on youtube. It talks about the Hero myths and archtypes that run through 'every' culture and religion all the way back through history. Greatly influenced by Jung, Nietzsche and the likes, I'm sure Bölzer would be fans. Flies in the face of the modern 'meaninglessness' epidemic and I wonder, again, if we are far too sure of ourselves in terms of having it all figured out..i.e. no higher power, no real meaning etc etc.

Another point, in relation to Buddhism, which I know very little about and I may be guilty of summing it up all too easily. That said, I have spent quite a bit of time travelling throughout Asia and I would wonder if Buddhism is even culturally or psycholgically/philosophically accessible to us in the west. We are not passive, calm people, and we have very different views and feelings on life. Our mythology and culture come out of the likes of Cuchulainn, Thor, Achilles, King Arthur and chivalry etc etc, fused with the Christian stream of thinkibg that pervades every aspect of our lives even still, maybe not on a conscious level but certainly in terma of values etc etc.

Not sure if I'm explaining myself too well here, my point being that maybe we already had the meaning figured out, and, as we are prone to doing in this modern existence, threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Just riffing here and open to talking more shite on the subject.
 


Eoin McLove

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Reply #47 on: November 10, 2019, 04:22:27 PM
I was reading something recently, I think it was the recent Pinker,  and he was talking about the values that we ascribe to Christianity as being more biologically ingrained. Christianity in its original form was much less forgiving,  more punitive in every sense and not the cup of tea,  have a little natter and be nice to your granny philosophy that it is now.  He was making the point that the more Christianity abandoned its core principals,  the more it became a humanist ideology and more like the reasonable form it is now where everyone is grand,  sure,  God bless. So we don't in fact live in a true Christian society,  we actually live in a humanist one and for Christianity to have kept its relevance it had to change. I liked that idea.

I picked up 'What is Life?' By Schrödinger today so I'll get stuck into it in the next while.  Might provide a few interesting insights on these matters.



Pedrito

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Reply #48 on: November 10, 2019, 05:01:57 PM
That's very interesting. Funnily, I can't remember who it was saying it, but the whole degredation of the church and it's perversion in terms of corruption, paedophilia and all these sicknesses that are prevalent in it can be traced to a complete relaxing of the rules, a destruction of the essence of priesthood, to be apart, to be clean, to being holy etc. That was then lined up with the idea that long ago the churches abandoned the idea of a divine God, and the worship is actually a following of the HUMAN Christ...as you say it is Humanist, focussing on Christ the human..a cop out as such. They are followers of Christ as oposed to believers in some sort of transcendental God.

There are impacts also in terms of the hierarchies of the different churches. Luther basically democratised things and laid the seeds for democracy..everyone could then create their own dialogue with God instead of having a priest interpret the word of God for then. If we look at other cultures, the Shaman was the intermediary between the worlds, but then everyone started having a go as such, which leads to all sorts of opinions and a total watering down of things. The downgrading of Mary in the Protestant tradition took the female out of the picture and it's results can be seen in the hyper masculinity now prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture of the United States. We Catholic type societies continued to venerate the female..in Spain it's all to do with the Virgin, Mexico the same, our own grottos in Ireland, and, again, we lack that, I would argue, 'Bang Bros' style total disrespect for the female that I witnessed during my couple of Summers in America...maybe MeToo and it's likes were long overdue for them.

Another thing I read in Jung recently was that because education wasn't available to the slaves, and Christianity was a slave religion, education as a desire/goal had to be sidelined. Other things took precedence and it led to a suspiscion of arrogant, informed opinions, education being seen as haughty etc etc. When I thought about the complete anti intellectual vibe that permeated the Christian Brothers school I attended, I chuckled at that paragraph. Any lad that showed the slightest sense of intelligence was branded 'a lick'..that was more the students doimg that than any teacher admittedly. Will have to read some Pinker...sounds interesting.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 05:03:52 PM by Pedrito »


Eoin McLove

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Reply #49 on: November 10, 2019, 05:10:48 PM
I find his books interesting.  I read Enlightenment,  Now and I find his take on things positive and a nice antidote to the apocalyptic ultra- negative outlook that seems to be the norm.  Currently tipping through How the Mind Works which is more of a scientific explanation of the brain mechanism and consciousness.  Again,  interesting stuff.

