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[P]
The Search for Meaning

By grumpy in Culture
Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:20:27 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

It was 3am Thursday night/Friday morning about a year ago, and some work friends and I were playing pool at the Century Tavern on George Street, Sydney when one of them asked me what song would best describe me at the moment. Well, we had all be recently retrenched from our jobs, I had separated from my wife and had just completed 3 1/2 years part time study for a Masters degree. What was my choice? Losing my Religion by REM.


Where do you find meaning, where do you find truth? What do you use to fill your life? In George Orwell's book 1984 the citizens were given free Vodka, in Aldus Huxley's Brave New World it was a drug called Soma. What is it for you? Is it television? Is it shopping? Is it your work, your job? Is it alcohol, or going to the pub? Do you have Coke-Cola running through your veins? Do you drive a new car? Does it still have the new car smell? Do you have a Nike logo on you now? Does it provide you with a sense of idealism that the advertisements want you to have?

What fills your life so you are happy? So that you find meaning?

Advertising fills our lives. Everywhere I go and everything I see, I end up looking at branded space. Billboards at the train station, advertisements in the newspaper, commercials on the television. Banner ads on the net. Everywhere I go, there they are. Logos on clothing, bags and magazines. I read recently that a company in Sydney has purchased the rights to puts advertising on tables in food courts at shopping centres. When I go to the toilet there are ads on the walls and doors at the pub. And what do those ads tell us? That we can be happy if we drink Coke, wear Nike clothing, watch Disney movies and eat McDonalds.

Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt in the movie) tells us in Fight Club that "We don't own our things, our things own us." and that "[w]e live in a time of Spiritual Depression." Kevin Spacy in American Beauty lets us know that the $4000 sofa upholstered in Italian silk "is just stuff, it's not living."

Does your stuff make you happy? Does it give you meaning?

I used to be addicted to watching Star Trek. I'd go up to the video store at Chatswood and get the next two videos of ST:Voyager, take them home and watch them. Next day I'd take them back and get the next two tapes. Star Trek is like McDonalds, Coke-Cola and the TV show Friends. It's always the same, consistent product every time. It would be 2am in the morning, and I'd say to myself "Just one more episode, it's only 44 minutes including credits."

When I meet someone new, after the first set of pleasantries are over the questioning inevitably comes to "What do I do?" Well, I don't do anything. I'm unemployed. I am not defined by what I'm paid to do. I went and saw "About a Boy" recently, and while I won't spoil the story, Hugh Grant plays the role of a person who doesn't do anything, doesn't have a job. He's got enough money that he doesn't need to work. And when people ask him what he does, and he replies nothing, somehow their interest in him is lost.

I went to Japan for 2 months earlier this year (in April and May.) as part of my search for meaning. I discovered a land of contradictions, immense affluence and incredible poverty in both the material and spiritual worlds. Although the people have a civilised history reaching back thousands of years the past 50 seem to have been one where the most change has occurred. Unemployment and homelessness is starting to become a real social problem.

I'd see homeless people in Osaka and Fukuoka. They may have been top executives for their companies, but when their company retrenched people and they lost their jobs, they had been shamed. Quite often they would give everything to their wife and kids and leave. Go and live in a blue trap tent in the park, or in cardboard boxes at the train station. There was very little social infrastructure to support them.

I didn't expect to find that. I didn't know what to expect, but it wasn't that. I'd sit in noodle bars with middle aged men who were drinking and eating by themselves. It would be 10pm at night, and they'd fall asleep over their food rather than go home. They'd do this perhaps three or four nights a week. They'd work long, hard hours and then drown their sorrows at the local Mama-san bar, where'd they pay for the comfort of women to be with them. I wanted to go up to them and say, "Look, just go home. It can't be that bad."

Back in Sydney, when I catch the train in the evenings from Town Hall I see so many people, office workers/drones waiting to go home. I feel sad for them. They don't look happy, they don't look content. If I wasn't so shy, I'd grab one of them and ask "Are you happy?" or "Do you have meaning in your life?" Unfortunately my experience seems to show that on trains, we've become accustomed to being very physically close to people while totally ignoring them.

Quite often we have limitations on what we can and can't do. I'm not advocating you to drop everything and go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery if you have responsibilities. If you have a family to look after or school or university to pursue, then you have to complete these things. I also have my responsibilities.

But what I've found over the years, is that the search of meaning is the search itself. It is not a destination. You don't suddenly arrive and say, hey, that's it. It isn't hiding behind the couch. It's not under the table.

For myself, I've found meaning through the Scripture and through the community of Christ at the churches I've been a member of. Through social justice activities, and acts of civil disobedience. It is a lasting and purposeful meaning, a meaning only God can provide and satisfy, and my actions illustrate.

But for you, it will be different. Each of us takes a different journey.

And so I ask each of you, even if you don't do anything for 10 years, to always be thinking about your journey, about your search. You seen and heard the things that have influenced me and my journey and I hope that they might encourage you.

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Poll
Where do you find meaning?
o Television 5%
o Family 16%
o Work 12%
o Possessions 6%
o Faith and Spirituality 12%
o Religion 4%
o Under the Couch/Table 43%

Votes: 150
Results | Other Polls

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o Also by grumpy


Display: Sort:
The Search for Meaning | 344 comments (331 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
I love you (2.33 / 3) (#1)
by Nine Eleven on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:36:20 AM EST



Oh, that's nice to know (none / 0) (#3)
by grumpy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:38:47 AM EST

And I love you too.

Mmmm ... I'll have a take away large decaff soy mocha
[ Parent ]
RUN! (none / 0) (#9)
by Greyshade on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:19:24 AM EST

When Duxup gets here and finds you stealing his thunder, he'll probably make a sanwich of your fried spleen.

[ Parent ]
yay, Coke! (2.00 / 2) (#2)
by pb on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:37:40 AM EST

Make that "Coca-cola" or "Coke", and yes, I do have it running through my veins; Vanilla Coke is excellent as well!

Also--as is surely common here--I enjoy Science Fiction/Fantasy, Programming, and computer stuff in general.  I also enjoy having discussions (yea, even like this one!) and the great outdoors (but not as often as I should).
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

There is no meaning. (4.33 / 3) (#4)
by felixrayman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:46:44 AM EST

"Nothing is true, everything is permitted."

--Hassan-i Sabbah, the master of the Order of Assassins

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

I LOVE YOU!!! (none / 0) (#13)
by Disevidence on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:59:17 AM EST

For finally telling me the meaning to the title of a hawkwind song.

Its in your sig.

[ Parent ]

Ewige Blumenkraft und Ewige Schlangekraft. n/t (2.33 / 3) (#19)
by Emissary on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:14:37 AM EST



"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
you mean "permissable" [nt] (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:38:25 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Trite, but ... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by j1mmy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:55:58 AM EST

I derive an uncanny amount of happiness by just staring at a clear blue sky. I can't explain it, but hey, it works for me.

If I wasn't so shy, I'd grab one of them and ask "Are you happy?" or "Do you have meaning in your life?"

This kind of behaviour gets one labeled as "crazy" in today's society. =)


Trite my left foot (5.00 / 1) (#149)
by dorsai on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:12:07 PM EST

I too derive an inordinate amount of joy from that exercise - especially when it's a wide-open landscape, such as the desert or the ocean - don't knock the "little pleasures" in life, I find that my life is much richer for my ability to take pleasure from simple things


Dorsai the sigless


[ Parent ]
Unfortunately... (none / 0) (#206)
by Rk on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:24:04 PM EST


I derive an uncanny amount of happiness by just staring at a clear blue sky. I can't explain it, but hey, it works for me.

...that doesn't work when it's overcast.

[ Parent ]

Bad Weather (5.00 / 1) (#281)
by j1mmy on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 10:40:25 PM EST

When I can't see the blue sky, I spend all my time in my closet, weeping bitterly until the sun comes out again.

[ Parent ]
Life is worth living. (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by djmann88 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:06:01 AM EST

It has been a perenial favorite of philosphers for thousands of years to suggest that "life has lost something, we have lost our way, our way of life is spiritually devoid".

The truth is more subtle than that. Actually we taught to look back on the past as pleasant. This is because our overgrown monkey brains stress over unpleasant things, so we block them out.

Also, to be brutal, your comments are analogous to coming out of a depressed state, and it is typical to feel euphoric about a new way of life after a period in depression.

"Cheer up, life could be worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough, life got worse."

Actually, you probably are right (none / 0) (#25)
by grumpy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:37:46 AM EST

Yes, I have been depressed. Probably still am. Being umemployed is not fun. And considering the other problems in my life, this seemed like a good way to exorcise my daemons, so to speak.

Mmmm ... I'll have a take away large decaff soy mocha
[ Parent ]
depression (3.50 / 2) (#115)
by adiffer on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:50:10 PM EST

If you are searching for meaning and feeling good about trying or being annoyed at not seeing it, you are coming out of your depression.  Keep it up.  It is worth the effort.

Others here may think you are on the wrong course with your decision to turn to religion.  I suggest you don't worry too much about them.  My own course out of depression took a very different path, but it worked just as well.  As long as you aren't out shooting babies or some such thing to feel better, it doesn't matter much how you do it.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

unemployed... (3.00 / 4) (#217)
by dazzle on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:01:23 PM EST

'Being unemployed is not fun.'

What I find interesting is people equating being unemployed with being depressed. If you are not working do you become depressed because you feel useless in life because you haven't got a job? Is that the sense of meaningless you have been feeling - that you aren't being a 'productive' member of the society we live in. Or does it go deeper?

Personally I have always thought like this - it has just been exasperated in the last few years by work. Most jobs - especially IT / customer support / service type jobs - are in fact meaningless. They do not serve any other purpose other than to make someone somewhere alot of money. So why work? And then why feel depressed if you are not working? Read all those novels you should be reading but never got round to it. Get drunk. Get high. At this moment in time by not working you are free. You can do what you want.

What do YOU really WANT to do with your LIFE?

---
the internet: a global network of small minded people


[ Parent ]
Epicurus (none / 0) (#51)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:05:11 AM EST

It has been a perenial favorite of philosphers for thousands of years to suggest that "life has lost something, we have lost our way, our way of life is spiritually devoid".
Fortunately there is a notable exception to this rule: Epicurus, the happy philosopher.

[ Parent ]
There is not... (4.87 / 8) (#10)
by Matt Oneiros on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:22:00 AM EST

a meaning. There are no meanings. We are, or we aren't rather.

Meaning is just a ghost of a concept we try to project onto our lives, meaning is a creation of culture. Some might say it is truly what we do between birth and death, that is our greater significance, but death is not and ending nor birth a beginning.

We are or we aren't, living is just what we do.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real

in fact (4.00 / 2) (#47)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:39:58 AM EST

In fact there are meanings - there has to be. There may not be any supreme meaning to life, but the meanings we create are real to us (and that's what being real means: real to us). The problem is that we fail to recognize them as our own creations. Maybe this is because we don't believe that we are capable of making our own decisions without the help of some universal set of moral rules.

This is of course an atheist dilemma. If God is not dead for you, you have no problem. But if you're like me, you have to try something else. But the idea is that we do need meanings that are real, no matter if they come from a god or from ourselves.

The most common decision is to try and avoid the search for these meanings. Many people simply drown themselves in work to avoid starting to question the normal lifestyle. This doesn't work, because eventually you have to take a break if you don't want to burn yourself out, and then the fundamental questions are right there waiting for you.

[ Parent ]

of course (none / 0) (#110)
by Matt Oneiros on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:24:10 PM EST

there are meanings, but they are our own and really kind of "mean" nothing.

I'd say just dig and be dug or something like that but the ultimate point of it all is that what counts is that you're doing your thing and they're all doing their things and it's all cool because it works for each of you wether there's a god or not.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real
[ Parent ]

OK (none / 0) (#148)
by icastel on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:10:55 PM EST

there are meanings, but they are our own and really kind of "mean" nothing.

So you're now accepting there are "meanings," but they mean nothing. What the hell kind of explanation is that? What is it you're trying to say?




-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
meaning (none / 0) (#184)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:01:03 PM EST

A meaning is something that someone intentionally gives to something. It doesn't sound as fancy if we ourselves decide what is meaningful, but I don't see how it matters, really. Our meanings are meanings all the same. They wouldn't have any "more" meaning if they came from an outside source, like a god.

[ Parent ]
or maybe not (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by Fuzzwah on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:47:01 AM EST

Quoting Fight Club would normally be a good way of getting my interest, but not when used in a "pro-finding-meaning" article.

I enjoy my life, I don't feel a need to find meaning. I've come to the conclusion that I'm here, life is frail and I'd better make the most of it. The world we live in is an amazing place and I want to explore it, the same goes for my own brain.

You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We are all part of the same compost heap. We are the all singing all dancing crap of the world

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

I think differently (none / 0) (#14)
by Disevidence on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:03:00 AM EST

I intend to just find out about this world as much as possible, as I believe the meaning of life is to gain knowledge. Everyone is unique. We just don't look close enough to notice the difference.

Im not sure what religion or school of thought thats under, but its probably under something.

[ Parent ]

perhaps... (5.00 / 1) (#241)
by Endorphin on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:34:56 AM EST

I enjoy my life, I don't feel a need to find meaning.

My personal take on this article (and life in general) is that the enjoyment is the meaning. As you are enjoying your life, you don't feel the need to search for something else; those that do feel the need to search might have realised that they want more.

The realisation that you are not happy, especially if you know specifically what you're not happy about, is necessary for you to help yourself.

(This is all pulled out of my ass. The story and all the comments are very intesting to me at the moment, thank you.)

[ Parent ]

What is meaning? (4.72 / 11) (#15)
by greenshift on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:05:03 AM EST

What is meaning?  I think meaning in life is something that keeps you going.

As human beings, we are capable of seeing the blunt truth that we are here merely to procreate and propogate our species.  No other species can comprehend their purpose.

We are in a unique position in that we can realize how utterly pointless our lives can be.  We know that eventually our home planet will be destroyed.  We know that an asteroid could kill us off before we can start a new colony on a different planet.

To ward off the despair that could easily come of this knowledge, we keep ourselves preoccupied with various hobbies, jobs, families, etc.  It is quite a feat of the human that we have decided to fabricate a better place, a better situation for ourselves rather than succomb to the morbid reality of our being.

For myself, I've found meaning through the Scripture and through the community of Christ at the churches I've been a member of. Through social justice activities, and acts of civil disobedience. It is a lasting and purposeful meaning, a meaning only God can provide and satisfy, and my actions illustrate.

I don't see religion as the One Truth, as the way to live forever.  It is a way to ward off the despair of living.  It keeps you going.  It is only natural, I would argue, vital to human existance, that we see something higher than just our individual existance.  This does not have to be God or religion, it could be scientific or engineering accomplishments, or any number of other things.  A human has to see something beyond just their lone existance for them to want to continue on.

I firmly believe that religion is just a way of passing your time on Earth.  That one day you will die, only to ascend to the heavens seems to me a great folly.  I would not want to live forever.  What is there to gain?  Happiness?  What good is an eternal life trapped from contributing to the forwarding of the human race?  What is to motivate you to live forever in heaven?  Why do you want Heaven and eternal life?  Do people fear Hell so much that heaven is just the default option to want?  That your way of going through life is the fear of eternal Hell?  

That you live your life, all ~70 years of it, only to have children, die, and for your children to repeat the cycle, ad nauseum, seems too much for humans to bear.  We fabricate ways of making life more than what we all know it really is.  

We all are cursed with the suppressed knowledge that life is utterly pointless.  That we live to procreate and die.  What we call "meaning" is merely our individual way of ignoring what only we humans can comprehend.  The one real difference of humans relative to other animals is our comprehension, and inherent suppresion, of our fate.  That we must facbricate things to live for is the very thing that keeps us alive and allows humans to thrive.

Pardon the poor spelling.... (none / 0) (#21)
by greenshift on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:17:09 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Meta search-of-meaning / why even bother (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by dagsverre on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:54:19 AM EST

I somehow have a feeling that no matter how things were put together they would still be pointless, eh? The only kind of existance that is not pointless is to not exist?

Well, even if the earth didn't go up in flames eventually, what difference would it make to you? Why would a sun that doesn't ever go nova give more meaning to you, when you live here, now, in the moment? And why does everything have to be a product, to produce something, in order to have meaning? (in fact, the opposite usually holds true for me, I can enjoy things more if I know that they are done for their own sake, but I digress)

We might be here only to propagate the species (your words though, not mine), and all the beauty we see around us, all the things that makes us go "wow", all the things that give us meaning is simply there to pass our time while we are ruthlessly tricked into fulfilling our utterly pointless purpose. But let's try to reverse the cause and effect here: The way we propagate is a way, pure technically, to let us experience life, right? Why should the technical implementation be more important than what it accomplishes?

