In search of fulfillment, achievement and meaning.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Going down the rabbit hole
I earlier wrote a post about how the two balancing forces in my life are Ambition and Meaning. I have created in a very short duration what was merely a dream for me a few years ago. It is immensely satisfying. When I wake up every morning - I wake up to a reality where I have freedom, independence and the physical and intellectual space to do whatever I want. I can take the most exciting and inspiring thoughts in my head and turn them into projects and be occupied with them for the time to come.
What's the point? In absolute terms, you can't really "make a difference". Why bother?
This post is an attempt to think that through.
Also, I thought long and hard before posting this. This post is not what I talk or teach or write about. I talk and write about making good and lasting changes in life and finding ways to be positive and have fun. Should I really post about God, Religion and Meaning. Then I remembered the words of Goethe and decided - this is where I am in my current development of thought. No reason not to express myself authentically - so here, it is - A journey down the rabbit hole of meaning...
Am I an atheist?
I sure as hell don't believe in god.
In fact, I sure as hell don't believe in either god or hell.
I don't believe in the pseudo, arrogant, angry, calculative, punishing, jealous, psychopathic god that religion would have me believe in.
In my head, figuring out that religion was nonsense was the starting point of intellectual inquiry.
Does that make me an atheist ?
But I am not quite sure.
It is easy to not believe in something. Belief requires a mental shortcut. It requires that we fore-go the process of reasoning and rationality to assume something to be true about a situation. And we proceed with that generalization.
So, the question is not what I don't believe in. UFOs, Ghosts, God, Religion, Paris Hilton's IQ.
The questions is - what do I believe in?
That is where I differ wildly from other atheists I know.
This is what I have thought about in the past few months - I do not believe in anything. I do not believe the world has any meaning. That all that is happening is happenstance. That reality is a dance playing itself out and we just happen to be here - no rhyme or rhythm - no meaning,no reason.
First - I still agree with that. There is no other way to look at it. Reality is an illusion. It is just playing itself out.Reality is empty of meaning. Human beings are meaning-makers and all of reality that we experience merely exists in our mind. Nothing means anything. Good, bad, evil, liberty, democracy, rights, society, justice, collective, humanity, law, love, life, marriage, government, business, economics - just our feeble attempts to attach meaning to our experience. All these meanings are transitory and can be replaced by another meaning in a different context. In NLP, its called Reframing. Nothing is absolute.
This is meaninglessness.
And this can be quite depressing for some people. When they think that life is essentially meaningless and empty - they get depressed. They feel that life "ought" to have a meaning - and it is somehow sad that it doesn't. As though, it's cosmic customer service that has failed to meet their expectation.
Yet, by their own rationale - this hunger for meaning, for coherence and the obvious lack of it in reality - is also meaningless.
The reaction to meaninglessness is also meaningless and therefore its a circular loop.
It might be argued that there is an "innate" or "inherent" thirst or curiosity which is responsible for this existential depression.
I could concede that. However, even if this "innate" and "inherent" curiosity and thirst existed in human beings - the consequence of the realization that the world is meaningless leading to a 'sad' response is still an interpretation and therefore false.
The philosopher is guilty of making meaning out of meaninglessness.
Then, where are we?
We realize the world is meaningless. But we just witness it. Merely observe it. And make no judgment about that.
Because all of our bad judgments about the world are as false as our good judgment.
Pessimism is as much of an illusion as Optimism.
Sadness is as false as Happiness.
And this is where I stand intellectually.
Frozen. Witnessing the meaninglessness of life.
But still, the challenge of living life remains to be tackled. And that requires meaning-making.
So, I choose optimism knowing it is false, yet also knowing that the alternative is equally false. I choose optimism because I want to.
I choose inspiration, knowing that it is false, yet knowing that the alternative is equally false. I choose inspiration because I like it.
I choose a positive spin on stuff, knowing that its bullshit, yet knowing that a negative spin on stuff in equally bullshit. I choose a positive spin, because it feels good.
If I were to attempt an adventure in meaning-making, I would say: Maybe the meaninglessness of life is not a lacuna to be mourned, but an opportunity to be celebrated. Maybe, the meaninglessness is an invitation to paint. Maybe, the meaninglessness is the silence which music can be created and played.
So what do I believe in?
I believe in what makes me feel good, because I know that everything that makes me feel bad is as false as everything that makes me feel good.