Interesting points in your post above.  What I got from Pinker's message was that any religion that intends to remain relevant,  I suppose as people gain more and more knowledge about the universe and everything in it,  and as societies demand human rights and equality among the sexes and races,  religions almost have to become the opposite of what they historically were or they get sidelined.


Eoin McLove

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Reply #50 on: November 10, 2019, 05:13:03 PM
You probably also have to factor in that the public face of the church is vastly different to the power games going on in the background.  The church didn't become so powerful and wealthy by being a bunch of lovely boys  :laugh:


Reply #51 on: November 10, 2019, 06:52:36 PM
The early church, of the New Testament, was a socialist commune where all possessions were shared, which is essentially the only format that actually fits with Jesus' teachings (whether or not he was human or a symbol for magic mushrooms!). That we almost immediately veered away from living in a Christ-like way is why Nietzsche says there was only ever one Christian and he died on the cross. If you take Christianity to be, at origin, based only on Christ's teachings, then you couldn't find a more "humanist" creed (love your neighbor, who shall cast the first stone?, etc., etc.) Obviously it's very far away from what Rome did to that creed, but I think here again Pinker is just imagining up nice narratives and leaning them on vague ideas we have of the past.


Scáthach

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Reply #52 on: November 10, 2019, 08:10:09 PM
I think the Catholic Church is so far from Christ it's laughable. It seems based more on the evangelical writings of St Paul, as far as ritual, tradition and ethics go. Paul was no fan of the ladies either, except her up there. As for the behind the scenes, politicking and such, yeah laundering drug money, Vatican bank scandals, cosying up to the mafia and assassinations, real Christian values. P2 anybody?
Stephen Knight, David Yallop and Robert Anton Wilson all have good books on the above. As for the degradation of Christian ethics and the RC church's lust for power, The Name of the Rose is fiction, but discusses those topics in a really interesting way.


O Drighes

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Reply #53 on: November 11, 2019, 08:44:43 AM
Arriving late to the discussion here, but I'm with the many people above that consider life to be meaningless, as far as a collective standpoint goes. However, it doesn't need to be banal. Different people will invest their time in different things, therefore giving their lives multiple meanings, and each individual may as well shift from one aim in life to another along the course of his/her life, adding to life's multiplicity mix.

I'll avoid even slightly giving the impression that I think that, as Pedrito said, I "have everything figured out", but at some point in my life I've come across the idea that we often try to find our peace, happiness or whatever joy you're looking for by recreating the same frame of mind of what we call the "golden age", which is but an illusion mostly attributed to the time we lived in (or an idea of  a time previous to the time we were born in) rather than to the lack of consciousness we had amounted until then, a common misconception that mankind's wellbeing was better in the past.  That idea stuck to me as to show that constant learning and bettering yourself is more of a remedy to our existence after you pose yourself the question "is ignorance bliss?" than an actual goal or achievement, as posing the question itself is the turning point where you've been stricken by - in the words of Emil Cioran - the dagger of consciousness.  That said, one spends a good deal of time unlearning the heavy cultural bagagge that has been drilled into our heads in our early years in order to deal with the mutable and urgent character of life these days, so I think what we are looking for here is to answer "what is the meaning of life 'in our time'?"

I have started reading "The Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker as recommended above, and the central ideal that man's problem is to be heroic in several levels of his intrinsically narcissistic existence in order to overcome death seems pretty interesting and should throw something into the pot here.


Eoin McLove

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Reply #54 on: November 11, 2019, 09:46:39 AM
Pedro mentioned his concern at the decline of Christianity as possibly contributing to a more widespread despair in society.  The God shaped hole. This is something I hear mentioned a lot and it jars with me.  I can think of one or two possible reasons as to why one might make such a claim but nothing convincing.  What's the rational there that I am overlooking? I think O Drighes hit on something resonant in his post above that touches on this idea.

I wonder if developing the language of meaning is the most important step.  To be able to define the question itself,  for yourself,  is the first step on the road to discovery and one that should conceivably open up a myriad of possible avenues to explore. Simply being aware that meaning might exist as a way of living can open your eyes to the meaning that already exists in front of you, in the things you do and how you live every day. 


