meaning of life

Back from a great vacation. Thought some more about reality and abstractions, and actually spent a lot of time with the human desire (maybe obsession is more like it!) to find the meaning of life. But mostly I enjoyed a very relaxing (most of the time) vacation in a location with no TV, cell phones, MP3 players, gameboys, laptops and other mind dulling junk. Now I’m back in front of my big mind dulling piece of junk, ready to contribute verbiage and blatherage to this journal!

Anyway. First, let me take a side road to the infamous “meaning of life” question before going back to building my thinking infrastructure.

First, the pedantic inevitable, at least for me–what does that phrase mean, and what assumptions does that phrase bring along with it? It’s easier to define by listing the assumptions that it implies. First, and I think most important because it reveals the phrase’s uselessness: It implies a time element, a causal sequence, and that there is unfinished business that we must accomplish. It implies actions that should be taken. It implies different universal consequences depending on whether we achieve our purpose or not. Second, it implies some kind of regulating entity that doles out consequences according to some set of rules. God, if you will–but more specifically, an intervening God. Not necessarily a thinking entity, but definitely an intervening one.

Meaning of Life, Purpose of our existence. Let me cut to the chase–I have come to the conclusion that there is no absolute meaning of life or purpose, at least at a level we can detect. That by no means indicates that there is no meaning of life, it just means there isn’t an absolute one. We define our own meaning of life, or lack of. Not only do we have free will to select what actions we wish to do, we also have the freedom to define what the meaning of life is for each of us. This is an amazing freedom, which we can use for ill or good. There is great responsibility that comes with this freedom, since it can lead us to despair very quickly–it can make us self destruct into a world of pointlessness if we so choose. It would be so easy and comforting if our purpose were just laid out in front of us, we just have to follow The Way! But life is not easy or simple, and I see good evidence that there is no simple path, regardless of what the Bible says. This freedom to determine our own purpose in life in the context of our local environment and others around us is truly a wonderful gift that comes with this life. We have the choice, if we choose to take it, of determining what matters. Not only that, it frees us from being compelled to look for it. It’s not there, we just make our own purpose.

Why on earth would I come to this heavy duty conclusion? Well, let me start by saying this train of thought has two branches. First, an absolute meaning of life or purpose, as I indicated before, has a timeline associated with it. Second, it can (but doesn’t have to) imply a regulating entity, call it God if you wish, that enacts consequences (causal sequences of events) based on choices we make. Both branches are interconnected by the common element of time. I will spend a *lot* of time thinking about and discussing time in my thinking infrastructure, but for now, the fact that the meaning of life is coupled to the concept of time limits its applicability to environments that are time dimensional. I will also spend a *lot* of time with the concept of God–but for this entry, I will just expose my thinking about God in regards to physical intervention in this existence.

Let me start with the concept of God first. Here I rely on sensory input (Holocaust, cancer, fatal accidents, Jesus’s crucifixion, Stalin’s purges, etc etc etc) to conclude that throughout history God does not normally intervene in a way we can perceive. There’s one documented case that makes me wonder if this is always true–at Jesus’s crucifixion, at the point of death, there is a documented earthquake and eclipse and rending of the cloth of the temple. Only one gospel (Matthew) seems to detail this, I will go back and confirm. But this historical documentation of the events following the incredible stupidity of a mass of people makes me wonder if God were really watching and put on a bit of rage (yes, that’s a personification of God. But it still makes me wonder). Nevertheless, I look at both historical and current outrageously bad human conduct such as the Holocaust, and realize that the vast majority of the time no God stops such behavior, it’s up to us to do that job for Him. There’s a lot of interesting thinking byways we can take here, but for now I just want to stress that this fairly direct sensory input makes me “most-likely” think that God does not normally intervene, that we truly have free will–and there are NO ABSOLUTE CONSEQUENCES such as hell, heaven, or anything else. What there are is definitely *local* consequences, but they are definitely the results of actions or inactions of people and other entities nearby. I really don’t see any evidence of actions on a global or absolute scale. What this says to me is there is no ABSOLUTE meaning of life, and that there are definitely LOCAL meanings of life that vary depending on the circumstances one finds themselves. I realize that God could (and very likely would) interact via the actions of people–but the point is still valid–there’s no direct sensory input that says *God* intervened.

Now hold on–I am by no means saying there is no God! It is an emotional subject for nearly everyone, so it is important to be clear where my thinking is right now. I can say it this way–if there is a God, He does not appear to directly intervene in a way we can recognize, thus implying that He is not going to provide detectable or discernible evidence either for His existence or for His desired path for us. My only nagging doubt about that is the earthquake/eclipse/rending of the temple at Jesus’s Crucifixion.

Here’s another line of thought based on the historical documentation of Jesus that makes me think this (God does not intervene directly) is true. Jesus tested the existence of God like no other human being I know of. He publicly appeared to challenge God to show Himself (perhaps unconsciously or not, I can’t tell from the Bible description) like no one else on earth. He went to the point of a horrid death, only to ask, My God, why have you forsaken me, and then to die. God does not seem to intervene in a way that my sensory input recognizes. This is why I really like Jesus and the example He sets. I know for a fact I do not have the courage He showed to follow His belief to the point of death. Would I be able to stand up for my convictions expressed here like He did? Hmmph, I would have to laugh, I would likely be a total wimp. Nevertheless, returning to my point–even the most extreme human actions do not seem to provoke intervention by any recognizable entity other than the people and other objects/creatures around us. Our actions appear to have no consequences other than those initiated by entities in our local region of existence.

The second branch of thinking deals with causal sequences. A purpose in life means that there are choices to be made with good and bad consequences. Of course, in our thinking infrastructure we’ll get to (define) what it means to be good and bad, or perhaps better words might be effective and ineffective, or choices that achieve a goal and choices that don’t get to a goal. But the very word consequences means cause and effect, which has the enormous assumption of a time driven infrastructure. For reasons that I will get to later, an infrastructure with a time dimension is a special case. It is very easy to see a “most-likely” argument that the sensation of time is NOT a sensory input (reality) but a construction within our minds. Believe me, I will spend a lot of time (!) thinking on the concept of time. Nevertheless, go with me for a moment and play with the idea that perception of time and consequences is an abstraction within our minds and is not reality. At any given point, there is no time, we just have sensory input. Our minds do something internal to create the impression of a sequence of events. See how silly the idea of “meaning of life” is starting to look in that picture? It’s whole basis is built on the assumption of how time works, and I see good evidence that it’s artificial, a construct (not really an abstraction–a portion of the infrastructure of reality) within our minds. Using this analysis, I conclude that the abstraction called meaning of life, with its causal implication, only has validity within our minds–leading me back to my basic premise that meaning of life is locally defined within a thinking entity.

That’s enough for now on the meaning of life! It’s so liberating to think that I am free to define meaning of life as I see it. Dangerous, too–as we approach death, we scream for something bigger than our pitiful existence, and this thinking *will not give it to us*. It is critical that we create it, that it holds together under extreme duress such as dying, or we will flail in terror without an anchor. For many, religion is that anchor–but for those that truly seek the strongest connections between their internal abstractions and reality, we *must* create that meaning of life with the greatest integrity. Otherwise it will fall apart in the final hours, and likely in other situations of stress as well. I do think the meaning of life can be constructed, it is there for each of us, and I’ll journal about that… but if we spend our lives searching for the (absolute) meaning of life, I think we are wasting our time and life, it’s not to be found out there. It’s in our mind, and it is an abstraction ready for each of us to construct.

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