I can see your point but I think things can be seen from more, not necesarrily incompatible, positions. Try turning your arguments inside out... to say that we propagate because we enjoy life, isn't that just as true as us propagating as a purpose and then enjoying life just as a side effect? (and even the melancholy of knowing it might all be pointless is beautiful to me... might just be strange sense of humour though)

In my opinion, our existance would be more pointless if we were here for another purpose than just being here/experiencing it all, so to say (note that this has little to do with atheism because, as you say, one would want a reason to be in heaven as well...). Of course, following your reasoning this makes me just another blind person refusing to realize the pointlessness of his existance and cowardly taking refuge in life itself...



[ Parent ]
I agree that .. (none / 0) (#228)
by Udderdude000 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:56:07 PM EST

.. our physical existance is pointless in the sense that we will never change anything on a large scale.  We are small creatures living on a planet in a enormous universe.  Eventually, our bodies will die, leaving nothing behind but dust.     Even our sun will die, with time, leaving nothing behind to even mark our planet's existance.  Go out into space far enough and it will seem as if we never existed at all.

The reason for our existance is to experience the act of existing.  Our memories, thoughts, emotions and experiences are the most important.

The experience of someone who lives a long and prosperous life is just as important of that of someone who lives a life of poverty and despair.  The same for the experience of a person who believes life is pointless, or the experiences of a person who was born and lived thousands of years ago.  They are all experiences.  No life is truly meaningless.

Being a small creature living on a planet in a enormous universe is just part of the experience.

- Chris

[ Parent ]

wrong on heaven... (none / 0) (#290)
by nads on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:12:02 AM EST

I'm agnostic at the momment, but I really think you are wrong when you say that having a higher reason for life would actually be more pointless. We often go through life with mini-purposes towards some ultimate purpse:

1. Do well in highschool so I can go to a college
2. Do well in college so I can do well in graduate work
3. Do well in graduate work so I can get a good job
4. Do well at my job so I can support my family
5. Support my family, so my kids go on to be good people

where n is the pupose of n-1. This linear progression is just what I take to be the average progression a lot of people believe. Most people have such linear or other simple purpose mechanisms. The point is, the last reason on that chain is never supportable. 5 has no purpose.

God is a convient way out. The idea of a god solves the problem, as a god can end something like this inherently.  Now whether or not he exists is another question. But he definitely can solve problems like this.

[ Parent ]

My personal view (none / 0) (#151)
by Xeriar on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:15:46 PM EST

Has turned into a sort of 'We are reborn into the world we make for ourselves.' view.

I'm not sure if it's right, but if someone asks me where I get my morals from if I don't worship or fear a god, that is my general answer. I really do want to make the world a better, happier place.

Of course, I generally don't feel I need a reason to help. But some people need a reason, as if there is an ultimate purpose to all of this.

Without fail now, whenever I feel depressed my mind asks 'Why do we exist? There is no ultimate reason.' And, for some whacked up reason, I just feel better knowing that.

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

dream machines (none / 0) (#174)
by killmepleez on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:28:20 PM EST

I happened to be off work today, sitting at home on a stunningly beautiful warm windy sunny day, checking email with bjork's "verspertine" in the stereo, and flipping over to k5 and reading your post I now almost feel like crying.
I gave up on meaning years ago, and have found myself to be remarkably content since then, but once every five months or so I get a whiff of the old need for something, anything to signify. With one part of my mind, I'm well aware that I've been keeping myself artificially occupied so as not to fall into the self-cannabalizing recursive brain loop of questioning 'meaning'. As a kid, I actually took the principles outlined in 1984 as a blueprint for personality, and I discovered that I could develop the ability to perform crimestop when I find myself starting to think about the utter pointlessness of the evolved human consciousness. This technique has provided for no end of happiness in the subsequent years.

Recommended reading:
-Walker Percy Lost in the Cosmos [or almost anything else by him, for that matter]
-Jeremy Leven Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure By the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S. [sorry I don't have a more informational link, but this book somehow sneaked under the cultural radar and has only recently come back into print]
-Kurt Vonnegut Sirens of Titan [the rest of these authors have plenty of easily available information]
-Salman Rushdie Grimus
-James Morrow's so-called "death of god" trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abbadon, and The Eternal Footman
-and, of course, Dostoevki's Brother's Karamazov

Enjoy the despair.


I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart
"Regret" -N.O.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
[ Parent ]
goddamit i always misspell Abaddon. I swear...[nt] (none / 0) (#176)
by killmepleez on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:31:33 PM EST



__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
[ Parent ]
Is this all in compliance with natural selection? (none / 0) (#205)
by hbw on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:24:00 PM EST

This is a very interesting view of life indeed.

Hell, you could even incorporate this inherent self-survival through ignorance into Darwinism.

Only the humans that ignore the pointlessness of life will go through a whole life; those committing suicide are basically just the "unselected" in Darwin's Natural Selection?

I'm not sure I could live a whole life embracing that ultimate meaning though.

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

meaning through zen koans (4.75 / 8) (#16)
by elderogue on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:06:47 AM EST

A monk told Joshu: `I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.'
Joshu asked: `Have you eaten your rice porridge?'
The monk replied: `I have eaten.'
Joshu said: `Then you had better wash your bowl.'
At that moment the monk was enlightened.
I once told this koan to a friend and he replied, "So... what's this telling me? that i should clean up after myself?"
At that moment i was enlightened.

Well... maybe you can't find meaning in koans. but it sure is fun to abruptly end stories with "At that moment so-and-so was enlightened."

...and i think that's what life is really about after all =)
-e

the best "and then .... was enlightened" (5.00 / 3) (#30)
by gromgull on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:15:29 AM EST

How many FreeBSD hackers does it take to change a lightbulb?

http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/faq/funnies.html
--
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot

[ Parent ]

Discordian "Koan" (5.00 / 2) (#162)
by drivers on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:41:59 PM EST

Can be found here!  My favorite "was enlightened" story.
<a href="http://discordia.org.uk/zen.html">http://discordia.org.uk/zen.html</a>


[ Parent ]
Ice Cream Koan (5.00 / 2) (#208)
by gusnz on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:26:58 PM EST

That, and "Orange Traffic Koan" remain my perennial favourites.


[ JavaScript / DHTML menu, popup tooltip, scrollbar scripts... ]

[ Parent ]
my favorite bit of discordianism (5.00 / 1) (#211)
by elderogue on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:40:25 PM EST

= ZARATHUD'S ENLIGHTENMENT =

Before he became a hermit, Zarathud was a young Priest, and took great delight in making fools of his opponents in front of his followers.

One day Zarathud took his students to a pleasant pasture and there he confronted The Sacred Chao while She was contentedly grazing.

"Tell me, you dumb beast." demanded the Priest in his commanding voice, "why don't you do something worthwhile. What is your Purpose in Life, anyway?"

Munching the tasty grass, The Sacred Chao replied "MU".

Upon hearing this, absolutely nobody was enlightened. Primarily because nobody could understand Chinese.

cheers =)
-e
[ Parent ]
You missed some poll options. (5.00 / 3) (#17)
by Apuleius on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:08:02 AM EST

Another one is "Art". And another one is "anywhere."


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Even more (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by Ig0r on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:56:12 AM EST

It's not just art, but the act of creating something new and never-before-(seen|heard|used).

I enjoy spending my time thinking of and building things that I think are interesting.
I make medium-power rockets to take to a local club to meet with others and see what they have made.
I tinker, adjust, and add to my computers and electronics to make them mine, and I share them with others who do the same, while enjoying what they have done.

Basically the fun part of life is showing others what you can do and taking pleasure in their reactions.

[ Parent ]

also (none / 0) (#45)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:25:33 AM EST

About the poll: What's the difference between "Religion" and "Faith and Spirituality"? Isn't religion by definition faith and spirituality?

I couldn't select any of the alternatives, because I find meaning in philosophy and in trying to make the world a better place, or at least trying not to make it any worse than it already is. I was also missing the "Internet" option.

[ Parent ]

Nope, not the same... (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by killthiskid on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:48:29 PM EST

Some definitions:

Religion:

  1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
  2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
  3. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
  4. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
  5. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Spiritual:

  1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.
  2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
  3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
  4. Of or belonging to a church or religion;
  5. sacred.
  6. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

Religion is a well founded, very structured thing (for the most part). There are generally rituals, leaders, sacrifice (money), buildings, a calender of events, rules, and a supreme higher being involved.

Now, there is crossover between the two. A religious person can be very spiritual. But they do not have to be. A person can be religious merely by following the rules and leaders of their religion.

A spiritual person, on the other hand, is more free form. I am an atheist, but I am also very spiritual. Every morning is special to me. I step out my back door and take in reality in its full glory, and it fills me with a sense of wonder I can't explain. Just the very act of existing is spiritual for me. It requires no rules or organization.

Does that help?



[ Parent ]
okay (none / 0) (#180)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:47:11 PM EST

Yeah, I see what you mean, but it wasn't just "spirituality"; it was "faith and spirituality". I agree that spirituality doesn't imply having religious beliefs. But of course religion is a complex thing, since some religions are more "religious" than others, and there are many atheist religions too.

[ Parent ]
Umm, atheist religions? (none / 0) (#296)
by killthiskid on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:25:46 PM EST

Could you give me an example of an 'atheist religion?'.

This seems unlikely as religion pertains to a set of faiths based around a higher power, something that atheist disbelieve.

Thanks.



[ Parent ]
Buddhism (3.00 / 1) (#300)
by dalinian on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 04:38:25 PM EST

Some branches of Buddhism consider Buddha as a god, but most are atheistic.

But this is of course only a result of the hegemony of Western culture. We should call Buddhism a philosophy, but since Plato already stole the exclusive rights to use that name, only Western philosophy is usually called "philosophy".

[ Parent ]

it's not atheistic in the western sense (5.00 / 1) (#301)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:38:12 PM EST

If you study Buddhism carefully, you'll notice that it is highly spiritual and completely, 100%, against all kinds of materialism.

It is a-theistic, meaning, there is no belief in God, but a real Buddhist believes in things like reincarnation, spirit (which they call Mind or Universal Mind), and all kinds of things that can be considered either miracles or magic.

Of course Buddhism is also a philosophy, but it is a philosophy which completely discards, and in fact, utterly annihilates through discource the conclusion that our world is real or that it is made from real, pre-existing stuff (called "matter" by most people).  Only superficial people will assert that Buddhism is an "atheist" religion in the Western sense, where the word "atheist" has come to mean "materialist".

[ Parent ]

but (none / 0) (#305)
by dalinian on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:59:33 PM EST

but a real Buddhist believes in things like reincarnation
A good point. But that does not mean there is a god for Buddhists.
spirit (which they call Mind or Universal Mind)
This is not really a "mind", I think. A Buddhist doesn't see conscious planning happening in the world. Pantheism and atheism are not very different to me: if nature (or the "spirit" of nature) is a god, why can't we just call it nature?
Only superficial people will assert that Buddhism is an "atheist" religion in the Western sense, where the word "atheist" has come to mean "materialist".
I don't believe I'm superficial. By atheism, I don't mean materialism, because I need some word to describe that I don't believe in gods. If atheism implied materialism, I would have to think of a new word for that purpose, and I'm not going to, since "atheism" works pretty well already. And all new words would get polluted eventually anyway.

[ Parent ]
nature (5.00 / 1) (#306)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 07:46:56 PM EST

"This is not really a "mind", I think. A Buddhist doesn't see conscious planning happening in the world. Pantheism and atheism are not very different to me: if nature (or the "spirit" of nature) is a god, why can't we just call it nature?"

Well, just calling it nature is good, except that imo, it doesn't help those who need help.

I never said anything about planning, but Buddhists do not deny either awareness or consciousness.  In fact, they discuss consciousness in great detail, and not once do they assert (anywhere that I've read or seen) that consciousness doesn't exist.  In fact, when they say "sentient being", guess what the "sentient" implies?  Where there is consciousness, there is Mind and vice versa.  I don't feel like getting much deeper into it right now.

With regards to Mind, that comes from Chinese Zen literature.  Referring to Mind in this way can be misleading (as can be anything, even "nature"), but I find it most expedient when properly explained, because it is much easier to explain than "nature".  That's because human mind can't handle negation well and pointing at "Mind" doesn't involve as much negation as pointing at "nature".

Now, most "atheists" in USA and everywhere else in the world (such as exUSSR, for example, where "atheism" was state sanctioned) are actually "materialists".  That's why "atheist" is a loaded word.  It has subtle connotations and assumptions that are attached to it.  Buddhists don't call themselves "atheist" for that reason, because simply saying "no God" doesn't quite discribe their belief.  Mostly "materialists" call themselves "atheist".  The only exception to this are people who actually study religion and who know the real meaning of "atheist", but most people don't understand the word "atheist" the way you do because most people don't dwell on the finer points of theology.

[ Parent ]

atheism (none / 0) (#307)
by dalinian on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 07:55:03 PM EST

In fact, when they say "sentient being", guess what the "sentient" implies? Where there is consciousness, there is Mind and vice versa.
Yes, but I meant that there is no consciousness outside sentient beings, no "will" of nature. Or is there?
The only exception to this are people who actually study religion and who know the real meaning of "atheist", but most people don't understand the word "atheist" the way you do because most people don't dwell on the finer points of theology.
I study philosophy but I know its meaning as well. And if people have strange ideas about what words mean, discussion usually proves to be hard. It's much simpler to leave the connotations out of atheism.

[ Parent ]
ouside? (5.00 / 1) (#309)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:09:47 PM EST

"Yes, but I meant that there is no consciousness outside sentient beings, no "will" of nature. Or is there?"

Good question.

[ Parent ]

And the really important one is (none / 0) (#50)
by ZanThrax on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:59:33 AM EST

I don't.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Re: Extra poll option (none / 0) (#53)
by chemista on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:23:06 AM EST

I think this may be the consensus opinion here, given that the "joke answer" is leading the poll by a wide margin. The whole "finding the meaning of life" business is the stuff of con artists and evangelizers (sometimes the same people).
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
HEY!!!! (3.40 / 5) (#23)
by xriso on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:05:28 AM EST

Just because it's cool be all anti-commercial and crap doesn't mean it's right. I love working so that I can buy wonderful products like Coca-Cola and computers and gambling and sex and drugs and music and porn and they all make me happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy happy HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!!!!

Two points:

  • I don't actually do all that stuff, and what I do doesn't give me happyhappyhappy mindlessness.
  • Happy. What a weird word. Hapy. Ha-pi. h a p p y.

--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
The journey is our meaning. (4.60 / 5) (#24)
by ekips on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:35:07 AM EST

.. That is, it is fo rme. I find my meaning in the journey; I find my meaning in not finding meaning in advertising or Coca-Cola or Star Trek (no offense). I find my meaning in myself: in being along for the ride, in being here, in the moment. I use little more out of what I need; this keeps costs down, keeps me healthy, and keeps my life uncomplicated and yet content.

The journey is a truely beautiful thing. Good luck with yours.

+1 FP.

-----------------

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, do you really think we'd stick around to tell you?
I forgot to mention ... (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by ekips on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:17:26 AM EST

I've found something quite opposite to what you say about self-protection on trains. At least in America, the train is the one place where you see the personal barriers broken down. I've had some of the most fascinating conversations on trains. When taking a cross-country trip, I watched a couple in their early twenties meet a man they'd never seen before, and by the time he got off the train, a day or two later and a few stops before them, they were hugging him and giving phone numbers and whatnot. Being on long-haul trains like that almost forces you to like at least some of the people you're around. There's something to be said for that, I think; it's a very subtle force, and it opens up social opportunities that were not open before.

-----------------

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, do you really think we'd stick around to tell you?
[ Parent ]
damn (none / 0) (#98)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:41:19 PM EST

"I find my meaning in not finding meaning"

You must not realize how rediculous this sounds.

Until I read the crap after the first couple sentances, I thought this was satire. LOL
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

see... (3.25 / 4) (#27)
by dazzle on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:28:11 AM EST

...I'm not the only one who questions the world and society we live in today.

Nobody asks why enough.

Challenge your own preconceptions.

Read my diary entry - because there has to be an alternative.

What did people do before the 'hidden desires' advertising we have today. Remember it's a very new invention to advertise on the fact that you really need this or that product rather than you need it because it's practical. Television is a new entertainment as well. How did these things pervade into the lifestyle this much. Why did no one say - 'hey hang on I don't want this, this is pointless'.

Why work? Why do you work? And I don't mean the standard answer of I need to work because I've got a mortgage / rent to pay, or I want a mortgage / rent to pay, I have a family, I want a family, I have a career, I want a career - that's just fitting in with society. And I don't want the answer of 'that's what I do' or 'that's all there is - what else do you do'

WHY do YOU work? What is the POINT of your job?

I'm not working at the moment and when I say I do nothing people sort blank off from you and you can see them not understanding you not working. At the moment I don't want to work. All the jobs I have done have been pointless customer services type jobs - including IT Support, if people expect me to know how to drive then why can't I expect them to know how to use a computer properly.

I shall be doing a diary entry soon about work - so stay tuned. Or maybe another article.

