THE MEANING OF LIFE
The answer to this thirty-five cents question, will not be found at the heart of the many and varied – cursory – reflective – religious – philosophical – weighty and abstract searches, so long as the questions remain centered around, originate from and end with the bias perspective of a canine-toothed mammal called man.
Perhaps, instead of searching for what the meaning of life is supposed to be, we should be reflecting on whether a meaning is indeed possible. If so, does it then exist, only because we seek it? I will argue that a man’s life, like that of a whale, a giraffe or a sewer rat is devoid of meaning, and is no more worthy or deserving of meaning than the lives of any of the other species.
To search for a meaning that does not exist, or to create one’s own quixotic meaning is but a futile experiment in delusion. It invariably leads the vulnerable and the gullible into the tangled web of the religious industry, transcendental gurus, charlatans and other smiling predators.
I will offer a brief view on our species; from where we came and to where we go; the rock on which we live and die; its position in relation to the Cosmos and the futility, indifference and impermanence of the Universe.
Let us begin with the World around us, which our species can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. Here, common sense can only submit to two possibilities for its existence:
In other words, the former possibility, God, gives the world meaning but does not explain its chaos, while the latter, Evolution, explains its chaos but cannot give it meaning.
As for the incipience of life itself from inanimateness to the first single cell organism; my understanding is simply that the chaotic and unique conditions that existed at that particular time, and which had not hitherto or since existed, at least not on our little planet, predisposed life to burgeon and evolution took us the rest of the way. Admittedly, this theory is not set in stone but there is incontrovertible evidence to suggest that it is the less ridiculous of the two.
Perhaps for now, it remains the only explication that logic can offer common sense.
Now, if we were to draw from the biblical version of creation, we would have to accept a world designed by a supposedly benevolent God; where its inhabitants are forced to kill and feed on each other in order to survive; where one must feed on the death of the other – where something has to die for something else to live.
One would then also have to concede, that the pain suffered by a gazelle as it is devoured alive by a lion, or that endured by the field-mouse as it is ripped apart by the talons of an eagle, is all part of a perfect and irreproachable nature.
Moreover, we must bear in mind that this nature was allegedly designed by a compassionate and omnipotent God, who then went on to pass a law condemning killing whilst recognizing slavery.
I submit, and even the most fixated fan would have to concede, that a better original design could have alleviated much of today’s poverty, misery and anguish.
It is often argued, that because other species cannot reason, have no soul or spirit and were not created in the image of the human God, that they are somehow inferior to humans. Therefore, unlike the ruling mammal, their lives are devoid of meaning.
Let us now examine if this imaginary difference between the species, makes one more deserving of purpose and meaning than the other.
Basically, the common ancestry we share with the other animals is unmistakable. It is clearly manifested in our many strikingly similar characteristics, for example: not 1 or 3 or 5, but 2 eyes, 2 lips, 2 cheeks, 2 arms, 2 nostrils, 2 eyebrows, 2 sets of teeth, 2 testicles, and 2 ears. In short, most species share something called a face, 4 limbs, and remarkably, much the same weird and complex system of bodily functions, organs and reproductive systems.
Recently, the scientific community has found that the difference between the DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid) of other animals and ours is not as great as had been first imagined. In fact science has indisputably proven that a chimpanzee’s DNA matches that of his human cousin more closely than it does that of a gorilla or any of the other primates.
To my mind, the difference I note between a man and a chimpanzee is no more extraordinary than the difference between a horse and a zebra, a duck and a chicken, a shark and a dolphin – or a monkey and a baboon. Moreover, I fail to see how the way a man differs from a shark seem any more exceptional than the way a duck differs from a gorilla.
If we took an impartial look, from outside the anthropocentric bias of our eyes at the history of this canine-toothed predator we call man, we would soon see an evolution from a raw and savage barbarism to a nefarious system of man systematically exploiting man – with a brief interlude immersed in blood, torture, rape, slavery, human sacrifice, wars, cannibalism, and other abominations.
So, if meaning was a kind of reward which is bestowed on the ‘virtuous’ by a caring and kindly creator. I hasten to add that of all the species sharing the Earth today, man would have to rank, among one of the least deserving species, to receive it.
It is often posited that man is the only species endeared with an innate sense of right and wrong. I submit that history does not support this view, for on most occasions when due to breakdown in law and order, e.g. wars, plagues, and natural disasters; when those ‘innate’ qualities have not been enforced; when man has been left to his own devices, to do as he chooses with impunity, his so-called sense of right and wrong soon degenerated into widespread looting, burning, rape, murder and reckless destruction. In a nutshell, dear reader, on the occasions where his nature has not been suppressed by force, his true animal instincts soon emerged.
