007 The Meaning of Life and Other Tall Tales

In Meaning of Life on November 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm


The first action we will take is to explore how far we can get looking only at opinions. We will attempt to define the boundaries of what would be an acceptable answer. This may seem like stuffing the ballot box to ensure that the answer matches our own bias, but the issues are so large when looking at belief systems that we could grow into old age before we begin to appreciate the complexities of the task.

The first boundary that we can probably agree on is that opinions provide clues, but they fail to provide certainty. This is why I gave you a very complete (perhaps too complete) picture of my own personal biases (i.e., it is difficult to know what influences what in this complex environment). Furthermore, clues provide theories to be tested in the field, so to speak.

Second, but of some importance, to ask “what is the Meaning of Life?” presupposes that we live our lives for a purpose. I will assume that most would agree, since the most common “reason” for being here includes getting closure or finishing something. But so far, we are only talking about process, and to really understand we need to talk more about substance.

We could start by asking:

  • What are we supposed to finish?
  • Is this task specific to each individual, i.e., is it different for each of us?
  • Or is this a group task, whereby we are supposed to work together?
  • How would we figure out what we are supposed to be doing?
  • Why don’t we already know the answers to these types of questions?
  • Or are we born with the answers hard-wired into our brains?
  • What would this suggest about the nature of free-will?
  • And many other such statements …

Perhaps the first thing we notice about these statements is that they are inspecific. In fact they are high level, broadly based and infused with popular opinions. And that is the key to these kinds of questions, they are about opinions. It’s the method we have been using for centuries to understand our world, but we have gotten no where for the diversion.

None-the-less, as stated above, opinions are useful in providing clues to understanding. For now, lets begin the analysis of some of this data with the statements: “Why are we here? What are we supposed to finish?” We have already noted that this question is too broad to be meaningful, and perhaps too vague to prove, so lets start by forming some additional, plausible theories, using the statement list:

  • [Theory 2a] Maybe god works through man to achieve his goals. Maybe we are some kind of caretaker for the planet, a stand in for god who is busy in other parts of the universe creating more worlds where new life forms can thrive.
  • [Theory 2b] Maybe that was the mission that god gave to Adam and Eve, the job of first caretakers, starting with the Garden of Eden—until god fired them for eating the fruit “from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
  • According to the scriptures, when Adam was asked why he ate the fruit he basically said, the woman made me do it. On hearing this, god makes every woman on earth a second class citizen, to suffer pain in child bearing, and to be subjugated and kept in their place by men.
  • Yet god is not convinced that the problem is handled, and he banishes both Adam and Eve from the garden before Eve can tempt Adam to taste the fruits of the Tree of [Eternal] life.

This scenario, while contrived by us, would explain why god is suddenly an absentee landlord, and what he thought was required to keep us in line until he got back. It would explain the appearance of not caring. Maybe, just before god left, he really did say that he would annihilate us when he returned, if we didn’t get it right. As usual, however, there is no evidence that this scenario is true, but it does provide some theories that can be further examined.

This approach of trying to explain away man’s biased views of his personal god, of his own design, out of his own personal need, without proof leads to disbelief. The problem with this approach is that we have to suppose an awful lot to get to a plausible, satisfying explanation. And the facts do not support the case, except in a superficial way.

For example, we could be caretakers. The message can be found in the Bible that we are to take care of each other, and other forms of life. But do we really believe that god so despised half of the human race, that he subjugated them to pain and slavery for the rest of time for wanting to understand the difference between right and wrong?

This post will end with a quick summary:

  1. It would be pushing it to say that god left on a mission, and man stayed behind on a mission, without an exchange of a single word of instruction.
  2. We can’t seem to go down any path for very long before we are confronted with an inconsistent, angry, punitive, bully that people call god.
  3. I don’t know whether or not god is reality, but I truly believe that this god, the one that hates women, would be an affront to any real god.
  4. Finally, even when we fabricate the answer to the what-if, we still have no facts to base it on.

By the way, if you missed the 1st comment at the end of this section, where Terry (The Other I) talks about catastrophic events that have influenced man’s thinking on the nature of god, please do take a look.

More to come next time …

Copyright © 2009-2010 by Tad Laury Graham

“The Meaning of Life and Other Tall Tales”

  1. Actually, yes, I have first hand experience with how difficult it is to publish anything, these days. For that reason, and also that the subject might be somewhat controversial, I had really only planned a short, pithy essay, that would be of interest mainly to the cultural magazines. (20 – 30 manuscript pages, limited tightly to the subject it addressees.)