---
the internet: a global network of small minded people


Let it drop (4.75 / 4) (#28)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:59:20 AM EST

Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt in the movie) tells us in Fight Club that "We don't own our things, our things own us."
That is a basic tenet of Buddhism. I own quite a few things, I admit. I own two computers, a desk, a few chairs, clothes, lots of books, a bed and some assorted trinket. But just because I own stuff doesn't mean I have to give a shit about them. It'd be a nuisance if someone took my computer, but what would I have lost really? A few hundred bucks, big deal. Attachment is the key, if you don't give a shit, you won't get hurt when it goes down the drain. And we all know computers always go down the drain sooner or later, as do furniture, relationships and ultimately you.

I've found that I'm much more at peace now that I've started to let it all go. Most importantly though, for me at least, love is more vibrant, more alive now.

Uh (none / 0) (#38)
by Freaky on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:44:55 AM EST

It'd be a nuisance if someone took my computer, but what would I have lost really? A few hundred bucks, big deal.

You make constant rolling offsite backups, don't you? ;)

[ Parent ]

pretty much, don't you? [nt] (none / 0) (#40)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:55:20 AM EST



[ Parent ]
attachment (none / 0) (#44)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:17:49 AM EST

Most importantly though, for me at least, love is more vibrant, more alive now.
But isn't that attachment as well? What do you mean by "love"?

[ Parent ]
eh? (none / 0) (#46)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:36:41 AM EST

Of course love isn't attachment. What a strange idea. Love is an emotion, like sadness, hate, anger, boredom. Attachment is the act of refusing to let an emotion go, much like stalking is the act of refusing to stay away from a person. Love is pure, attachment defiles it.

[ Parent ]
but isn't this Buddhism? (none / 0) (#49)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:57:41 AM EST

You said that this is Buddhism. At least in Mahayana Buddhism, all emotions are attachment. Because ultimately, feelings aren't any more real than anything else. They are empty of essence, dependently arisen and only conventionally real, and trying to say otherwise means attaching oneself to them. Like Nagarjuna says:

What is dependently co-arisen,
That is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
Is itself the middle way.

By attaching yourself to the belief that love exists through an essence, you will only hurt yourself. Love is not pure in any common sense of the word.

[ Parent ]

you have misunderstood buddhism (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:52:30 AM EST

You said that this is Buddhism. At least in Mahayana Buddhism, all emotions are attachment.
This is a common misunderstanding, and the one most popular among the people who denounce buddhism as inhuman and barbaric. Emotions are like reflections in a mirror, they are the means of learning. Without emotions like pain, hunger, tiredness etc, humans will be unable to adapt to their environment. This is not attachment. This is who and what we are. Like a stone can get chipped when it strikes another stone, we feel pain when we are injured. Attachment is the act of not letting the emotion pass when the cause of the emotion is no longer there. Let me tell you a story of myself to demonstrate this.

I was once infatuated by a girl. She was sexy and she had dumped me quite harshly without any good reason. I thought about her constantly. I attached myself to my feelings for her. Had I not attached the emotions would've stopped when she was not near, but I was mad. Once I crossed a street, but my mind was not crossing the street, it was looking at her, holding her in it's arms. There was a car at that crossing, and I was almost run over.

When meditating you do not try to force away thoughts or feelings right? The meditative mind is the every day mind! To force yourself to stop feeling emotions is an ascetic idea.

By attaching yourself to the belief that love exists through an essence, you will only hurt yourself. Love is not pure in any common sense of the word.
First of all, love does exist, just like a stone exists. Furthermore, you make a strange assumption that if I believe in something I must attach to that belief. This is just not true. If I were to discover tomorrow that the keyboard I now write on does not exist, I would not suffer because of this, because I am not attached to this keyboards existanse, why would I?

[ Parent ]
misunderstanding (none / 0) (#64)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:10:43 AM EST

First of all, love does exist, just like a stone exists. Furthermore, you make a strange assumption that if I believe in something I must attach to that belief. This is just not true.
I don't think I've misunderstood Buddhism (well, at least not all of it). It's more that I have misunderstood you. I don't think we mean the same thing with "attachment". To me, attachment means, for example - in a weaker sense - realism about the physical world, or "essentialism".

Love exists just like a stone. But a stone isn't a stone. It's just a convention to call such a random collection of atoms a stone, i.e. a single thing. Moreover, an atom is not really an atom either, because it consists of subatomic particles, etc. In the end, concepts like one and many (and love) prove to be inaccurate if they try to talk about the way things really are. There are two truths, the ultimate truth and the conventional truth, and we should understand both of them, and walk the middle way.

If I were to discover tomorrow that the keyboard I now write on does not exist, I would not suffer because of this, because I am not attached to this keyboards existanse, why would I?
I don't see how that is relevant to the question. I do think that we agree, but can't just find a common language.

[ Parent ]
you don't sound like a buddhist... (none / 0) (#69)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:19:10 AM EST

...you sound like a taoist. When I say "attachment" I mean it in the buddhist meaning of the word: attachment is the cause of suffering. Your use of the word seems to have nothing to do with buddhism as far as I can see.
Love exists just like a stone. But a stone isn't a stone. It's just a convention to call such a random collection of atoms a stone, i.e. a single thing. Moreover, an atom is not really an atom either, because it consists of subatomic particles, etc. In the end, concepts like one and many (and love) prove to be inaccurate if they try to talk about the way things really are. There are two truths, the ultimate truth and the conventional truth, and we should understand both of them, and walk the middle way.
Haha, you are attached to truth! This is just as dangerous as being attached to a person or a thing.
If I were to discover tomorrow that the keyboard I now write on does not exist, I would not suffer because of this, because I am not attached to this keyboards existanse, why would I?
I don't see how that is relevant to the question. I do think that we agree, but can't just find a common language.
You fail to use "attachment" in the buddhist meaning of the word. What I wrote above is 100% relevant to the question. There is nothing more relevant!

Btw, do you consider yourself a buddhist? If not, what fait do you subscribe to? (I would include atheism or agnosticism etc as faiths)

[ Parent ]

schools (none / 0) (#92)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:15:57 PM EST

Haha, you are attached to truth! This is just as dangerous as being attached to a person or a thing.
I don't really know. In Buddhism, I guess truth is not in a book, but in a method. So I think that Buddhists are all in some sense attached to the truth as a method, because otherwise they would not even be Buddhists!

Your approach sounds like Zen Buddhism, and I try to argue inside the Madhyamika framework. Even though they both belong to the Mahayana school, Zen is even more radical.

You fail to use "attachment" in the buddhist meaning of the word. What I wrote above is 100% relevant to the question. There is nothing more relevant!
Okay. But what do you mean with "discovering that the keyboard does not exist"? What kind of existence is it? Is it about existence through an essence (existence in itself) or dependent co-existence? If it's the first, the only way you can discover that the keyboard does not exist is to adopt a skeptical worldview, for instance Madhyamika. If it's the second, I don't see any way how it could happen. If you already admit that the keyboard is real only in a conventional sense, I guess the keyboard could vanish just like that (but not without a reason), or because conventional existence is in a sense our own creation (or like Berkeley would say, esse est percipi), you could simply see it as a random collection of plastic and no longer a keyboard.

Madhyamika is very strict when talking about existence. Like Jay L. Garfield writes in his translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, making the distinction between ultimate and conventional reality "is a logical tightrope act at the very limits of language and metaphysics".

Btw, do you consider yourself a buddhist? If not, what fait do you subscribe to? (I would include atheism or agnosticism etc as faiths)
I'm a skeptic, an atheist, a pantheist, an apprentice philosopher, a surrealist, a Buddhist and an existentialist - minus all the contradictions between these ideologies. I've been influenced by Parmenides, Pyrrho, Epicurus, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume, (to some extent) Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Sartre, and the "Kant of Buddhism", Nagarjuna.

[ Parent ]
Maybe Finnish Buddhism? (none / 0) (#229)
by slur on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:28:58 PM EST

Maybe because I am of Finnish descent I harbor a dalinian-like attachment to complicated ideas like those expounded in Tibetan expositions on the nature of mind and reality. I find it really cool to know that my thinking is only a conventional means to interpret and manipulate the world, while the "truth" is transcendent of this whole apparatus. It inspires me to quiescence.

I think you're both absolutely correct, being exactly what you are at this moment, each on your own paths to enlightenment. Your ideas will naturally disagree, which itself is this phenomenon of argument. Attachment has many aspects: it is quite natural to slip back into it from time to time. Keep up your meditation!


|
| slur was here
|

[ Parent ]

Finnish? (none / 0) (#248)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:52:56 AM EST

I don't believe my Buddhism has anything I could call "Finnish" in it. Sure, I live in Finland, but I have not talked to any Finnish Buddhist. But you may be correct that I have a peculiarly Finnish way of thinking, and that that has lead me to Madhyamika.

[ Parent ]
god no (5.00 / 1) (#254)
by boxed on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:56:06 AM EST

So I think that Buddhists are all in some sense attached to the truth as a method, because otherwise they would not even be Buddhists!
God no! Attachment in itself is the cause of suffering. This is the very basics of Buddhism. Attachment is the act of clinging to something so that your mind cannot face a world without it. This distorts the mind and since the truth will sooner or later make itself clear the mind will suffer when it discovers the thing it attached itself to has been destroyed. Emotions are the things most people attach themselves too. This is not surprising since love and happiness are very pleasent emotions and to just let them pass and go away can take some strength.
Your approach sounds like Zen Buddhism, and I try to argue inside the Madhyamika framework. Even though they both belong to the Mahayana school, Zen is even more radical.
Yes, I am a zen buddhist. No, zen is not radical in any way. Zen is the living teachings of Buddha, the continual evolution and adaptation of the Buddhas teachings. Remember the three treasures of buddhism? Buddha, Sanga, Dharma? Of all branches of buddhism, only zen contains Buddha. There is a danger in having a faith without a living teacher to kick its collective ass when it goes off in strange directions. Christianity went heywire and became an oppressive religion that forbade emotions, because Jesus was not there to tell them they fucked up. Islam has the same problem, as do zoroastrianism, mahayana, theravada, judaism, etc, etc. The teachings are written down on text (an imperfect translation from the words of the prophet), the language around the text changes, but the text stays the same, and suddenly the text means something else! There are hundreds of small and large ways teaching get corrupted.
Okay. But what do you mean with "discovering that the keyboard does not exist"? What kind of existence is it? Is it about existence through an essence (existence in itself) or dependent co-existence?
See how obsessed with truth you are? You would suffer if this complicated system you have built up would come crashing down, and it will. You sound like master Shen Hsui when he wrote:
The body is a Bodhi tree.
The mind like a bright mirror-stand.
Time and again, brush it clean;
Let no dust alight.
To this Hui Neng replied:
Originally Bodhi has no tree,
The bright mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a single thing;
Where can dust alight?


[ Parent ]
zen (none / 0) (#258)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:17:24 AM EST

Zen is the living teachings of Buddha, the continual evolution and adaptation of the Buddhas teachings.
Isn't this intolerance?
The teachings are written down on text (an imperfect translation from the words of the prophet), the language around the text changes, but the text stays the same, and suddenly the text means something else! There are hundreds of small and large ways teaching get corrupted.
I don't know about you, but I find that reading Zen is a lot more difficult than reading the Mulamadhyamakakarika. It seems a lot easier to distort Zen koans than Nagarjuna's verses. And I'm not trusting Nagarjuna because what I believe I understand him correctly. I believe him because he makes a lot of sense, and because I'm seeing that Western philosophy is finally catching up to realize the same truths.
See how obsessed with truth you are? You would suffer if this complicated system you have built up would come crashing down, and it will.
I fully realize the system is just a convention. Human understanding is a convention. But the system is used to make clear that there really is nothing there, i.e. nothing that exists through an essence. The system is not as useful as the method it entails, and the method is very solid. Zen is a method too, not a bunch of stuff written in books. If Nagarjuna's method can come crashing down, why can't the Zen method?

By the way, I remember having read the koan you pasted, and it's good. But it's in no way incompatible with my method.

[ Parent ]

wtf? (none / 0) (#260)
by boxed on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:57:08 AM EST

Zen is the living teachings of Buddha, the continual evolution and adaptation of the Buddhas teachings.
Isn't this intolerance?
Wtf? How is adapting the teachings to new cultures and new situations "intolerance"?
I don't know about you, but I find that reading Zen is a lot more difficult than reading the Mulamadhyamakakarika. It seems a lot easier to distort Zen koans than Nagarjuna's verses.
Zen is not to be read! Zen is the living buddha, you cannot reduce zen to a bunch of words on a paper without destroying it. Zen koans, as all zen teaching material, is worthless without a master to guide the student.
If Nagarjuna's method can come crashing down, why can't the Zen method?
The methods used by zen can of course collapse! But zen is alive. When old methods fail, new ones are created. It is a constant adaption to the changing reality.
By the way, I remember having read the koan you pasted, and it's good. But it's in no way incompatible with my method.
I posted a koan? I don't remember doing that.

[ Parent ]
hmm (none / 0) (#262)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 08:46:51 AM EST

Wtf? How is adapting the teachings to new cultures and new situations "intolerance"?
No, but if you don't respect other ideologies, that is intolerance. If you do respect them, I've misunderstood you and I'm sorry. But just like any other ideology, Zen has a dark history and we should not let such horrible things happen again. And extreme tolerance is the best way to make sure that the history doesn't repeat itself.
The methods used by zen can of course collapse! But zen is alive. When old methods fail, new ones are created. It is a constant adaption to the changing reality.
How can you say that change occurs? Isn't it like saying that things happen without anything that causes them to happen? Because if all things are caused, no change occurs, because the effects already exist in the conditions. The reality never changes, only our conventions do.
I posted a koan? I don't remember doing that.
My mistake, sorry. I don't know a lot about the Zen terminology. What's a koan, and what was the thing you posted? And what's the difference? It's curious that the zen books I have never talk about terminology.

[ Parent ]
bah, I can't think of a good subject-line (none / 0) (#266)
by boxed on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:00:14 AM EST

How can you say that change occurs? Isn't it like saying that things happen without anything that causes them to happen? Because if all things are caused, no change occurs, because the effects already exist in the conditions. The reality never changes, only our conventions do.
First of all, your understanding of reality seems be based on obsolete newtonian physics. Modern physics clearly tell us that the universe is NOT 100% determerministic. As to our conventions: yes our conventions change, and the problem with most buddhist branches (including quite a few of the zen sub-branches naturally) fail to adapt to these new conventions. The Dharma needs to be continually put into new contexts, this is the role of zen masters.
My mistake, sorry. I don't know a lot about the Zen terminology. What's a koan, and what was the thing you posted? And what's the difference? It's curious that the zen books I have never talk about terminology.
I belive it was a poem. I see now that it could be viewed as a koan. The problem with defining things is that the words used to define change, and the words have slightly different meaning for each and every person who read them. What is a koan for some people will be a plain state of fact for some. It is the role of the zen master to find a way to enlighten his/her students, and koans is just one of an infinite number of possible ways. The number of roads to enlightenment are innumerable. I am a zen buddhist because I believe zen is the shortest path for most people, not because I think it is the right way for everyone, that would be absurd.

[ Parent ]
cool (none / 0) (#272)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:24:05 PM EST

First of all, your understanding of reality seems be based on obsolete newtonian physics. Modern physics clearly tell us that the universe is NOT 100% determerministic.
I admit I don't know a lot about modern physics, but does it still deal with concepts like one and many? I've been taught that every single physical object can be divided, i.e. one object is broken down into many objects. This means that physics can never reach the truth. All things may very well be caused, but we just haven't gone deep enough to see it, and indeed there is no way to go deep enough.

We just think science helps us understand the world as it is, but its own limitations make it impossible. No indivisible "single" object exists, or "many" objects for that matter.

What is a koan for some people will be a plain state of fact for some.
Yeah, I see, but can the word be translated into English? I mean, virtually no meaning is absolute in any language (except possibly for the most trivial concepts). Languages are structures of signs we interpret, and since interpretations are not identical, we see different meanings in words. But most words can be translated into different languages at least somewhat accurately. Is this the case with "koan"?
I am a zen buddhist because I believe zen is the shortest path for most people, not because I think it is the right way for everyone, that would be absurd.
Cool, I appreciate that.