In my opinion, the sense of right and wrong is no more innate in man than it is in other species. It is taught to man by society, much in the same way as a man teaches a dog that it is wrong to eat the family cat but right to retrieve a ball.
When we think of the brevity of our lives in terms of geological times, we can only conclude that it is no more than an insignificant heartbeat in time. Similarly, if we compare a finite Universe with eternal cosmic time, we begin to wonder what dent, a few thousand billion years of existence could possibly make on the fabric of eternity?
From this perspective of eternity, our Universe would seem to appear and disappear as quickly as the future merges into the past; therefore it cannot be anything else but insignificant, indifferent and completely devoid of meaning. What's more, it is not impossible to imagine that our ‘Big Bang’ may have been but one of many, that could have occurred in the past, and which may again occur in the future. ‘Bing Bangs’ which may have given birth to other Universes with stars, planets, moons and other life-forms, like those that exist today – which may have existed for a time before disappearing without a trace.
It is self-evident that the only inference we can draw from the turbulence of an impermanent Universe is its proof of randomness. It exists in all its randomness simply because it does, if it did not, it would not exist.
For some time now, humans have been led to believe, that should we aspire to and acquire ‘virtues’ such as loyalty, obedience, honesty, nobility, charity, integrity, truthfulness, graciousness and so on and so forth. And if we did, then our original ‘designer’ would somehow reward us with immortality – albeit posthumously. Another trendy train of thought suggests that even without immortality, ‘virtues’ per se, give meaning and purpose to life.
I do not quite latch on to the same view. It is my firm belief that in an epoch of ignorance and superstition that those ‘virtues’ were specifically constructed letter by letter, syllable by syllable and word by word to dissuade the oppressed many from cutting the throats of the bloated few; designed by those who would benefit most from them. At first, by the vilest of institutions: religion and monarchies. Later the Feudal system perpetuated those make-believe ‘virtues’ to appease the serfs, to placate the slaves, to soothe the oppressed, to manipulate them into serving and fulfilling their master’s purposes instead of their own. To convince them to remain servile and ‘loyal’, to indoctrinate them with the silly notion that they should not revolt but meekly accept their fate with dignity and that if they remained faithful and patient, then somehow, they would “inherit the Earth”.
Today, those same fabricated ‘virtues’, those same unnatural qualities continue to beguile the gullible, the naïve and the innocent into leading artificial lives against the grain of their true nature. With most of the human race forced to waste their fleeting lives labouring like beasts of burden to generate capital to further enrich the few.
I ask you, where is the raison d'être, divine or otherwise, in such a miserable existence of quiet desperation?
It is mind-boggling to accept that such an unjust biased system could ever have been designed, as rumor has it, by a just, unbiased and omnipotent creator?
Just as artificial ‘virtues’ exist only in the minds of those who believe in them, so too does meaning exist only for those who seek it.
I submit that it is no more real to me, than Zoltan, my invisible pet dragon – is to you.
To believe something to be true, simply because we wish it to be true, does not necessarily make it so. If you are standing ankle-deep in pig shit, no amount of wishful-thinking or self-delusion will suddenly change reality and put you ankle-deep in Swiss chocolate. At the end of the day, you will still be in pig shit.
When all is said and done, we are not divine beings destined for immortal life somewhere in the clouds, but an evolving species of hairy mammals, who for this fleeting moment in time, live on a hot bit of stardust, which in turn spins around a temporary fire. Sooner or later, willing or unwilling, every one of us is introduced to oblivion. That dear friends, is the long and short of it; everything else is mass delusion. Do not try to readjust your mind – the fault is inherent in reality itself. What I have been saying is this, no matter how much we try to sanitize and distort it, reality is reality. Our thinking can only change the way we see it – it cannot change reality itself.
I am afraid that the pure joy that other animals, madmen and little children derive from life, simply by existing, is all the meaning that life has to offer. Today, we may have evolved beyond a point where this pure joy is no longer possible and it could well be, that it is lost to us forever.
At this moment in time, we are merely recycling atoms, moving matter around on the surface of our rock from one place to another. In the end, whatever we as individuals or collectively as a species manage to achieve, will not amount to much more than just scattered debris of stardust wondering endlessly through time and space, waiting for gravity to weave its magic all over again.
Life is a journey leading nowhere, just as it has been for countless generations before us and will be for countless more after us, until in the end, even eternity and infinity may cease to be.