Eoin McLove

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Reply #55 on: November 11, 2019, 12:09:40 PM
The early church, of the New Testament, was a socialist commune where all possessions were shared, which is essentially the only format that actually fits with Jesus' teachings (whether or not he was human or a symbol for magic mushrooms!). That we almost immediately veered away from living in a Christ-like way is why Nietzsche says there was only ever one Christian and he died on the cross. If you take Christianity to be, at origin, based only on Christ's teachings, then you couldn't find a more "humanist" creed (love your neighbor, who shall cast the first stone?, etc., etc.) Obviously it's very far away from what Rome did to that creed, but I think here again Pinker is just imagining up nice narratives and leaning them on vague ideas we have of the past.

I think I misrepresented Pinker in my earlier post.  He was saying that the values we live by are not biologically ingrained but came about from enlightenment thinking.  Religion had to adapt to those modes of thinking to remain relevant in a society that was moving away from the tyranny of punitive philosophies. I was confusing how early societies developed and how people,  early on,  realised that their best chance for success and safety was by working together. Not sure if that's entirely relevant to this conversation. 


Pedrito

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Reply #56 on: November 11, 2019, 01:46:58 PM
Pedro mentioned his concern at the decline of Christianity as possibly contributing to a more widespread despair in society.  The God shaped hole. This is something I hear mentioned a lot and it jars with me.  I can think of one or two possible reasons as to why one might make such a claim but nothing convincing.  What's the rational there that I am overlooking? I think O Drighes hit on something resonant in his post above that touches on this idea.

I wish I had the genius to have come up with those ideas  :laugh: i'm simply trading information that I have come across. What is my own personal opinion...well that's just too big a question to answer and I really don't have the answer. The original question was posed, what is the meaning to life and people very quickly answered you create your own meaning in a meaningless universe, and I'm not sure if we really analyse that response, that it holds up at all. How can we create meaning in the truest sense of the word when there is none? That was Nietzsche's life's work, or rather he wanted to address the nihilism that he saw coming as a result of our move away from organised religion and their principles that guided our society for a couple thousand years.

So, I have no idea about meaning. The idea that a God exists is laughed out of the room these days, and yet the afterlife, a higher meaning etc was what gave meaning to life for so long. And meaning in this regard is different to what drives us. I think we have ingrained drives that have allowed us to survive...competitiveness, horniness etc, but they don't explain 'meaning'. I'm driven to earn money, find a hot, big assed lady, write music, have children etc etc but is there a 'meaning' to any of it. That, is the billion dollar question. My own feeling is that I'm not writing anything off. I'm not sure we're quite as advanced or intelligent as we think we are. I'm also enjoying reading philosophy and psychology because it's teaching me how little I knew about what drives me both externally and internally. A never ending trip.






Eoin McLove

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Reply #57 on: November 11, 2019, 02:26:06 PM
Yep,  I get you.  There is certainly an arrogance around a lot of the atheistic set,  even if they have a lot to offer, like Dawkins or Hitchins.

I think the second point you were making gets a bit at what I was saying about articulating meaning.  It's perfectly reasonable to go through life accepting what you are told as a child and living a perfectly happy life.  That might equate to the saying, ignorance is bliss, and I don't mean that condescendingly. We are all ignorant to a more or less degree because the world is too big and complex for us to know everything about it,  about history,  about all of the cultures,  all of the art,  literature,  poetry, music etc.  And who'd really want to know it all anyway? We'd all prefer to specialise in the areas that interest us...

Maybe the point I'm making is that the idea of there being meaning is meaning. I'm sceptical that an institution can provide simple answers on such an elusive concept,  at least one that could satisfy enough people to be impactful on society as a whole once it is removed.

Even if we accept that our moral compass has been set by Christianity,  that's fine.  Now we have it.  That's the gift religion has given us, its ingrained,  now let's explore the possibilities of mind expansion beyond the tight structures that religion imposes on us.  If the morals are set,  then why do we need to feel lost as a society without big daddy watching down on us from the depths of space?

Does this great malaise that we keep hearing about regarding modern society exist? Are we misinterpreting what we see as vacuity with nihilism? Are we guilty of interpreting another person's time wasting as being a sign of modern society having lost its way or lacking meaning while at the same time regarding our own time wasting as a foible of our otherwise immaculate character? Dunno if that makes sense or if I'm waffling but I know what I'm getting at.  I think...