[ Parent ]
sorry for the delay.... (none / 0) (#336)
by boxed on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 05:07:55 AM EST

I admit I don't know a lot about modern physics, but does it still deal with concepts like one and many? I've been taught that every single physical object can be divided, i.e. one object is broken down into many objects. This means that physics can never reach the truth.
This is not so. The universe is quantified. Electrons, photons and quarks are elementary particles, meaning they cannot be split into smaller parts. They have no size, they are singular dots, just like black holes. Below this level, however there is another limit: plank matter/energy. This is a physical barrier against measuring matter and energy. If you were to measure a photons energy with a resolution, say 10 times that of 1 plank energy, your results would be inherently bogus. If you were to measure it again, your results might be (withing 1 plank energy unit) totally different. The same phenomenon goes for time and space. Making instruments that have higher resolution than reality itself is actually possible today, but doing so is meaningless except for proving that quantum theory cannot be disproven.
We just think science helps us understand the world as it is, but its own limitations make it impossible.
Science helps us understand only composite events. Science can explain and predict a great number of things, but it can never explain why the basic laws of reality are what they are. This is not the point of science. Science is a tool. It doesn't explain reality in it's most fundamental essense, but it empowers us to create things like cars, planes, computers and rockets that can take us to the moon. This is the only purpose of science, and belitteling it because this is what it does is silly. It is like saying a hammer is worthless because it doesn't explain the value of the gravitational constant.
What is a koan for some people will be a plain state of fact for some.
Yeah, I see, but can the word be translated into English? I mean, virtually no meaning is absolute in any language (except possibly for the most trivial concepts). Languages are structures of signs we interpret, and since interpretations are not identical, we see different meanings in words. But most words can be translated into different languages at least somewhat accurately. Is this the case with "koan"?
Wow, you totally missed the point. A koan is a story or question told to help someone understand the true nature of the world. What I meant with "What is a koan for some people will be a plain state of fact for some." was that some such stories are for some people not a paradox or a question but a plain statement of fact. A koan for a zen master is not a tool for enlightenment, as it is for the student, but a trivial statement of fact.

[ Parent ]
particles (none / 0) (#337)
by dalinian on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 06:16:43 AM EST

They have no size, they are singular dots, just like black holes.
But how can you build something that has a size from something that doesn't? I always thought that this was just a theoretical model, that the particles really weren't singular, but that they were so small it didn't matter.
Making instruments that have higher resolution than reality itself is actually possible today, but doing so is meaningless except for proving that quantum theory cannot be disproven.
Why? Isn't this belief based purely on the theory itself? It's difficult to see why increased resolution wouldn't help.

[ Parent ]
physics (none / 0) (#339)
by boxed on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 07:11:23 AM EST

But how can you build something that has a size from something that doesn't? I always thought that this was just a theoretical model, that the particles really weren't singular, but that they were so small it didn't matter.
The strength of the fields these atomic particles have varies with distance. Gravity, electromagnetic fields, strong and weak, all these have effects that depend on distance. Particles can be effected by eachother without touching through these fields. Remember that the moon effects us with tidal forces without ever touching the earth. It's the same thing with particles.
Why? Isn't this belief based purely on the theory itself? It's difficult to see why increased resolution wouldn't help.
It is difficult to accept I know. I have discussions with people about quantum physics all the time and often people just cut off the discussion by flat out denying that quantum physics is true :P. This doesn't change that fact that it is the only model we currently have that predicts observations accurately on those scales. It is the same with the theory of relativety. I have met many people who refuse to accept that reality works this way just because some of the more exotic effects are a bit counterintuitive. It comes down to this: you just have to accept that this is how the world works.

[ Parent ]
worthless? (none / 0) (#304)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:58:00 PM EST

"Zen koans, as all zen teaching material, is worthless without a master to guide the student."

In that case all zen teaching material is completely worthless at all times.

[ Parent ]

how so? [nt] (none / 0) (#313)
by boxed on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:29:44 AM EST



[ Parent ]
master (none / 0) (#322)
by tealeaf on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:01:39 PM EST

Because I don't think there are any masters.  And if there are, then certainly not nearly enough of them around to help everyone who needs/wants help.

Quoting from "Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters", as translated by David Hinton: "You don't need to understand the realm of change: when mind turns to itself, you've found your teacher.  Even a numbskull has mind for a teacher.  Not to realize yourself in mind, and to insist on yes this and no that--it's like leaving for Yueh when you've already arrived there."  This sums up what I think/feel about this.

By the way, "Chuang Tzu" is "Zhuang Zi" in Pinyin, but the original translator used Wade-Giles orthography (instead of Pinyin).

[ Parent ]

humwhat? (none / 0) (#326)
by boxed on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 04:30:49 AM EST

Because I don't think there are any masters.
Then you are seriously mistaken. There is even a Zen master here in Stockholm, a city (although the capital of Sweden) with just over a million inhabitants. To think that masters are hard to find, is a matter of not looking. Where do you live? I bet I can find a master in your vicinity.

[ Parent ]
it's not a matter of looking (none / 0) (#330)
by tealeaf on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 05:38:52 PM EST

Sure, I bet I can find a master here too.  The problem is, am I going to respect this being as one should a master?

I don't think I am capable of honoring any human being on a level that I think master would need to be honored.  It's just not in my bones.  It's a deep conviction that is deeper than just a little decision that I arrive at by a little bit of deductive logic.  This is how I feel deep down in my soul (speaking poetically now.. don't take my "soul" reference literally).

The quote I gave you in reply is completely relevant to what I am trying to tell you.  It's not about the ability to location physical bodies of people whom others consider "master".

Now, I don't want to flat out deny even the possibility of a master.  My dad has more life experience and wisdom than many "masters" combined and yet he doesn't call himself a master.  I don't know if I can explain to you exactly how I feel, but I hope you can feel the essence of my message.  I think even if there was a true master somewhere, he/she wouldn't call himself "master" and I doubt they would be accumulating students.

I admit there are people who are much wiser and more experienced than I am.  I hope I can meet some of them in the course of my life.  But, I'm not going to open a phone book and look for "master" there, if you see what I mean?

[ Parent ]

eh? (none / 0) (#331)
by boxed on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 06:10:59 PM EST

You just made no sense. When I used the word "master" I of course meant "zen master", an expression I also used to make it clear that "master" was just a short form. A master is not someone with lots of life experiences, or one with a big ego or something else you're hinting at. A master is one who have had dharma transmission from another master, that in turn has gotten it from a master, etc etc all the way back to Buddha himself. Being a master isn't about being experienced, it's about being able to help, to be able to point in the direction of freedom.
I admit there are people who are much wiser and more experienced than I am.
You seem to place a great deal of importance with experience. This can be a good thing, but it is just as often bad. Remember that a person totally devoid of experience cannot be rascist or murder for example. To forget is also to learn.

[ Parent ]
transmition? (none / 0) (#332)
by tealeaf on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 09:42:00 PM EST

You do know the Zen joke about transmition, don't you? :)

The second someone starts talking about tracing lineage all the way back to "original Buddha" is the second I stop taking them seriously.

[ Parent ]

it's spelled "transmission" (none / 0) (#335)
by boxed on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 03:43:12 AM EST

The second someone starts talking about tracing lineage all the way back to "original Buddha" is the second I stop taking them seriously.
Why?

[ Parent ]
thanks, my spelling can be improved (none / 0) (#340)
by tealeaf on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 04:45:34 PM EST



The second someone starts talking about tracing lineage all the way back to "original Buddha" is the second I stop taking them seriously.

Why?

There are many answers to this.  I'll give you a few:

  1. Because that's not what is important.
  2. Because of the "broken telephone" syndrome.
  3. Zen joke about transmission?  Remember it?  It is a koan.  It is something to ponder.  It is not to be taken at face falue, same as any other koan.  Zen master is a koan too (and I'd say, most are not any better koans than any other person).  Zen master also shouldn't be taken at face value.


[ Parent ]
Indifference is a near enemy (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by radghast on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:19:42 AM EST

There's a difference between indifference and not grasping. Thought I would share this, since this can be a very fine distinction that can get one all off kilter. (Speaking from experience!) What you're looking for, if you're following the middle way, is:

EQUANIMITY

The definition is: not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.

The near enemy is indifference. It is tempting to think that just 'not caring' is equanimity, but that is just a form of egotism.

The opposite is anxiety, worry, stress and paranoia caused by dividing people into 'good' and 'bad'; one can worry forever if a good friend may not be a bad person after all, and thus spoiling trust and friendship.

A result which one needs to avoid is apathy as a result of 'not caring'.

Equanimity is the basis for unconditional, altruistic love, compassion and joy for other's happiness and Bodhicitta.

When we discriminate between friends and enemies, how can we ever want to help all sentient beings? Equanimity is an unselfish, detached state of mind which also prevents one from doing negative actions.


"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
[ Parent ]
you are absolutely correct (none / 0) (#63)
by boxed on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:59:33 AM EST

I strive for exactly what you say. Indifference towards material possesions except as a means to help all beings is a good first step though.

[ Parent ]
detached? (none / 0) (#303)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:50:38 PM EST

"Equanimity is an unselfish, detached state of mind which also prevents one from doing negative actions."

What is it detached from?

[ Parent ]

Money and attachment (4.75 / 4) (#56)
by bodrius on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:34:04 AM EST

Many people consider the Western capitalistic world as a world of materialistic attachment, and money to be directly linked to it.

I cannot think of it that way. It seems to me that money reduces a lot of the attachment that ownership always entails.

It's not a matter of "a hundred bucks, big deal". A hundred bucks may be a big deal when you cannot get that many bucks that easily, and a lot of people can't. The hundred bucks implies hours, perhaps days or even months (in some economies) working to create that wealth. Naturally there's some attachment to the product of that labor, proportional to the time and effort the labor implied.

However, the nature of money means that the object of the attachment is inherently replaceable. This implies that the effort is replicable. The result is the same. Replacing what you own becomes, essentially, a matter of time, a concept from which it's normally easy to feel detached.

Attachment to objects is much stronger when they are inherently irreplaceable.

Perhaps they have sentimental value, or perhaps they are a piece of art. Perhaps they contain the intangible data that you have collected through your life.

I could care less about what happened to my computer, as long as I kept the content of my hard drive. I would be just inconvenienced about what happened to the rest of my possesions, but I would be sorry to lose my books because of their symbolic/sentimental value (what you read tells you about when you read it for the first time, why you read it and what you learned).

These are the real attachments that Buddhism warns against. Not things you can consciously replace with money, but things, events, feelings and emotions that you know you cannot replace. You should not feel attached to those either.

That's why they make the sand Mandala in Tibet. It's not something you can buy, replace. You can't even copy. Each one is unique, and when it's lost is lost forever. That's why they destroy it.

 
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

That's the easy part ... (none / 0) (#127)
by Magneto on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:18:13 PM EST

It's not that difficult with non-attachment as long as you only have yourself to worry about. When you have a steady partner and maybe one or two kids, money and 'stuff' tend to take on a new importance...

[ Parent ]
true, but... (none / 0) (#256)
by boxed on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:04:36 AM EST

... non-attachment makes your mind free to focus fully on your life, making the most of the situation. Attachment is what distracts you from what must be done, creating suffering.

[ Parent ]
+2 FP (2.33 / 3) (#31)
by snakey on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:21:38 AM EST

As someone who is hopefully about to embark on a trip around the world, partly to discover the meaning of life (along with X million others this year, I suppose), I think we should have a +2FP for this kind of article. :)

Oh yeah... (none / 0) (#32)
by snakey on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:23:56 AM EST

... and 'Science' might also be a good poll option - I mean, it's a search for truth, isn't it?

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry you found the wrong answer... (3.92 / 14) (#33)
by gromgull on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:27:10 AM EST

You started off so well, and then it all went tits up:

For myself, I've found meaning through the Scripture and through the community of Christ at the churches I've been a member of. Through social justice activities, and acts of civil disobedience. It is a lasting and purposeful meaning, a meaning only God can provide and satisfy, and my actions illustrate.

To quote boxed from another comment:

Attachment is the key, if you don't give a shit, you won't get hurt when it goes down the drain. And we all know computers always go down the drain sooner or later, as do furniture, relationships and ultimately you.

Your christianity is your problem here, sooner or later you are going to realise that it doesn't quite cut it for you, (Whether you come to your senses and realise that the Scriptures is a pile of badly written propaganda to help keep the church in power, or you just grow tired of it), your attachment to your religion will hurt you...
Your best option is to hope you go down the drain before your love for jesus.

Sorry about being negative... Good work otherwise!

(+1FP)
--
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot

Curious (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by enVy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:17:05 AM EST

Were you a Christian that found out that it doesn't quite cut it for you?

What was your breaking point?



[ Parent ]
An unsolicited response ;) (5.00 / 3) (#59)
by chemista on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:48:38 AM EST

I realize this was talking about parent's parent, but I hope you don't mind my interjecting my own answer to the questions.

To the first question: I was a Christian, a fundie at that.

To the second question: I had a period of severe depression about 5 years ago (first time I spent at an extended location 1000 miles from home, yadda yadda), which caused me to begin evaluating the bases upon which my faith was based. The final straw was discovering the complete historical implausibility (that is, the lack of any geological trace of it) of the Great Flood account in Genesis 6-8. This then meant that the Torah (the books attributed to Moses) must be unreliable, and this is the place where YHWH was introduced (so there's no reason to believe he/they existed either). And without validity of the Old Testament, there's no god for Jesus to be the son of (and 1 Peter calls out the Great Flood as the basic "proof" that there was a god in the first place!).

Incidentally, the fact that the whole house of cards falls if the Great Flood is disproven is why you see so many nutballs on the Internet trying to convince people it really did occur.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
House of Cards, too true (5.00 / 3) (#79)
by enVy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:23:44 AM EST

Quick background: I was born and rasied in the church, had John 3:16 stamped on my diapers...etc. At some point in Jr. High I realized that I will always be a "christian", at least in the cultural sense. My core values had already been established and if I wanted to happy I should probably adhere to them whether I really believed in God or not. Of course being in Jr. High I was not enthralled with the idea of conforming to my upbringing. I decided to look into this God thing, which brings me to my point.

In my search for "truth" I met many people in the church that believe the entire Bible needs to be true for any part of it to be true. That makes sense. However, these same people defend the inerrancy of the Bible *because* the House of Cards will fall if one error is found. Their reason for defending the Bible is not because they actually believe the Bible is true, they are defending it because they are afraid of the consequences when an error is found.

This brings me to another thought. Why do Christians spend so much time logically defending the Bible. The Bible tells us that unnatural things happen(miracles), which by definition do not have a natural explanations. By embracing logic in their defense of the Bible they seem to lose their faith.

Ok, that's enough bashing of my fellow Christians :)



[ Parent ]
52 Card Pickup (5.00 / 2) (#83)
by chemista on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:23:17 PM EST

The thing that must puzzle those who are Christians but not Bible-literalists is: which stuff is actually important? Of course, the bulk of people who ascribe to it decide "whatever my [insert church official] says must be right (since he went to a college to study it!)" and fail to think about it in depth.

Don't misunderstand this as a defense of Bible literalism though. There is a huge amount of hatred toward others that is supported (or espoused) by the Bible, despite the image of the "loving" (or "merciful" in the OT) god. [If you can think outside memetic Christianity, Joshua and Judges should be immensely revolting. And the nationalistic militarism in US fundie Christianity is best explained with an eye to these two books.]

So, given that you are not among the literalists, what are your "core values" (the quotes meaning that it was your earlier post; not to be taken derisively) from the Bible? Are they self-consistent? (Even on a rudimentary scale: are there actions which are simultaneously hated and loved by your god?)
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
Elusive "Core Values" (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by enVy on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:50:58 PM EST

You have hit the nail on the head. What are the "core values" of Christianity? If the Bible is not to be taken literally but it is still believed then what can/should be believed?

I am not a theologian nor have I exhaustively studied the Bible and as such I am not prepared to spontaneously pen my belief system. I do not want to leave you hanging but I have an equal adversion to poorly communicating the truths of the Bible and how they affect my life.

If it interests you, I have been planning a K5 submission on Christianity. This discussion has certainly increased my desire to write that paper. Look for it in the next few weeks



[ Parent ]
Lack of true faith... (5.00 / 1) (#213)
by trimethyl on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:44:28 PM EST

The reason why so many people defend the inerrancy of the Bible is because they often lack any spiritual experience of God whatsoever. Those who have encountered the Holy Spirit know that God is much more liberal than fundamentalists would like to admit.

Jesus said, "blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe..." I don't believe that Jesus was condoning blind faith as much as he was explaining that those who have an intuitive understanding of God, that is, actual faith in God, are more blessed than those who must be shown who God is through miracles and signs.

Which brings me to the final point: the historical accuracy of the Bible is irrelevant to the truth it presents. The Bible is not so much about historical events as much as it is a story of God's relationship with mankind. The theme of the Bible is not to present an infallible history of Israel, but rather to show the goodness of God to those who would place their faith in Him.



[ Parent ]
:) _ (2.50 / 2) (#77)
by gromgull on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:15:21 AM EST

No, I never was a christian...

My comment above would have been better if I had been of course, but if we pretend my comment was actually written by chemista?
--
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot

[ Parent ]

You just aren't doing it right.... (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by SaintPort on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:28:43 AM EST

Scriptures is a pile of badly written propaganda to help keep the church in power, or you just grow tired of it

Sure the Institutional Churches do use scripture, and without it they would loose power, BUT that is not the purpose of Scripture.

The purpose of Scripture is too reveal God to the individual.

