Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Answer, part 2

After posting my previous blog (The Answer), a coworker left me a comment on the blog. I, in turn, wrote an answer to him, which, it turns out, far exceeds the character count allowed for comments - ha! It is, for that matter, significantly longer than the previous blog (ha! again), and being such, it seemed to me that I might as well make it its own new blog...

I truly hope that my response comes off as nothing but friendly - not at all a challenge to my friend's comments, but rather, an invitation to look at this topic from a different perspective.

First, then, his comments, in case you missed them:

"I think that the question that so many try to answer is not so much just Life? but What is the purpose/point/meaning of life? Why am I alive? What is my purpose/point? What is the meaning of my life? Does life have significance?

"These are all answerable questions, and the answer that you come up with has drastic implications on your experience of life.

"From a Christian perspective, yeah, I believe that God is 'The Answer' because I believe that Jesus is 'The Life,' and therefore, if I truly want to experience life to the fullest, if you want to truly experience life to the fullest, it must be within Him, because He is the answer to a different question, What IS life? and within Him is pure unadulterated life.

"'...I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.' -- John 10:10"

* * *

In my post, I more or less tried to anticipate the points you brought up – my apologies if I did not do so effectively enough (or perhaps you are aware of this, and are merely trying to express another point of view on the matter? - perhaps you are trying to kindly express that you disagree?).

At any rate, I suppose I could say that the point of The Answer – though I didn't state it directly this way – is that I am trying to express an alternative to our western dualistic mode of thinking (and yes, I am aware of the irony in calling dualistic philosophy “western,” meaning: “as opposed to eastern” – haha).

Yes, we could say that “what is the meaning of life?” is the question most directly on the table here. What I am trying to show in my post, however, is that, it seems to me, this is a non-question. Understand, I'm not saying that there is no answer. Rather, I'm saying that perhaps there is no question.

I would not say that there is anything inherently wrong with wanting/looking for “something more.” And this idea – of “something more” – is, I think, where the meaning-of-life question originates (this is what you're saying too, I believe).

When we treat life as though it is a question, however (by asking things like “what is the meaning of life?”), we are belittling the experience of life. We are assuming that there is another side to the coin.

We are, in all actuality, saying, “life is only half the story.”

What I am proposing is that, it seems to me, life is the full story.

This does not mean that there isn't “something more,” or that nothing happens to us after we die – maybe, maybe not.

But life is one thing, and that “something more”/that place we may or may not go after death is another thing. They are not different sides of the same coin. They are different coins entirely.

Life in and of itself is the entirety of the experience. It has no opposite, no mirror-image, no symmetry.

Though I did not intend to bring a Christian angle into this topic, I will happily meet you there on that point:

You said that Jesus is “The Life” (clearly, of course, referring to John 14:6 - “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life...”). This is a fine interpretation of the matter. It's not what everyone believes, of course, but I can respect and appreciate that this is your – and many millions of other peoples' – stance.

A mathematical way to look at it, if you don't mind:

If, to you, Jesus = Life, why bother turning Life into a question?

1. As I've expressed, turning life into a question (such as “what is the meaning of life?”) = “life is only half the story”
2. Jesus = Life (see John 14:6)
3. Therefore, Jesus = half the story.

I assume (if you don't mind me being so bold; of course I don't mean to put words into your mouth) that you do not believe item 3. And yet, it is the conclusion of parts 1 & 2.

So then:

If Jesus = Life, and Jesus is not only half the story, then Life cannot be only half the story either.
If Jesus is the whole story, then Life is the whole story. Which means that, by extension, Life is not a question.

But of course this is only a way to frame this topic within the realm of Christianity; there are many, many other frames, many other realms.

And really, my larger point isn't meant to be attached to any one religion:

By making life into a question (such as by asking “what is the meaning of life?”), we are bringing a dualism to life that, I believe, is not naturally a part of it.

Rather, I propose that life is the entirety of the story, nothing more or less or other. It is the breath you take in, the moment you realize that watching the sunset could never be a waste of time; it is all of the love and frustration you feel for your children all in one instant, every single day; it is how you treat other drivers on the road, even when they're being unfair; it is the song that gets stuck in your head when you really don't want it to; it is where you are between your thoughts.

I have a tattoo on my arm which reads “the kingdom is now or never.” Because life is an experience, not half of an experience.

It is the experience of looking at a tree and saying “Ah!”

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Answer

Often, you hear people say things about looking for – or finding – “the answer.” What they mean, I suppose, is that they are looking for – or believe they have found – the answer to life.

Christians, for example, like to say that Jesus is “The Answer” – with a capital ‘T’ and a capital ‘A’, of course.

This is fine, I guess. Many people believe they have found “the answer” – whatever it is to them – and I don’t really want to take that away from them.

But, at the same time, when people talk about looking for or finding “the answer,” I can’t help but wonder:

What, precisely, is the question?

Again, what they want is the answer to life, I guess. And yet, life isn’t a question, is it? It doesn't start with a "what" or a "why" or a "how," and it doesn't end with a question mark.

Rather, it seems to me that life is an experience.

The problem, then, is that if we treat life as though it were a question, we are taking something away from it. We are turning life into something semantical, trying to turn it into something more knowable than it really is.

Joseph Campbell once said, “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying ‘Ah!’”

There is no tree, of course. And, according to Joseph Campbell, there may or may not be a god, either. Rather, what he means is that “God” is something that is meant to be experienced.

Life is the same, I think. If we spend our time assuming that life is a question, then we can’t help but try to understand it. That’s what you do with a question, right? – you try to know it, try to find out its answer.

But maybe the point is to spend less time trying to understand life, and more time just doing life.

Certainly life has many mysteries that are worth unraveling. But it seems to me that – most probably – the only way to really unravel life is to just experience it. It’s not that we shouldn’t wish to understand life. But of all things, life certainly is something that you can’t know until you try.

So try it.

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