Emphyrio

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Reply #58 on: November 11, 2019, 03:40:33 PM
This is a great thread. My thoughts on it are more or less interspersed here and there. It's the biggest question of them all and I don't think humankind is anywhere close  to coming up with an answer. I kinda hope it's revealed when we return to the cosmos, in death.  "Meaning" is such a big word and it reminds me of Carl Sagan's speech about the speck of dust that is Earth.  We are pretty much nothing in the grand scheme of things, finding meaning is essentially futile, so for now, fulfillment is possibly the highest aspiration we should be seeking. Personal fulfillment but also seeking to have led a life of net gain once we reach the end.


Pedrito

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Reply #59 on: November 11, 2019, 04:03:44 PM
Yep,  I get you.  There is certainly an arrogance around a lot of the atheistic set,  even if they have a lot to offer, like Dawkins or Hitchins.

I think the second point you were making gets a bit at what I was saying about articulating meaning.  It's perfectly reasonable to go through life accepting what you are told as a child and living a perfectly happy life.  That might equate to the saying, ignorance is bliss, and I don't mean that condescendingly. We are all ignorant to a more or less degree because the world is too big and complex for us to know everything about it,  about history,  about all of the cultures,  all of the art,  literature,  poetry, music etc.  And who'd really want to know it all anyway? We'd all prefer to specialise in the areas that interest us...

Maybe the point I'm making is that the idea of there being meaning is meaning. I'm sceptical that an institution can provide simple answers on such an elusive concept,  at least one that could satisfy enough people to be impactful on society as a whole once it is removed.

Even if we accept that our moral compass has been set by Christianity,  that's fine.  Now we have it.  That's the gift religion has given us, its ingrained,  now let's explore the possibilities of mind expansion beyond the tight structures that religion imposes on us.  If the morals are set,  then why do we need to feel lost as a society without big daddy watching down on us from the depths of space?

Does this great malaise that we keep hearing about regarding modern society exist? Are we misinterpreting what we see as vacuity with nihilism? Are we guilty of interpreting another person's time wasting as being a sign of modern society having lost its way or lacking meaning while at the same time regarding our own time wasting as a foible of our otherwise immaculate character? Dunno if that makes sense or if I'm waffling but I know what I'm getting at.  I think...

Ahh now we're getting places. I would argue that the malaise has always existed but there was definitely a moment in history, where the signs were really bad. Nietzsche saw it coming and Jung is all about it. The vibe that was around Germany at the time seemed to be really intense and heading towards a really bad place i.e. the world wars. Are we still living in the anti-war inspired aftermath of all of that now, whereby peace and happiness is still valued and pushes us along?

Something else that fascinates me is this idea of 'Will'. Nietzsche talked about the Will to Power as opposed to other philosophers who talked about the Will to Survive and other concepts. Nietzsche said that the signs don't show that man only Wills to 'survive', we constantly do things that jeopardise our survival....smoking, riding, flying in airplanes, fighting etc etc etc. He was talking about the Will to Power as a kind of constant drive that we have. We get a good job, feel happy and not long after we're looking for something else. Win a football game, the next one becomes more important.

On a personal level, and I'm just riffing off my head here, in modern society, I think the drive for me isn't necesarily to FIND 'meaning', I think it's probably far more important for me not to LOSE 'meaning'. That goes back to the valuing of things, enjoyment, stuff that my cynical soul finds hard to do at times. Again, inverting what we have been told, all that programming, all that 'the world is an evil place' shite that is forced upon us. Now, it's forced upon us for good reason, to toughen us up to get us ready for life. But, maybe we're already tough enough, and we need to allow ourselves to actually bask a bit more in what is actually a 'miraculous' existence. Now that all sounds very wishy washy, and I puked a little when I wrote that, and that's the battle for me I think. It's a Ying/Yang type thing..life is tough and beautiful and getting some balance in there is hard enough without trying to solve the really big questions, which I'm not sure are solveable without dedicating lifetimes to the questions. That's what priests snd philosophers of the past did, if they found it hard, it's hardly surprising that we would, in between our moments of brief peace from Game of Thrones Boxsets, the M50 and Pornhub.