The Bible is like a difficult person who is hard to deal with on first impression.  Quit reading the Bible as just a rule book or technical reference.  First read it as a novel, then as a diary of a loved one, then as an ongoing communication.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, you are going to get hurt... that's just part of this life.  The secret is to put faith in God, not the Church.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]

Too much expectations (3.71 / 7) (#37)
by Betcour on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:35:38 AM EST

I think you (we) have too much expectations from life. You see movies of peoples who have incredible life. They are good looking and date good looking people and have hot sex (without bothering with condoms or birth control since it's not glamorous). People who live in beautiful landscape, or in a 200 m² loft in downtown Manhattan or London with a breathtaking view. They have incredible adventures, passionate love stories, wonderful jobs. And they can ponder on the meaning of life.

Unfortunately we are 6 billion people slaving on this planet and our life will not ever look anything close to this. We have to behave like drones because if we don't, we won't be able to eat or sleep in a dry place. Putting food on the table distract us from looking at the meaning of life (and many would consider it a good thing). Finding the meaning of life is a luxury.

We are just mamals like your average pig/cow/squirrel/whale. Eventhough we have consciousness and intelligence, that doesn't mean we can break free of what natures intend us to do : find food, reproduce and die. Even the brightest peoples on this planet feel the urge to eat and get laid, and all of us end up dying someday.

Why (3.14 / 14) (#41)
by Bob Dog on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:09:18 AM EST

Is a pretentious as fuck story like this being voted up?  It is clearly diary material.


No.... (3.50 / 6) (#42)
by dazzle on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:53:46 AM EST

...diaries are for personal thoughts, ideas and notes which a few people will read. The author of this piece obviously wants to impart information based upon personal experience and thought to a wider audience.

Any good article - no matter what it's about - will be related to the author's own life and compared to his / her experiences. This is not an article full of dry facts but has personality and feeling to it.

---
the internet: a global network of small minded people


[ Parent ]
Take care (4.71 / 7) (#48)
by Alan Crowe on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:48:59 AM EST

Through social justice activities, and acts of civil disobedience

commenting on a diary, I wrote:

My reason to live is to make the world a better place out of compassion for mankind. But I don't know how :-( I do know this. So I know that my first step is to find out how, and my second step is to go back and check that I've got it right.
Where in the dust and heat of battle do you time for quiet reflection to ask: am I fighting for the right side?

On all the hot button issues, gun control, abortion, cannabis,... there are sincere and well meaning persons on both sides. To dodge starting a flame war, I will use an old example that few now care about.

I believe in voluntary temperance, that is, choosing, of ones own free will, not to drink alcohol. In America, in 1919, a combination of voluntary temperance and state by state legal prohibition had made such progress, that adherents of a different creed, legal prohibition of alcohol, were able to achieve national, constitional, legal prohibition of alcohol.

When legal prohibition of alcohol failed, it took the voluntary temperance movement down with it. My own beliefs, part of the mainstream of 1900, are a laughing stock in 2000. When you have stopped laughing at me I have two challenges for you.

First challenge is to try to stand in my shoes for a while. A cause you believe in descends from the moral high ground of persuasion, into the moral swamp of legal bullying and is utterly destroyed. What could one possibly do to prevent a repetition? What black magic blinded every-one to the downward slope of the ground?

Second, and rather harder challenge. Imagine you are born in 1890. After a rough start in life you find God, and by chance he is a Methodist. You join enthusiastically in the campaign for Prohibition and are overjoyed by the passage of the 18th Ammendment and the Volstead Act. Looking back, what are the clues that should have warned you it would all end so very badly?

The article asks "What do you use to fill your life?". When, lower down it talks of "social justice activities, and acts of civil disobedience" I cringe. Some persons use social engagement to fill the aching voids in their own lives, with wide-spread and dreadful consequences when they fight for a bad cause.



Actually, (none / 0) (#72)
by _Quinn on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:55:21 AM EST

I was presently surprised to find that a tenth of the students at my local university choose not to drink.  So those of who do abstain might get laughed at, but there's more of us than you might think, especially considering that 2/3rds of the university binge-drank.

- _Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]

I'm going to say (none / 0) (#139)
by ethereal on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:57:10 PM EST

That it was the part where you told other people how to live their lives, and then used force to get them to do what you said. More specifically, it was the point where voluntary temperance (a laudable concept, actually, and one that I mainly live by) for the individual became a movement for involuntary temperance for the nation. But I suppose if you think you've just found God, then you probably consider that the ends (doing what God wants) justify the means (repression of the populace). Maybe for any issue the "ends justify the means" moment is the turning point?

But hindsight is 20/20; I don't suppose that I would have figured that out at the time, just like I don't understand the bad consequences of stuff that I'm unthinkingly doing today. Even with the time for perfect reflection, sometimes it's tough to tell which side is right.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Second challenge is the real tough one (none / 0) (#314)
by Alan Crowe on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:45:32 AM EST

I like what you say. One could polish it up into an epistemological argument for libertarianism: Others should not have power over me because it is unrealistic to expect them to spot for themselves when they have mistakenly joined the bad guys.

Or it could be a defence of Quakerism. We know we are right, but just in case we are not, we stop short of using outward weapons to push our views.

I'm been thinking more along the lines of a good education and a wide historical perspective helping one to spot when one is joining the wrong side. But knowledge doesn't seem to help.

Look at the parallels between prohibition of alcohol and prohibition of cannabis. There is one senator who is 99 years old. Did he drink in speak easys when he was a young man? Or think of George W. Bush learning politics at his fathers knee. His father must have told him all about the prohibition era. And yet the parallels between the prohibition of alcohol are the prohibition of cannabis are, in todays debates, conspicuous by their absence.

Perhaps one warning sign that one is going wrong is if one finds oneself too willing to make fine distinctions, and say "I know it looks similar but it is different this time"



[ Parent ]
Take care indeed. (none / 0) (#315)
by synaesthesia on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:51:29 AM EST

I do know this.

In whose terminology is killing half a million people by accident considered evil? What do you think 'evil' means?

Do you happen to know how many people were saved from bilharzia in that case?

And where do you get the substance of your quantitative claim? Why do you think that *more* evil is caused by people whose intentions are good, rather than evil? (Unfortunately if I give you the most obvious example of what you might consider government-sponsored evil by evil people, something akin to Godwin's Law will be evoked).

When legal prohibition of alcohol failed, it took the voluntary temperance movement down with it.

When people laugh at you for not drinking, they're not laughing at you for subscribing to voluntary temperance. They're laughing at you for not drinking. That problem is their own, but the solution is within you.

I do agree that we should take care in our actions. But this is no more than we face every second of every day in everything we do, not just when we join a political movement.



Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
Fuzzy boundary between "by accident" and (5.00 / 1) (#320)
by Alan Crowe on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:24:22 PM EST

The dangers of dirty needles were well known before 1961. There needs to be a distinction between, on the one hand, spreading disease with dirty needles by accident, first time round, before the danger is known, and on the other hand, spreading disease "by accident" many years later.

OK, I admit that talking of evil is a bit of an exaggeration, but too much stuff is excused as being "by accident". And I see this as supremely important because of the difference between objective and subjective evil.

I cannot resist using the classic example. Did Hitler say to himself:

How can I be bad? How can I go down in history as epitome of evil? I know, I'll pick on a blameless group and exterminate them.
No. Objectively he was wicked. But what was going on in his own subjective, delusional world? He saw the Jews as a problem, a great big problem, and wanted a final solution to the Jewish problem. He was planning to go down in history as one of the good guys, who made the world a better place, by solving one of its problems.

And where do you get the substance of your quantitative claim?

I'm stuggling to think of any example which satisies both these criteria.

  1. Subjective evil. The leader, in the privacy of his own head, believes he is doing wrong
  2. Large scale success. He persuades others, gets funding and make a big difference to the world
One way round this problem is to invoke the "reasonable man". We do not ask whether someone thought they were doing the right thing, but whether a "reasonable man" would have believed that they were doing the right thing. You are wicked if you knew, of if you should have known that what you were doing was wrong.

This works well enough in petty cases in which a court of law is upholding community standards which are not being seriously challenged. I don't see how to apply it to the kind of vexed issues on which persons campaign and undertake civil disobedience. Does a reasonable man in 1961 ignore the dangers posed by dirty needles? Does a reasonable man in 1961 hold back an important public health program with neurotic worries about hygiene?

The real problem of the "reasonable man" is that he offers no guidance to the social reformer. If one doubts ones own subjective belief about what is to be done, and settles for what is reasonable, one surely ends up mired in "reasonable" status quo. If one trusts ones own subjective belief, one risks doing great harm.

I have many opinions (for example, minimum wage,age of consent,barefoot). I'm comfortable with the third of these. If I'm wrong, I only injure myself. But the first two are different. If I'm wrong, I'm doing real harm spreading these views. I don't want to look back on my life in 30 years time and realise that I was one of the well meaning persons whose incompetence leads to most of the bad outcomes in the world. Nor do I want to look back with regret that I never spoke out. Hence the second and harder challenge, how do you tell, from within ones own subjectivity?



[ Parent ]
Interesting (none / 0) (#324)
by synaesthesia on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:41:00 PM EST

The dangers of dirty needles were well known before 1961. There needs to be a distinction between, on the one hand, spreading disease with dirty needles by accident, first time round, before the danger is known, and on the other hand, spreading disease "by accident" many years later.

Having no knowledge of the case in question -- whether the primary culpable parties were in management or at ground level, whether they weighed up the risks and chose what they considered to be the lesser of two evils, or otherwise -- I cannot really comment in this particular case. But I think we all take calculated risks. And you are aware that our rationale, if we apply the appropriate internal rhetoric, could lead us down any road.

It seems to me that if the dangers of dirty needle were well-enough known before 1961, the practises in the anti-bilharzia campaign were not good but evil, according to your own definition.

It is difficult to argue that Hitler was objectively evil, unless one appeals to an external morality. But it is enough for me that he was subjectively evil, both my own metrics and those of the majority of the rest of the world.

How does one tell the difference? If only I knew. Intuitively, I think the answer lies in group consensus, because at the opposite extreme is the completely internalised dialogue of the madman.



Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
Butterfly (4.83 / 6) (#54)
by n8f8 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:27:28 AM EST

The problem I have is that I'm interrested in just about everything. Just not at the same time. I go from one obsession to the next and back again. Programming, reading ,writing, building, observing, on and on and on.

Life fascinates me. Most of the time I feel lucky. I never have the time to be bored. Occasionally I feel depressed that I've accomplished so little. I have very little tangible proof of my efforts.

I know I'm lucky. I'ver had very few physical problems in my life. I also seem to make good financial decisions without putting too much effort into it.

Buy lately I've been feeling this big internal push to produce somthing worthwhile. I'm not sure why. Why should I care to expend effort just to have something for other's to enjoy?

I'm uncertain what that thing I want to produce is either. I've started a few projects. A family history, a computer program, a chesslike game that teaches battlfield tactics...I hope something comes of all this.

 

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Distracted or curious by nature? (5.00 / 1) (#199)
by hbw on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:18:59 PM EST

You just basically outlined a fragment of my life exactly! I get interested in all sorts of different stuff, but then I get the urge to produce something for others... Seldom something is created. I start a website, a programming project, an article, but I am never happy with it. Some call it a gift (that I'm curious by nature), some it call it that I'm just too easily distracted.

I guess we're both just occupying ourselves with stuff that when it all boils down are pointless. We just don't want to embrace this Truth - the pointlessness of life? (See http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2002/8/16/03348/8782/15#15)

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

Something I learned.. (5.00 / 1) (#235)
by vile on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:21:40 PM EST

Same way with me.. I started a company at age 17. It was profitable - beyond my expectations or desires. I had something to show everyone.. and I did it. After two years, I gave it away to my best friend.

See.. the thing I found is that the 'tangible evidence' of creating something is not for others, but for yourself. The journey of building something truly unique, something that comes out of a dream one night.. something that sparks feeling when you wake up in the morning -- that is the fulfillment... not what happens in the end.

My 1/18th of a cent. Good luck.

~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Save it for the diary (nt) (1.00 / 4) (#55)
by Einzelgaenger on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:30:04 AM EST



Some people are too stupid to ever be free.

A view from an anthropologist (4.85 / 7) (#57)
by radghast on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:36:48 AM EST

An interesting view:

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.html.

"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
You are growing up (2.50 / 2) (#58)
by bayankaran on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:36:53 AM EST

I used to be addicted to watching Star Trek. I'd go up to the video store at Chatswood and get the next two videos of ST:Voyager, take them home and watch them. Next day I'd take them back and get the next two tapes. Star Trek is like McDonalds, Coke-Cola and the TV show Friends.

The only difference - sensible people dont take this long to realise and they do it without a diary type rant in a website.

Ranting Threshold (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:24:11 PM EST

Your ranting threshold must be unusually low: that really was not a very ranty article (or elevated-diary-entry as the nitpickers would have it).

Besideswhich, you seem to be suggesting that silly imaginary realms are domains only fit for children. If this is your view, you may have confused "growing up" with "becoming jaded."



This is an excellent example of a fairly dull but decently spelled signature.

[ Parent ]
Good troll. (3.16 / 6) (#62)
by Tezcatlipoca on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:54:04 AM EST

I think this is the best troll I have seen so far here: imaginative, relatively well written and so inflamable  it should be labeled "DANGER: you may be burned!" with big red letters.

In the best of all traditions I will feed the beast: life has no meaning, deal with it.

That does not mean life can't be very pleasurable but when one thinks that the Universe will either become an infinte void with disperse matter and no source of energy or will recylce back to the big crunch, to ask if the life of one little animal in one small planet lost somewhere in the middle of one of a gazillion of galaxies has meaning, is, to put it softly, somehow silly.

If you want to find a purpose certainly the best alternative in my book is to make others happy and rub some of the happiness this way created on yourself.

I could carry on, but it is pointless, you believe you have found the greatest thing since sliced bread, so be it, just don't try to convert others. Respect for the little bunny's sake.

PS: how ironic that to find spiritual meaning people have to travel half way around the planet. It would seem like those lost spirits are long haul frequent travellers or that only Japan has homeless people...
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

Maybe I'm just clueless. (3.50 / 2) (#68)
by TypographicalError on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:18:34 AM EST

Why is this a troll? I've seen trolls in my day, but I don't think this is one of them.

--
The world does not revolve around your vagina unless I am allowed to put my tongue in it. - TRASG0
[ Parent ]

Yawn (2.80 / 5) (#65)
by Woundweavr on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:11:22 AM EST

I'm torn whether to call this trite or pretentious.

How does posting an angsty rant about how life has lost meaning warrant any commentary or the minute needed to read it? We're all searching for meaning, blah blah blah. We live in an existential society. Most people, deep down, don't believe in an over-arching basis for existing. They'd say you cling to the Church as others cling to Nike or booze. Claiming some kind of insight into the human condition because you think you have some purpose, and have some deeper true satisfaction, is prentious. Simply stating that mankind seems to need to find some meaning is trite. I'm sorry, but I've heard better thought out commentaries from teenagers between sobs over why the head cheerleader won't go out with them.

Nice ... (none / 0) (#67)
by waverleo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:15:42 AM EST

... I think the whole thing can be summed up in a few choice words: "It's all an illusion".

Enjoy the concert of life while it lasts ==> it's all you've got.

Leo

[ Parent ]

Search for "Meaning" (4.88 / 9) (#71)
by jabber on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:50:57 AM EST

"Meaning" is not derived, it is imposed. Things and events, in and of themselves, are completely meaningless. In a sense, there is no meaning to anything.

When we do something, we desire to convey a meaning through our actions, but just as wind, not even the vibrations of our voices have any inherent meaning. It's what the listener imparts onto those vibrations, the meaning they impose upon the medium, that makes it meaningful.

Similarly, a particularly poetic songs, words the "meaning" of which resonates with us on a conceptual level, cultural symbols of all sorts, do not "mean" anything until we force them to do so.

I recall an interview with Don Henley in which the interviewer said how impressive it was that the Eagles addressed the plight of the Contras in South America (or something to that effect) in their song Desperado... The look of amazement on Henley's face was priceless - since this was the first he'd heard of this "deep meaning" to his ballad.

Sometimes, the message gets through. "Eat Popcorn. Drink Coca-cola" definitely does deluge our minds in the course of the day. Most interpersonal communication gets through as well, since we share a common language, but when we don't, we lose the meaning.

If Decartes is to be believed, we are because we think, and for no other reason. All we know is what comes to us through our senses. All the feedback we get about our effect on the world, also comes to us through these senses. These are our windows upon reality, from inside our own heads. We live entirely contained in our minds, and the meaning we impose onto the sensory input constitutes the wallpaper with which we plaster the walls of our minds.

Ultimately, I think your question boils down to the belief in God, or some sort or another. If you walk out to your car tomorrow morning and find it burglarized, or with a big boulder on top of it, or in its stead you find a smoking crater, what will that mean?

Will it mean that God didn't want you to park there? Or that He wanted to teach you a lesson about the meaninglessness of material possessions? Or that random happenstance chose you? Or that you need to get a new car?

It will mean what you choose to make it mean, based on your previous experience, and possibly something else which we pretty routinely call "God".