    A full length book would have to grow out of that first effort, or it would end up as a joint blog, but maybe that’s where it belongs.

    Another possibility is that I have been writing short stories for the last year, and could easily incorporate it a book of Essays, Short Stories and Poetry). It’s just a thought, if you are already committed it’s best to get the commitment put to bed before starting another project.

    • I appologize for the typos, but my hands don’t work like they used to work.

    • Okay, let’s go forward as we have been but possibly with a little more regularity, especially on my part. I’ll add comments to your postings and let’s see how things evolve. Meanwhile, I’ll also work with a little more diligence on my previous commitment.

      Please don’t embarrass me by apologizing for your typos. The excuse I use is that I’m mildly dyslexic (it sounds so much better than seriously careless). My problem is that I can look at a word that the spellchecker says should be spelled differently, and I can’t see the difference. I have to go very carefully letter-by-letter to find it. Mostly these days I just take spellchecker’s word for it.

  2. I think I have been coming around to your way of thinking on this for quite some time now. My rationale may be a little different, but we aren’t that far apart in reality. I will try to address this next post. I intend to turn this series into an essay in a couple of months. How would you like to be a co-author? It won’t make us rich, but it might help somebody, somewhere to know it isn’t their fault. This really is the way things work.

    I realized today that Tony Equale and I are not that far apart, either. I was a little disappointed that we got into a shooting match, and he would not post my final response, which always makes it look like withdrawal for reasons of cowardice. But I do understand … one of my great failings in life is that I do understand people.

    Some misguided individual spamed me again. It’s inexpensive theatre for the masses, but I managed to get the name, the address, the IP and a few more enteresting things that identify the perpetrater, who shall go unamed in this comment. I guess my first career is still paying dividends (I was a computer expert). Next time, I turn it all over to the legal system for possible prosecution. “THree strikes and you are out,” as tey say.

    • P.S. – If you want to start co-authoring now, feel free to add your 2 cents to the post. Probably the easiest way to do this is in the comments. We can integrate it later.

      My lastline above should have read, “Three strikes and you are out,” as they say.

      • Graham – It is quite a compliment that you suggest we work as co-authors. But are you aware of the process involved in getting a book published? I have published books both as an academic and for the popular press, and the difference is night and day. Publishers assume that academics will sell their books as a result of their university jobs, but for books aimed at the general public, they want to know how you are planning to promote it. In fact, I get the impression that the promotion part of any book proposal is more important than the book itself. And it’s still an incredibly tough market to break into. Even well-thought out proposals can be rejected by hundreds of publishers.

        The other alternative, of course, is self-publishing. The problem with this approach is that it costs the author hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and the authors are still left with all the promotion work to do.

        I myself am beginning to think that perhaps my blog is sufficient in itself. You too might consider that increasing readers for your blog through Twitter and some of the other social networks might be a compromise worth exploring.

        I am also working on the second edition of my book “The Big Bang to Now,” which is going to include a brief overview of some of the questions you are discussing here.

        Having said that, I do not preclude a co-authorship, and in any case, will continue to make my comments on your posts. I’m going to be out of cyber-space for the next couple of weeks, though, so my silence will be – if not golden – at least explicable.

        Thank you again. Terry

  3. I think your list and similar facts are indeed the biggest reason why so many people can no longer believe in a loving god. Actually, the jolt aginst faith, I think, began with the plague – the Black Death – where neither the good or bad were spared. God simply did not seem to care. And the evidence continues to unfold. Whatever God is or isn’t, he is not a Loving all-powerful father who looks after his children in any fashion we humans recognize.

    I personally think that the whole enterprise of the universe is in part our responsibility. There isn’t some great plan out there which we are supposed to find and follow. We are the makers and the fulfillers of the plan. Each one of us may have only a very small part, but there are a lot of us. It’s like a vote. We might think our small contribution doesn’t matter, but if we all thought that way, we would have a dictatorship.

    Yes, existence great mystery, and we aren’t going to figure it all out. But like you, despite (or maybe even because of) all the hardships and challenges, I am grateful from the depths of my being to be able to participate in this great process. It is my deepest joy that manages to survive through the worst. (Though I must confess that my personal worst is pitiful next to the worst of many many others.)

    The clown of the American Indians who walks backwards has been one of my favorites for years. I’ve always thought it was to remind us a) not to take ourselves too seriously, and b) we might be wrong. Or something like that.

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