The purpose of this post isn’t to condemn faith, injure feelings or to appear “impudent”. Rather, I’d like to point out in the most transparent of ways that I believe fully in our collective ability to rise above suffering. The discussion below is designed as a dissection of, perhaps, one of the primary origins of suffering: The “special” myth. Secondly, the “purpose” myth.
In my experience, the most laughably, painfully ridiculous realization is that all of our neurotic misery comes down to the mindful absolution of purpose. In this entry, I address the myth that human sentience is unique – and also argue that the search for purpose is more a semantic joke than a meaningful endeavor. I callously observe our collective manic-depressive relationship with “pre-occupation” as a reprieve from said “joke”.
This, of course, runs contrary to what we’re conditioned to believe from birth. Nearly everything we’re told, in one way or another, conspires toward a life full of belief, action, creation and “purpose”. Sooner or later, though, this will be anachronistic. Human’s aren’t special – awareness isn’t. Time will bear this out (the universe is far too big to house a single species of neurotics).
Constant movement distracts us from our solitary human quality – which is self awareness. Becoming mindful of the constant itch for distraction unbinds us from the tentacles of the language problems I mentioned initially. This language problem gave birth to the “meaning” problem, as well as the divinity myth.
Exercise, medication, gossip and other diversions (even diversions that are morally justifiable) help distract us from the looming question of our own meaning. Again, though, the point is moot. Nature doesn’t work in an “intelligent” way so much as it does through trial and error – and it didn’t conjure up an ultimate meaning through trial and error!
Why would nature create sentient awareness within a framework which clearly seems to neglect room for such a singular, broad and satisfying answer?
Perhaps Emil Cioran was correct in, along with countless others (Pascal, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schopenhaur, Kierkegaard) assessing that our awareness is simply accidental.
One day, when AI manifests, human sentience will be an afterthought … or, in the least, seem less “divine”. In its current context, it appears paradoxical, mystical. We’ve spent our collective intellect trying to reconcile this paradox.
Nature is a neutral entity, though, and it’s unconcerned about the collective fate of 7 billion of us. That makes the singular quest for personal importance and relevance even more absurd.
We’ve conjured up some magnificent reasons over the millennia.
Viktor Frankl, for instance, sought meaning in the most dire and painful of conditions. In fact, he held those meanings on a spiritual pedestal.
The argument for love being the universal answer creeps in, but it’s flawed.
Whatever love actually is – a powerful emotion, a metaphysical experience – it’s transitory, and it’s often absent in moments of passive observation. It’s surely not pervasive, and it surely doesn’t fill the essential gap of meaning we observe.
Most of us who have had relationships understand that love can be the most potent of motivators (good or bad). It’s also fickle, though. We love ourselves foremost, and we seek ourselves in others. Once we discover the irony in this, “love” becomes more complex. Less Hollywood, more obscure – more painful.
I remember becoming incessantly frustrated with his books (Frankl’s) as they seemed to be crammed with all sorts of metaphors and analogies and anecdotes … anything but an architecture for the “problem”. Does he dare even “state” the problem or define it? I can’t remember.
The answer we seek, I believe, isn’t really purpose … but fundamental reassurance. Fundamental reassurance can come in many forms. Gravity is more reliable than love; it’s also more observable … as is the sun for that matter. We’re surrounded by physical laws quite sufficient to satisfy our need for “certainty”.
We’re still fixed with angst, though.
One sort of “reply” to Frankl’s idea of the “fleeting glory/divinity of love” or whatnot, is the Romanian Nihilist Emil Cioran, “Knowledge subverts love: in proportion as we penetrate our secrets, we come to loathe our kind, precisely because they resemble us.”
Thats also a theme in personality theory … we try to turn other people into “us”. That’s called “The Pygmalion Project”. So long as we’re mindless (not mindful), we chisel away at the person closest to us in an attempt to sculpt them into ourself (subconsciously).
After all, we wouldn’t have the beliefs and opinions we did if we weren’t convinced we were right about them … would we? The alternative would be to acknowledge you love this person who believes the opposite of you! It sounds poetic but it’s absurd …
I made this painting of a silly quote by Cioran that’s laying in a pile over here … it says something to the extent of: “To live ENTIRELY without any goals! For fleeting moments I’ve achieved this state, but I’ve been too weak to maintain it.”
He’s referencing the “gaze into the abyss” that his influence Nietzsche tagged. You could just as well call the silent contemplation of meaninglessness equivocal to staring into the sun. Thus, it’s practiced in short bursts.
Do you stare at people moving around and doing “things” … trying to think about what precisely they’re doing (it can’t be that important … there are 7,000,000,000 of us …)? I do this. I wonder if anyone stares at me in my bent posture as I leer at the rest of us?
The stronger we become, the more we’re capable of staring into the uncertain. If we can accept and surrender to the comedic situation, we’ve gone far to alleviate our ancestral conditioning (that which compels us to answer a senseless question).
So, we preoccupy ourselves all the time. It’s funny that none of the other great apes do that. They’re perfectly cool contributing nothing and having no purpose.
And that’s it. You’ve no consolation offered. Everything we have came about the same way this miserable blog entry did.
One day we’ll have more context to answer the most pensive question … one day, perhaps, we’ll be one of thousands of species capable of self awareness. Millions? Each with their own mythological conditioning and armor.
Until then, we’ll continue on with this question with the same naivety as those who feared sailing off the end of the earth, those who insisted the sun revolved around the earth … those that glorify our “unique” capacity.
-MT … 11:11 PM, February 3, 2016 CE