Now, I know that your initial question wasn't quite this metaphysical, and that you actually asked what conduits of meaning we here at K5 consider more effective than others; what media we choose to impart meaning onto, but still.

"This, that or the other thing is meaningful" is incorrect. Some things are meaningful to some people, other things are meaningful to others. Just the other day I got into a philosophical argument with my girlfriend about the meaning of anniversaries, birthdays and such. To me, the convention of setting a day aside to celebrate a person or a relationship is pretty much pointless and meaningless. I cherish the person or relationship daily. Sort of that "Christmas everyday" thing. She appreciates the "milestone days" and finds them to be very meaningful.

"Meaning is where you find it" is a fallacy. To me, Elton John's "The One" is a meaningful song, as is Stabbing Westward's "Waking up beside you", as is Rob Dougan's entire "Furious Angels" album (stunningly brilliant). The Illuminations Goddess Series "Oya" candle scent is meaningful to me, as is the scent of lilacs and of roses. There is no inherent "meaning" there, it's what these things mean to me that makes them meaningful. More specifically, it is what I make these things mean that gives them this meaning.

By claiming the right to impose meaning on my sensory input, you assert control over your reality. You choose whether the meaning of an event is positive or negative. You derive meaning from the meaning you impose. You get to define, perceptually, the effect that the world has on you.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

difference (none / 0) (#94)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:26:34 PM EST

"Meaning is where you find it" is a fallacy.
OK. But then you also say:
More specifically, it is what I make these things mean that gives them this meaning.
I don't see how these two are different. The second one leaves less room for interpretation, but otherwise they are very similar. It is indeed crucial to see that "finding" meaning in things is an intentional process, and not just something that happens to us. And that does not make the meanings we find any less real.

[ Parent ]
imagination (none / 0) (#99)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:44:13 PM EST

It is all a construct in your mind.  A figment of your imagination.  If that is seams real, then stop taking LSD.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]
thinking (none / 0) (#102)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:50:19 PM EST

When we have ideas in our mind, we are really thinking, aren't we? The ideas are real to us. That's all I'm saying.

[ Parent ]
huh (none / 0) (#191)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:04:45 PM EST

Correct me if I'm wrong it sounds like you are basically saying.  

"I have a real imaginary friend."

As in you really do have an imaginary friend. And that you aren't just imagining you have an imaginary friend. Sorry, your imaginary friend is not real.

The meanings you construct about meaningless stuff are just as imaginary.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

no (none / 0) (#192)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:09:57 PM EST

No, that is imagination. But saying that "I have a real friend, who means something to me" isn't imagination. I really do have a friend who means something to me. I have created that meaning, sure, and it is very real.

[ Parent ]
difference (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by jabber on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:25:44 PM EST

To me, the difference is huge because of the meaning of the word "finding". [meta] I love the ambiguity of conversations about the meaning of words like "meaning". It's such fun! [/meta] "Finding" implies that something is already there, and we come upon it, like change between sofa cushions. The second item you quote is more explicit in stating that meaning comes from within.

The reality of meanings is not at all an issue to me. They are all very real, since reality is in the mind. For example, to a paranoiac, the persecution is quite real, while to the rest of us it is not.

This opens up the very messy area of a shared reality, which is mostly a separate subject altogether, with the exception of my earlier reference to sharing a common language for communication of meanings.

In a shared reality, we agree that certain things mean certain things. Red lights mean "stop", Murder is wrong, a smile means happiness, things like that. This constitutes a common language of meanings, and this language of meanings, this meta-language of semantic conventions I suppose, crosses cultures and borders of all other sorts.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

question for ya (none / 0) (#302)
by tealeaf on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:44:04 PM EST

If everything is meaningless, and meaning is imposed, why is it that we understand perfectly well what people mean when they say "meaning?"

[ Parent ]
crutch for the weak (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:58:57 AM EST

There is no meaning.  As soon as you stop trying to find one, you will be much happier.

Trying to find meaning in life, is like trying to analyze a poem in English class.  The damn things have no meaning,  yet we strive to find something.  

As an experiment, for those who will ever take or are taking a class on poetry.  Go find a 5 year old. Ask him to start saying random things.  Write them down.  Take the poem to your poetry teacher, and tell him/her you found this in a book somewhere, but you forgot where.  Ask him/her to help you analyze it.  When you are done you think that the 5 year old is some kind of litterary genious.

People strive for meaning even where there is none.
-- Death to all Fanatics!

Meaning and poetry (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by Kamui on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:29:51 PM EST

I agree with you - though I would put it differently - on your first point. That sort of "Meaning" is mostly a fabrication. However, your analogy really is a little problematic: there is a difference between the two kinds of meaning, because there most definitely (OK, debatably if you ask some philosophers ;) is someone who at least potentially could give meaning to a poem.

Furthermore, to say that some random English teacher would interpret a child's random utterances as poetry, leads to two possible conclusions:

  1. there is a meaning even though the child didn't "put" it there; meaning for other people that exists because language works that way - very often, people can make connections that weren't intended by the author but that are clearly possible
  2. the teacher found meaning in it that wasn't there and that the teacher wouldn't have found had he interpreted the poem less freely.
Both of these don't say anything about "real" (i.e. meaningful) poems at all. They say "there are things that can be interpreted as having meaning even though they do not have it or were not meaningful by intention" - they do not say anything about the reverse.

[ Parent ]
interpratation is indefinate (none / 0) (#97)
by mpalczew on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:35:52 PM EST

What makes "real" poems so diffrent from "fake" ones?

It's all an exercise in futility.  There really is no meaning, unless by some hapenstance the child stumbled upon something(possible but unlikely). We strive to find meaning where there isn't any to make us feal comfortable.  

Most of what is poetry is little more than language obfuscation, and the harder or the more ways to interpret the meaning the better the poem is considered.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

Re: Interpretation is indefinite (none / 0) (#107)
by Kamui on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:17:09 PM EST

Indefinite isn't the same as non-existent. It implies that there is something that you can approach, even though you may not be able to define it exactly.

I have had many discussions with people who think poetry is just the effort to step into the spotlight, to produce something that makes others think the author must be really intelligent because they don't understand it. But I wonder, and I know this isn't exactly a very focused argument against your point of view, why do you think so many people write poetry if it is so absolutely devoid of meaning? That should get boring and depressing pretty soon, don't you think?

What you imply is: someone who writes poetry thinks about just as little about its meaning as a child would when asked to incoherently utter a couple of words. Don't you think that's a little unlikely?

One more thing (actually, in hindsight, two more things ;): a multitude of meanings may be intended, and if meaning is found that wasn't put there by the author, it doesn't have to mean that that meaning isn't there. I think we are talking about two different concepts of "meaning" here: you, about a finite and fixed meaning, and I about a dynamical meaning that changes with the individuals that pick it up. It is clear that foolish interpretations of poetry wouldn't be accepted by other people, whereas there is a high likelihood that you could justify a coherent and sensible interpretation to many people. There is definitely a difference. It is just based upon agreement, not upon some absolute concept of meaning.

[ Parent ]

Gimme a break. . . (none / 0) (#312)
by Fantastic Lad on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:42:28 AM EST

Try actually writing a poem sometime and tell me it has no meaning. If you can do that, then all that's happened is you've written a poor poem.

Now, granted, there are more than enough pretentious english professers out there to melt an ice cap or two with hot air alone, but that shouldn't sully the work of earnest writers.

As for the 'meaning of life'. . .

There certainly is one, and it's dead simple once you figure it out. Unfortunately, it's a personal journey and no words I could write will illustrate it properly unless you've already walked the distance yourself. Not to worry, though. Everybody is on the road simply by being alive.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

Meaning through knowledge (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by Leon Pron on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:06:31 AM EST

Some find meaning in their life in the quest to gain enlightenment through scientific, rather than spritual, means.

There is no meaning in knowledge. (none / 0) (#147)
by Skywise on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:10:33 PM EST

Knowledge is nothing more than facts.  And although  it can guide meaning, it is not an end to itself.

[ Parent ]
Meaning (4.00 / 4) (#75)
by czth on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:08:50 AM EST

As of fairly recently (a month and a half ago), I have a girlfriend who loves me... that gives my life a lot of meaning :).

I've also taught myself not to by into the hype of "things" for their own sake any more. Not that I don't buy things - I just got a new toy, an Archos Jukebox, and a car adapter, to make the long drives I often take (e.g. 20 hours to Waterloo, Ontario, and from there camping with friends in Algonquin Park, leaving this afternoon) more endurable (I own 5 CDs in the world not counting CDROMs which would bring the total to maybe 10). It's a gadget, for a while it'll be fun because it's new but the best way it'll improve my life is intrinsically: it'll play music while I drive, that's it. But I don't subscribe to the "he who has the most toys, wins" idea that it seems one of my coworkers does ("You need a laptop! you need a cell phone" "Um, no I don't... I don't want people to be able to reach me all the time!").

I'm also a Christian, and fairly fundamentalist at that. A rarity among geeks, it seems, who like to pretend that in their Vulcan "pure logic" (hah) worlds, religion has no place and science has all the answers. Real science is very much in harmony with the Bible, but bunk like (macro) evolution is more religion than science. I find meaning in Christian friends, in prayer, in learning more about God.

I'm even happy in my job, now. I work with good, competent people at a nice company and get to do interesting work.

It's said that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6). I'm content with what I have. I'm still working on the godliness part :D.

Please don't kick me off the site because I'm not bitter and cynical :P... I'll try to do better... but I really don't have too much to be bitter about in my life; I've really been blessed. I guess I'm still bitter and cynical towards technology and big corporations, though; will that do?

czth

Throughout earth's history (none / 0) (#120)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:11:46 PM EST

there have been a number of mass extinction events, on the order of ten to fifteen. After every mass extinction event there has been a subsequent increase in the diversity of life. Only the first mass extinction event, during the Cambrian Explosion, reduced the number of phyla. Coral reef systems, so fragile and delicate, could become completely extinct in one extinction event only to have a completely new coral ecosystem replace it.

Side note:
Diversity refers to the number of species and the number of representatives of each one of those species. Earth's diversity is very great, on the order of millions of species.
Disparity refers to the number of phyla, the highest level of classification below the kingdom. Disparity in the animal kingdom was reduced to about 40 phyla during the first mass extinction event and has remained there ever since.

[ Parent ]
-1 (1.85 / 7) (#76)
by kimpton on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:14:03 AM EST

aghh!

A pleasantly written journey through teenage thinking and then bleedin God has to be brought into it. If you need deeper foundations for your life why not look at technolgy and culture (what this site is supposedly about) rather than ancient religous mumbo jumbo.....

give me a break... (none / 0) (#81)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:58:11 AM EST

You know, sometimes non-religious people are more annoying than religious people.

If you feel that his chosen path is nonsense, good for you. Don't pursue it. However let him do whatever he wants, and don't call him down for doing so.

I was actually going to zero you, but I figured a rebuttal was more in order.
 

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Don't feed the trolls (5.00 / 3) (#116)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:55:14 PM EST

As the trolls lose their fear of people they may become problem animals. Trolls that become problem animals have to be put to sleep. So please, for their sake, do not feed the trolls.

[ Parent ]
thanks... (1.33 / 3) (#243)
by kimpton on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 01:28:23 AM EST

for the one rating...

Yes I do think his chosen path is nonsense. But I also think it was an awful story.

However let him do whatever he wants, and don't call him down for doing so.

That's the whole fucking point of the site. If I don't like a story I can vote and comment against it.

I was actually going to zero you, but I figured a rebuttal was more in order.

Thanks again dickhead. You wouldn't have been using zero correctly then would you (from the FAQ):

to rate other comments below 1 to 0 (note: this rating to be used on spam only!).

[ Parent ]
Personal Achievement (3.00 / 1) (#80)
by rdskutter on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:47:55 AM EST

Riding my mountain bike and climbing. I'm getting better every time I do it and that's a good thing.

I've been learning to bunny hop my bike recently and now I've started learning how to do track stands. It all helps in general bike control and makes me a better rider, so I can enjoy riding better and get better in races.

Oh, and making new friends. That always gives me a good feeling.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE

me too (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by nnod on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:10:53 PM EST

Searching for that perfect drop, learning dirt jumps and urban rides with my friends. That's one important thing in my life that I always look forward to.

[ Parent ]
The Wisdom of K5... (3.80 / 5) (#82)
by SaintPort on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:06:22 PM EST

Paraphrases (with apologies)

xriso - ... gambling and computers and sex and drugs and music and porn...they all make me happy

n8f8 - I'm interrested in just about everything.  I go from one obsession to the next and back again. I never have the time to be bored. Occasionally I feel depressed that I've accomplished so little. I have very little tangible proof of my efforts.

boxed - Attachment is the key, if you don't give a shit, you won't get hurt.

dazzle - WHY do YOU work? What is the POINT of your job?

Betcour - ...we have too much expectations from life.  Even though we have consciousness and intelligence, that doesn't mean we can break free of what natures intend us to do : find food, reproduce and die. Even the brightest peoples on this planet feel the urge to eat and get laid, and all of us end up dying someday.

Alan Crowe -  Some persons use social engagement to fill the aching voids in their own lives, with wide-spread and dreadful consequences when they fight for a bad cause.

greenshift - What is to motivate you to live forever in heaven? ... fear of eternal Hell?  

I find great wisdom in these quotes.  It reads like King Solomon and Buddha having a chat.

Much of the argument on this story has to do with the Christian element.  So here's my thoughts...

We are all childen of Adam.  Our lot is to work and try to survive.  To enjoy the work and the company of our partners is good.  To work nobly and remember our kinship to everyone is wisdom.  Folly can bring fleeting pleasure, until it brings discord with partners.  Control of folly is wisdom.  Death is part of this life, and serves as a warning.  Considering death is wisdom.

In the heart of man is infinity.  He desires to live forever, to be remembered, to have counted.  The Creator put it there, along with warnings about Judgement to invite man to a relationship.  The Creator wants to adopt each of us into His family, to make us Holy and immortal.  He wants us to join His work and company.

The Father is the Creator part of God, Jesus is the mediator to mankind, and the Holy Spirit is the part of God that can take up residency in your heart and transform you into an immortal.

The worldly meaning of life may be to enjoy the process until you die.  The Christain meaning of life can be the same, but it is not perishable.  The New Heaven and New Earth will be a canvas for all the creative energy your soul can express.

The main work of God in this era is to invite as many souls as would come.

grumpy, thanks for giving a context for wisdom.  Enjoyed reading about your experiences in Japan.  The truly damaging component of the suffering there is pride.  I grieve for them.

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

A question... (4.50 / 4) (#87)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:34:20 PM EST

Reading over the discussion I see that most people fall into one of the following categories:

 1. Encouragement -> acknowledging a higher meaning to life, although not sure what it may be.

 2. Agnostic -> there is no meaning, therefore one should stop looking. (notably, a large number of disenchanted # 1's comprise this group)

 3. Fearful -> I refuse to acknowledge a possible meaning, therefore I will make an amusing joke in order to change subjects quickly.

I consider myself to be a member of #1. I consider the third group to be irrelevant, and sadly, lost.

However I wonder about the logic of the second group. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that as humans, we are quite a contradiction. From what I've gathered, we're the only species known that is capable of asking the question, why?

Well, why is this? Why, if we're nothing more than advanced primates, do we have such abstract notions of love, compassion, freedom, hate, justice? None of these fit quite right if there is "no meaning".

In fact, if there is "no meaning", or if you will, nothing beyond my reality as I see it, why are we even able to contemplate that there could very well be?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

because (none / 0) (#90)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:51:59 PM EST

From what I've gathered, we're the only species known that is capable of asking the question, why? Well, why is this? Why, if we're nothing more than advanced primates, do we have such abstract notions of love, compassion, freedom, hate, justice? None of these fit quite right if there is "no meaning".
What you consider 'special' about humans is just a random aberration, an evolutionary accident if you will. Constructing a higher meaning based on an overdeveloped nervous system of our species is just too human-centric.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
whoa... (none / 0) (#91)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:13:31 PM EST

 You're putting a lot more faith in evolutionary theory than most people put in "god", don't you think?

 Using evolutionary theory to dismiss the whole range of emotions, even curiosity is a little far fetched, especially when you don't have anything besides that theory to back you up.

 All you're doing is replacing one "religion" with another, which doesn't answer the question sufficiently.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

come on ... (none / 0) (#101)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:48:12 PM EST

You're putting a lot more faith in evolutionary theory than most people put in "god", don't you think?
I take 'evolutionary theory' to mean the body of knowledge available today that explains the peculiaritys of different species, whatever that exactly might be today, just to avoid getting into _that discussion.

No, there is no need to put faith in it, since, like all scientific theories, it's based on what I can perceive with my senses, experience first hand. I put more trust into what I can see for myself than in faith based explanations, yes. But I fail to see how this is somehow special, as most people in our culture do this and it appears to work.

Looking at the world tells you that there is an amazing diversity of the wildest imaginable peculiarities among different species. Just because humans can ask for 'meaning' is not more an argument that there actually is something like meaning than the fact that humans can produce and use chewing-gum or any other irrelevant activity we're able to carry out.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

ok, (none / 0) (#106)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:11:56 PM EST

not to sound like a "creationist" or anything, (I do consider evolution to be relevant, btw) but I really wonder about your arguments...(Playing the devil's advocate a bit here)

No, there is no need to put faith in it, since, like all scientific theories, it's based on what I can perceive with my senses, experience first hand.

 hmmm, so you've actually seen a new species derive from another species? How long have you been around, anyways?

 Assigning scientific theories as "the most logical" solution to a problem is sound thinking.
However even this requires a little bit of "faith". One theory supports another, supports another... twenty theories later you have a belief system, which is only as strong as the sum of its parts.

 Believing that theory C is infallible because theories A and B are infallible is no better than believing that God created the world in 6 days.

 By observing that all things in the universe have a certain "order" (which is debatable in itself) I derive that there must by a reason that they are not in disorder, hence a "meaning"
You may choose to disagree, and argue order is derived from chance, or that there is no order, but to say you're basing your arguments on facts
while I am not is untrue.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

well (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:35:16 PM EST

hmmm, so you've actually seen a new species derive from another species? How long have you been around, anyways?
You believe you know (or can look up) the temperature of the sun ? Yes ? So you've been there with a thermometer ?

Believe me, (pun), in essence, scientific theory is based on observation, even though you often have to make conclusions from proxys.

Believing that theory C is infallible
Theories are not regarded as infallible truth. That's the realm of religion. They are merely a representation of our current understanding.

The question for 'meaning' doesn't lend itself to logical arguments based on facts. Answers to the meaning of life usually express themselves through a certain ethic, which is observable. I think the 'meaning' question just makes it easier to justify your ethics.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

hmm... (none / 0) (#140)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:59:37 PM EST

You believe you know (or can look up) the temperature of the sun?

 No, I don't know the temperature of the sun. I can look up what others think to be the temperature of the sun, but I don't accept this as a "fact". The sun may actually be a lot cooler due to some as yet undiscovered revelation.

Theories are not regarded as infallible truth.

 Yet in order to come to a conclusion that "there is no meaning to life" you have to do exactly that. If you regard your scientific understanding to be incomplete (which it not doubt always will be), you cannot base such a grand conclusion on them...

The question for 'meaning' doesn't lend itself to logical arguments based on facts.

... a point which we seem to agree on.

 ok, so now that we have eliminated science from being a crutch to our beliefs (either for or against), let's visit the issue again.

Answers to the meaning of life usually express themselves through a certain ethic, which is observable. I think the 'meaning' question just makes it easier to justify your ethics.

 or, is it that ethics, by their very existence, justify a "meaning" (whatever that may be) greater than nothing?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

alright (none / 0) (#175)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:30:45 PM EST

No, I don't know the temperature of the sun. I can look up what others think to be the temperature of the sun, but I don't accept this as a "fact". The sun may actually be a lot cooler due to some as yet undiscovered revelation.
We then have a quite fundamental difference in our perception of the world. You can be happy every day your car engine did not blow up and cooking the chicken killed the germs, whereas I take it as boring laws of nature. Hmm, have to rethink my position, it seems less fun.

or, is it that ethics, by their very existence, justify a "meaning" (whatever that may be) greater than nothing?
I don't think so. If you believe in a certain meaning of life, an ethic follows. It's that kind of behaviour which is most likely to make you fulfil that meaning. Except you say "I know the meaning of life, but I don't give a dam", unlikely.

But you can have an ethics which does not imply any meaning of life.

Anyways, I find it much more fruitful to discuss ethic than meanings of life, particularly because there are quite sophisticated positions regarding the former, whereas "42" as answer to the question for the latter seems as good as any.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

evolution (none / 0) (#137)
by animal on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:52:29 PM EST

"hmmm, so you've actually seen a new species derive from another species? How long have you been around, anyways?" YES, antibiotic resistant TB. Evolution
within my lifetime.  

[ Parent ]
tb and antibiotic tb (none / 0) (#143)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:01:25 PM EST

are still the same species.

this proves that species can adapt to their surroundings, not that they can become new species.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

fruit flies (none / 0) (#189)
by trener on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:03:29 PM EST

scientists have done all sorts of different experiments regarding evolution and fruit flies.

define species. genetically, i'm slightly different than you. genetically, we're both slightly different than apes. genetically, fruit fly a was slightly different that fruit fly b. you -could- call fruitfly b a different subspecies of fruitfly, if you wanted.

(p.s. evolution isn't -only- about new species.. it's about adapting to fit the environemnt.. the tb example is a good example of evolution in action).

[ Parent ]
speices (none / 0) (#210)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:36:42 PM EST

Once again, I'm not arguing against evolution, in fact I support it.

however, I'll bite:

"Out of 400 mutations that have been provided by Drosophila melanogaster, there is not one that can be called a new species. It does not seem, therefore, that the central problem of evolution can be solved by mutations."--*Maurice Caullery, Genetics and Heredity p. 119.

"In the best-known organisms, like Drosophila, innumerable mutants are known. If we were able to combine a thousand or more of such mutants in a single individual, this still would have no resemblance whatsoever to any type known as a [new] species in nature."--*Richard B. Goldschmidt, "Evolution, As Viewed by One Geneticist," American Scientist, p. 94.

"The clear-cut mutants of Drosophila, with which so much of the classical research in genetics was done, are almost without exception inferior to wild-type flies in viability, fertility, longevity."--*Theodosius Dobzhansky, Heredity and the Nature of Man, p. 126.

As much as I agree that evolution is more than likely plausible, it remains a theory.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Necessity, sufficiency or neither (none / 0) (#95)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:31:51 PM EST

In fact, if there is "no meaning", or if you will, nothing beyond my reality as I see it, why are we even able to contemplate that there could very well be?
More out of curiosity than anything - why do you assume that the ability to ask "why?" entails that there is "meaning?" It seems to me that you have a problem with this point of view and make the mistake of putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Not that I'm saying there "is no meaning," whatever it is that might fill that role. Just that the personal desire for meaning doesn't imply that there is one; it is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for finding such, much less the existence of "meaning" in the first place.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

point taken. (none / 0) (#104)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:52:36 PM EST

 Quite a good one actually.

 I don't think that because I can question whether or not there is "a meaning" means that there automatically is one.

 I was questioning that if one were to use the argument that there is "no meaning", then how does being able to question that benefit me? Why has evolution not designed me to be the ultimate minion, never questioning, always obedient?

  Does this mean that there is something else out there? Not necessarily, I agree. However is it more likely that this occurred because I am part of a weird accident, occurring because some celestial butterfly flapped it's wings? No.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Therefore(s) (none / 0) (#136)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:50:33 PM EST

I was questioning that if one were to use the argument that there is "no meaning", then how does being able to question that benefit me?
In particular, it doesn't. In fact, it may be detrimental - someone who can't fill the "void of personal meaning" may end up committing suicide. In actuality, my volley is "What sets the ability to search for "why am I here" apart from other questions of why? Surely you'll concede that having the ability to deliberate (paraphrasing Popper, "allowing our mental imaginings to die in our stead") provides an evolutionary advantage. Given the ability to deliberate, why is the subject of "meaning of life" separated from any other deliberation? It seems to me that it happens to be of import to you (and many others, myself included), so you're artificially raising its status.
Why has evolution not designed me to be the ultimate minion, never questioning, always obedient?
See the answer to the first question.
However is it more likely that this occurred because I am part of a weird accident, occurring because some celestial butterfly flapped it's wings? No.
This is a misapplication of probability. On what grounds are you making the claim that it is more or less likely? There aren't any, outside of personal beliefs and biases. Yes, it's awfully comforting to believe that there's a supreme something in charge. However, there is no proof possible (IMHO) for or against the existence of a supreme being. But we do have a proof that something took place from which humankind resulted; after all, we're here aren't we?

A follow-on question that always occurs to me is: "Why is it so unbelievable (if not abhorrent) to many people to think that humans are a form of evolutionary accident?" Which, I suppose, is just another form (albeit abbreviated and not as entertaining to read) of the article itself.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

you've thought about this one, (none / 0) (#163)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:42:31 PM EST

haven't you? :-)

Given the ability to deliberate, why is the subject of "meaning of life" separated from any other deliberation?

 I don't think the ability to think things through was what I was questioning... we can program a computer to deliberate. What I was questioning is abstract thought. I think it would be safe to assume that ideas regarding the "meaning of life" fall under this area.

 But why are we able to think abstractly? I have difficulty seeing how (or why) this would come about naturally, especially since we have such difficulty, as intelligent entities, in  deliberately manifesting these concepts into our own creations - no doubt you'll concede AI is a ways off?

"Why is it so unbelievable (if not abhorrent) to many people to think that humans are a form of evolutionary accident?"

 Evolution (or, chance, if you will), our best scientific theory at the origins of life,  explains (as far as I'm concerned) how a human can play chess. What it doesn't explain is how we can play Go. This is why a lot of us conclude that, well, we're missing something. We're not sure what "it" is but we're pretty sure it's there.

 I think most people realize that there is something "different" about humans, even if we can't put a finger on it.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Another assumption (none / 0) (#167)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:54:24 PM EST

Yes, I've thought about it. It's part and parcel (at least, it should be) with attempting to do research in AI.
I don't think the ability to think things through was what I was questioning... we can program a computer to deliberate. What I was questioning is abstract thought.
I think you overestimate the possibility of "programming a computer to deliberate." Alternatively, you have a definition of "deliberate" that doesn't match mine; although I don't think that's the case, since "abstract thought" is definitely part of it.

I'd suggest you think about your notion of "abstract thought;" what it is, where it comes from, and what separates it from non-abstract thought. Not only that, but how evolution explains how humans play chess (note that it's way different than the way computers do it).

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

I'll do that. :-) (nt) (none / 0) (#171)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:10:10 PM EST



It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Emotions and meaning (none / 0) (#96)
by radghast on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:32:32 PM EST

Well, why is this? Why, if we're nothing more than advanced primates, do we have such abstract notions of love, compassion, freedom, hate, justice? None of these fit quite right if there is "no meaning".

Actually, they very well could. The premise of The Feeling of What Happens (summary: a theory of consciousness based on a neurosurgeon's observations in treating disease) is that "our sense of self arises from our need to map relations between self and others." Both animals and humans experience emotions, which are just internal body states. However, humans just happen to be able to realise that they're the ones experiencing it -- it references the self, which a human is conceptually aware of.

The only "natural" meaning of emotion is to indicate an internal state. If we assign values (pleasure/pain/good/bad/approach/avoid) to certain states when they correlate with particular actions, then we give that state "meaning." It really isn't more significant than that, biologically.


"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
[ Parent ]
Some Different Views on Your Categorization... (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by randinah on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:08:02 PM EST

In categorizing humanity into three different types of people you seem to have forgotten a few possibilities.

1. Encouragement -> acknowledging a higher meaning to life, although not sure what it may be.

2. Agnostic -> there is no meaning, therefore one should stop looking. (notably, a large number of disenchanted # 1's comprise this group)

3. Fearful -> I refuse to acknowledge a possible meaning, therefore I will make an amusing joke in order to change subjects quickly.


Your definition for number one is what I would define as "Agnostic" myself. An agnostic person does not necessarily believe in any one god, but the possibility is always open.

I would say the people in number two are better defined as atheists. Or perhaps nihilists, if you're looking for the extreme "life has no meaning" crowd.

And the people you describe in number three...I believe for every person that is fearful about the possibility of a god, yet refuses to acknowledge it, there is a person out there like say, Jack Chick or God Hates Fags (The organization), that are so fearful of god that they refuse to believe that anything but extreme fundamentalism will save them from the firy pits of hell.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
agreed... (none / 0) (#108)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:17:18 PM EST

I refrained from using the word "atheist" because noadays that seems to be a religion in itself. :-)

Your descriptions are more accurate.

As far as the fundamentalists, they are also members of the third group, IMO, since their fear blinds them to the fact that they may be wrong.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Agnostics (none / 0) (#263)
by NotZen on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 09:32:33 AM EST

Agnostics, I'd say, fit into both 1 and 2. I, for instance, do not know if there is a God or Not. However, I definitely don't believe in meaning beyond what is imposed.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#278)
by randinah on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:11:14 PM EST

mmmm...I wouldn't say that a somebody who calls themselves an agnostic (And knows what an agnostic is) would say "there is no god and you should stop looking"...(like the definition given in #2). The point of agnostism is to say "there probably is no god, but I can't ever be sure, so if you show me proof, I'd be happy to listen."


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
reason i'm a #2 (none / 0) (#126)
by trener on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:12:00 PM EST

it's too easy to look at the scale of things and realize how ineffectual we really are.

within our society, only a VERY select few actually make any difference. the rest of us eat our TV dinners and watch the football games.
on a global scale, it's even smaller. only a very small group of *world leaders* actually make any difference.
on a universal scale, none of what we do matters in the least.

then there's time. 10000 years from now, how many of us are actually going to be remembered? how much of what we did will be at all important? (answer: none).

which is why i'm a #2.
i recognize that there's no meaning in life. i'm not particularly disenchanted or anything, though. i like my life, it keeps me mostly entertained. i just know that it's ultimately pretty pointless.

[ Parent ]
I'm not getting you... (none / 0) (#132)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:38:22 PM EST


on a universal scale, none of what we do matters in the least.

uh, what I do matters to me, and to others that I affect... and, if there is a "reason" to life, it would stand to reason that it would matter to those who understand what that "reason" is, even if I do not.

then there's time. 10000 years from now, how many of us are actually going to be remembered? how much of what we did will be at all important? (answer: none).

 hmm, you're assuming that none of us would be here (or anywhere else) in 10000 yrs... even removing all spiritual realms from the equation, modern science might actually allow for this eventually...which would make what "we're" doing extremely important to "them"

 it's too easy to look at the scale of things and realize how ineffectual we really are.

 you forget that you created the scale... :-)

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

yeah, (none / 0) (#166)
by trener on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:53:14 PM EST

i get your point. the 'my life impacts the people around me' thing.

but the thing is, when i'm asked 'what is the meaning of life,' i'm not thinking of the little things, i'm thinking of something big, something important, something permanent. something that really, really matters.

and as soon as you start looking at it like that, it becomes a question of drawing lines. where do you draw the line where 'meaning' starts and 'meaningless' ends?

do you draw it at your impact on your social circle? "well, i changed jen's life, that's -meaningful-" ?
do you draw it at your impact on your country? "i helped bring about social reform!"
do you draw it at global change? "wow, i helped bring about world peace! that's something that's going to *last*, that is important!"

these questions, they keep on expanding. but eventually, you -always- come down to the one, final thing: that the universe is, ultimately, going to collapse in on itself (lets just assume, to keep this short, that collapse happens and not expansion - with expansion, conclusion is basically the same except with everything spread out and energy-less). as soon as that happens, all of the matter in the universe is reduced to one point. one tiny point. and, everything, everything is made to be meaningless.

so, that's why my life is meaningless. like i said, it entertains me, but i know that eventually, ultimately, it is pointless.

[ Parent ]
there's the problem... (none / 0) (#170)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:09:04 PM EST

these questions, they keep on expanding. but eventually, you -always- come down to the one, final thing: that the universe is, ultimately, going to collapse in on itself (lets just assume, to keep this short, that collapse happens and not expansion - with expansion, conclusion is basically the same except with everything spread out and energy-less). as soon as that happens, all of the matter in the universe is reduced to one point. one tiny point. and, everything, everything is made to be meaningless.

 You've accepted scientific theory, based on a limited(at best) knowledge as fact. Why?

 Why would you assume that the whole of existance is going to end? Because science currently says so? Following your logic, if the universe was to "end" at some point (by collapsing, expanding, whatever) then, by definition it had to start at some point? Right? So, what came before the start of the universe? How did it start? More importantly, WHY did it start?

Science cannot answer these things, and probably never will, so to base a conclusion such as "Life has no meaning." on uncertanties isn't very smart, isn't it?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

to tell the truth... (none / 0) (#183)
by trener on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:56:04 PM EST

i don't want there to be a meaning of life. i'm happy living my life like this, believing that there is no meaning.

see, if there's a meaning to life, then that means that my life isn't mine anymore. i have to pay attention to that meaning and like.. you know, please some god somewhere, or do this, or do that.. by believing that there's no particular meaning to life, then my life is exactly what i make of it. i make my choices, i decide if they were good or bad, i live my life the way i like it. fuck god. fuck meaning. this is a lot more fun.

as for science - yeah, you're right, the theories could all be proven wrong tomorrow (although i don't think bigbang is really even debated anymore). but for now, the science works, it explains a lot, and i'm happy with it. if it's proven wrong, i'll change my beliefs accordingly. (p.s. start of universe: i read somewhere that some physicists think the universe repeats an expand/contract cycle.. i like that.. it's like a circle - there is no 'start')

[ Parent ]
Subversion is the path to enlightenment (4.00 / 1) (#185)
by sjf8 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:01:15 PM EST

I pass no comment on your division of the world into three groups...but point out that any simplification of everyone on earth into three groups stands a very very very small chance of actually being a useful distinction.

However, I do take particular offense at the connection you draw between "joking" and being fearful. Subversion (particularly "mocking" humor) is a significantly more effective spiritual/intellectual instigator than is genuine interest. Take Mark Twain, for example. A comic genius of his time, but not a man who could be said to "refuse to acknowledge a possible meaning, [and] therefore...make an amusing joke in order to change subjects. Not at all! In fact, most truly brilliant comedy forces us to re-evaluate our positions, and it manages to do this more effectively and permanently than even a large gorilla with a bat could.

The fearful in the group might give a token attempt at humor, but don't confuse "fearful trolls" with genuinely opinionated people who use humor as a communication mechanism. Take this comment. Very funny. Yet points out (without long words, exhaustive vocabulary, or the need to argue a valid conclusion from sound premises) some of the inherent flaws in the suggestions put forth by the writer of this article! Examine for a moment WHY that comment is funny (I guess if you don't find the above comment funny, you'll have a tougher time with this exercise). Count three reasons, and expand each reason to two complete sentences. See? That comment has made you reflect on the position and arguments of the article, and even pointed out some amusing foibles of this kind of serious discussion. Is this unvaluable commentary? I can't agree with anyone who says that it is...

The writer of that comment is not "fearful" of a lack of meaning in life...or if he is, there's certainly not enough material in his one comment to pass that judgement. He's just using subvesive humor to make a point.

[ Parent ]

hence... (none / 0) (#198)
by Run4YourLives on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:16:39 PM EST

...the reason I'm not grouping 'everyone' into those three groups. Most is not all. I do recognize the difference between the comment you provided, and say, a thread like this one. Thanks for pointing that out though.



It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

-1: to lengthy (3.80 / 5) (#88)
by fhotg on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:36:37 PM EST

summary:

Everybody is shallow and sad because of a lack of meaning in life.

People are addicted to things that are only cheap substitutes for the real thing and this sucks and doesn't make them sustainably happy.

I feel with them and understand them, but I'm more happy because I found the real thing.

This is sweet Jesus in my case, but of course it might be Cthulu for you, as long as it's sufficiently spiritual.

The path is the goal, and for me this is doing good things in the community of fellow Christians.

Are you sure you don't want to come to the service Sunday morning ?

Film at 11.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Meaning: The Modern Crisis (3.25 / 4) (#93)
by thelizman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:21:52 PM EST

You know, 500 years ago nobody sat around lamenting their own lack of existential justification. I honestly don't understand this drive people have to try and quantify and validate their existence. Ultimately, you don't find happiness in purpose. You find happiness and purpose separately, and one eventually leads to another. If you spend your time simply pursuing a purpose in this world, you will a) never find it (or at least you'll never be sure you've found it), and b) you'll be very unhappy without it.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
You're right (4.00 / 4) (#100)
by radghast on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:46:27 PM EST

Five hundred years ago, you got married when you were 14, spent a lot of time beating clothes on rocks by the river, baking bread, and working in the fields, and died in your mid 30s. Meanings? Survive. Eat. Wasn't real complex back then...


"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
[ Parent ]
so? (3.00 / 2) (#112)
by majik on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:33:11 PM EST

It isn't real complex now. 500 years from now people will talk about how hard life was when you only lived til you were 70 or so (if you were lucky), had to actually manually operate transportation devices, etc...

Yet 500 years ago, people still had meaning. If you were oh so lucky enough to live in Europe, that probably meant your higher purpose in life was given to you by the church. If thats what you want, you can still find it, or any of a number of other similar options.

Personally I find purpose through friends, relationships, concepts, and yes even objects (like my surfboard, which without, I couldn't pursue the waves). There is no singular driving force dominating my life. Nor would I want one.

Like the author, I was recently in Japan. I was however Also in Japan about 3 years before. Things change. Homelessness, Joblessness, these problems are nothing new to most societies, and they are nothing new to the Japanese. They are new to us, because with the boom, we knew no different. Though perhaps I speak only for the young disenchanted Americans ;-)

People learn to adjust, learn to survive. Life goes on. And so will you. Just stop looking, and live. And your purpose will find you.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]
500 years ago... (3.00 / 2) (#123)
by Perianwyr on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:38:55 PM EST

...you were probably going to die of the Black Plague. Life felt very meaningless back then, and entire nations wracked with plague were full of people wondering why they were being punished, and why they were put there in the first place, if only to die so horribly. In fact, in 1370 or thereabouts, there was a movement in Germany comprised of essentially a giant wandering party that picked up anyone in its path- the idea was that since life was to end soon, there was nothing for it but to dance until you died.

Now, tell me whatever tortures your life is as mysterious and frightening as the Black Plague. :)

People have always been asking these questions, and those with the most interesting answers get remembered, from Jesus to Friedrich Nietzche.

[ Parent ]

Oh, they didn't? (3.00 / 1) (#113)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:37:00 PM EST

Well aren't you just the expert on the human condition, but all the same I still doubt the veracity of your first sentence.

[ Parent ]
i thought so, too (3.50 / 2) (#119)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:03:48 PM EST

but really, if they did, they didn't write anything about it. the 1500's were pretty rife with Catholicism and the beginning of the Reformation. There was a little dissent against the church, but mostly on the grounds of how people should believe in God, not whether they believe in God, and there's certainly no existential angst. Remember, we're squarely amid the Renaissance.

There may have been people who were wondering what's the point of all of this, but thier works aren't at the forefront of classical literature of the day. Let's see, we have "The Prince" and "Discourses" by Machiavelli, Luther's Theses, Michelangelo & da Vinci. In Asia, China was too busy dealing with the scandals created by the emperors of the declining Ming dynasty. Literature-wise, we have no one of great merit addressing the problems of existence.

While it's easy to be dismissive of his argument, when you actually check out what was going on around then, you really don't find much in the way of writings about existence and its purpose. I'm sure there were persons and small groups that had an interest, but there just wasn't this large scale "What does it all mean?" that we see dominating the internet today.

I had to look some of this up, but it looks like his argument has merit.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Off the record... (5.00 / 4) (#130)
by dcheesi on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:30:41 PM EST

Remember that the common man was illiterate, and therfore unable to record his (or her) thoughts. Wealthy scholars, meanwhile, knew better than to commit to record any thoughts that might anger the Church. Just because history doesn't record it, doesn't mean it wasn't happening in private.

[ Parent ]
Look a little harder (none / 0) (#182)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:54:56 PM EST

Just a little less than 500 years ago Shakespeare penned Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, and Henry IV (1 and 2). Are you telling me the stories of Hamlet, Hal, Lear, and Prospero don't directly raise anxieties about the meaning of existence? What about Marvell's Dr. Faustus? Wouldn't you agree that Cervantes' Don Quixote addresses question of meaning and purpose in life?

As for the religious beliefs of time, I think it is inaccurate to conclude that believing in a religion or even, minimally, in the mere existence of (a) God somehow frees the beliver from, in the language of our day, existential anxiety. Religion is much less an answer to the "big important questions" of life, than it is a way of framing those questions. Anyone who believes Christianity, and religion in general, does not involve existential struggle needs to read Augustine's Confessions.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
well, like i said... (none / 0) (#223)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:30:24 PM EST

if there were angst ridden societies in 1500, no one really wrote about it. I agree with you that there was some literature out there (Shakespeare and Cervantes actually came almost a full century later than the era I was looking at). My library at home is stocked with the classics & treatises in historical order and I had searched through that and came across only a couple of essays by some weird Italian scholars that even treated the matter of existence, and that was more metaphysics than anything.

But I think his & my point still stand. I had said, there's no record of any large number of people writing about it and that's just true for the generation before and after 1500. I'd actually be interested in reading something of merit from that age, but interesting renaissance literature doesn't start to pick up until the reformation really kicks in around 1518.

Funny you should mention Don Quixote. I wrote a story on that here. He's one of my favorites. He's just a little later than 1500 than what I was considering.

I'll concede your point about Augustine, though. Still, every time he got his knickers in a knot, he ran back to Plotinus and Christianity and that fixed him up good.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Please explain (none / 0) (#153)
by Raiakel on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:20:34 PM EST

What do you mean here?

Ultimately, you don't find happiness in purpose. You find happiness and purpose separately, and one eventually leads to another.
These two statements seem mutually exclusive. Are you saying that happiness and purpose are not the same thing, but they can follow from each other? I'm just a little confused about what you mean.

-Raiakel

[ Parent ]
How they "seem" is up to you... (none / 0) (#197)
by thelizman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:16:15 PM EST

I'm really not into explaining it right now (meaning, I dont' have all day). I think if you spend a little more time thinking about it, you'll arrive at your own happy conclusion.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Ecclesiastes (5.00 / 2) (#157)
by Blarney on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:25:59 PM EST

Meaningless! Meaningless!
Says the teacher.
Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless!

Ecc 1:2

This book is far, far older then 500 years, and yet it deals with the existential angst that you claim is a consequence of modernity.

[ Parent ]

Ecclesiastes? (4.00 / 1) (#196)
by thelizman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:14:26 PM EST

I'm sorry, was Ecclesiastes written by a schlub sitting in front of a computer accessing K5? No, it was written by a great King and Intellectual of old Israel. Do you always compare apples to oranges?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Nobody = Not me? (4.00 / 1) (#238)
by Blarney on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:36:22 PM EST

So your theory is that when you say "nobody", you mean "nobody except for great kings and intellectuals, certainly none of you nerds reading this."

"When I use a word" Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "It means just what I choose it to mean -neither more nor less."

[ Parent ]

No, Nobody = You [n/t] (1.00 / 2) (#244)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:43:11 AM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
not really (none / 0) (#173)
by vnsnes on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:24:49 PM EST

There was no Internet 500 years ago, but there were books. In general average people did not publish phillosophical books.

I don't think it's correct to say that people didn't sit around pondering existential questions back then. They may very well have done so. It's just for most of them there was no reason to try and publish a book about it. Just like grumpy didn't make a printed work out of his post.

[ Parent ]

500 Years Ago... (none / 0) (#194)
by thelizman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:12:36 PM EST

...people had other things to worry about. Only silly people then (and today) have time to worry about "why am I here". It's quite amusing, really.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
The Meaning Of Life Part ... (3.00 / 1) (#109)
by anarcat on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:21:08 PM EST

For a clear understanding of The Meaning Of Life, I suggest the legendary Monthy Python movie such titled.

So much meaningless that it settles the whole issue. :)

A Dissertation (3.00 / 2) (#114)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:46:45 PM EST

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article a few months ago. He linked to it at sickamongthepure.net but that sight seems to have consistent problems so I'm providing a different URL. Particularly interesting is the quote from Albert Camus's The Rebel which will sum up the entire dissertation in one succinct paragraph.

Good Post (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by icastel on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:56:35 PM EST

Even though the tone throughout the article is "3AM-ish," I think it addresses a situation in which most people find themselves at some point or another in their lives.

My two cents: I think that the reason we struggle when trying to find meaning is that we are in a state of constant change. Meaning becomes a moving target because of this very reason. This is probably why you feel that "the search of meaning is the search itself."




-- I like my land flat --
question is a little off the mark (3.66 / 3) (#118)
by adiffer on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:01:26 PM EST

Turn your question 'What gives your life meaning?' question around a little bit and I think you will find it enlightening.

I've seen these questions in many places with the most recent being the SF show Babylon 5.  If you can answer them for yourself, you can probably answer your original one.

What do you want?
Who are you?

The first one is supposed to get you thinking about the purpose of your actions.  If you are not acting to get what you want, then why do it?

The second one is supposed to get you thinking about your identity and where you fit in the universe.  If you don't know how to describe yourself, do you have a place?

Both of them help you find a purpose for your existance.  Whether that purpose appears to come from inside or outside doen't really matter as long as you know what it is.  With purpose comes meaning.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.

But you can't answer it alone... (3.00 / 1) (#122)
by Karellen on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:30:52 PM EST

...at least, it's just not the same if you don't have Jack the Ripper causing you great amounts of pain every time you answer "Who are you?" in a way he doesn't like.

I find that really adds a much-needed sense of urgency to finding an answer, instead of just toying with the idea for a while before tossing it aside to think about another day.

:-)


[ Parent ]

pain is self-inflicted (none / 0) (#193)
by adiffer on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:12:34 PM EST

I would argue that folks going through depression are providing their own source of pain.  I would also argue that the show had to make the story interesting.  Our lives are rarely so action packed.

The answers are, of course, incredibly simple and impressively subtle in how individualized they turn out to be.  You know you have your answers when you know you have your answers.

Do you really think we can't do this alone?  8)
I doubt that, but then I never tried it that way.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Making it alone. (none / 0) (#249)
by Karellen on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 05:54:46 AM EST

Do you really think we can't do this alone? 8)

Whoa! I was going for the light-hearted reply there; note the smiley.

But, no, I don't think we can't do this alone. In fact, I think it is such an `impressively subtle and individualised' journey, that alone is the only real way to make it. You will meet others along the way to be sure, and they may be able to help you see things in a new light (even 5 year olds and their random scribblings can do that, to take inspiration from another thread), helping you see the path more clearly, but I don't think they can take you where you need to go.

K.


[ Parent ]

A philosophical quibble (and my thoughts) (3.00 / 1) (#121)
by IHCOYC on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:21:36 PM EST

A number of comment writers (though not the author!) use the phrase "the meaning of life." This causes me some mild unease.

What is life? That is a relatively easy question to answer: life is the behaviour we observe in living things, that distinguishes them from non-living. Growth, the consumption of resources, reproduction, and death are close to the core of its essence.

Because life involves the consuption of resources which are limited, life is at eternal war with itself. Most living creatures exist by feeding on others, one way or another, and by hastening their deaths or parasitizing them in order to garner their resources unto one another. Life is a struggle to scrape by and reproduce, in an environment full of living things that compete for the same things you need to live.

If we are able or entitled to make any moral judgment at all, our first judgment must be that life itself is evil. This is a conclusion that is likely to dismay many people, but I think it follows inescapably from what life is. To speak of a meaning of life is therefore to say that the ultimate purpose of our existence is in life, and therefore corrupt, and doomed to the inevitable failure that is death.

No: if we have such a purpose, it must be something that stands outside of life. What justification we have for our existence must be found in those things we are capable of, that have nothing to do with the dreary business of survival, feeding, and reproduction. I'm not confident enough to venture what that purpose might be. I am reasonably certain I know what it cannot be.

Heus, nunc, mihi cantate hanc æruginem.

Procreation (4.00 / 1) (#128)
by Roman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:24:46 PM EST

I am 26. Since I was about 18 I started wondering about the same questions. Ultimately I have developed some theories about stuff that none of the people I have ever dealt with have every even pondered about.

Here is one of them
I do not believe that people today have any right to procreate. I am not talking about sex. I am talking about having children. I find that at some point in evolution when the humans could diffirentiate themselves from the surrounding environment, at the point when we gained consciousness we have lost our born priveledge to actually multiply. Of-course in order to come to a conclusion like this one, it took us another 200,000 years an me being born (unless there are others there that came to the same conclusion by themselves?) I question human's right to bring other humans into existence for a simple reason that no human can be asked whether he/she wants to actually exist. Of-course the question itself is impossible to ask. It is even impossible to get a thoughtfull answer to this question from most people who have lived on this planet for a while. Children should not be asked such questions. However I asked my parents if they believe they had a right to give birth to me. My answer (based on me that have being me for the past 8 years) would be 'NO'.

I am not religious at all, you should understand. I am an atheist to the bone. I believe that people constract their own reality - the one that fits their fears and their ignorance to the best.

There are simple reasons why people never ask these kinds of questions and never produce theories like the one above. People are quite selfish - producing a child is the most selfish act of them all, no matter what the parents say. Of-course the nature forces certain instincts towards having children, but try to differentiate your bodily needs or "it" from your aware self or "I". I know that Freudian views are not popular today, however those who actually read Freud will see that there is reasoning behind every idea that he put forward. If we accept what is called "ego" and "super ego" we can then try and differentiate the "super ego", we should be able to differentiate ourselves from our preprogrammed animal behaviour. At this point we can start asking questions like what the meaning of life is.

Of-course you will say, the human race would be extinct if we had a generation that was asking questions like these and actually that was not having children since nobody can give a positive or a negative answer until they are born into this world.

Note that within aggrarian societies of the past (and even of the present) there was a tendency for large families with many children. This is opposed to modern rural societies with much fewer children. The reasons are simple - on a farm the older you get the less you can do. At some point someone else should be taking over your work and helping you until you die. Who is going to do that except for the kids that you have? Noone of-course. By now we can name 3 reasons for having children 1 - self serving reasons (being afraid to be alone at old age is also a self serving reason.) 2 - natural calling (whatever animal instincts we have left in us, so hormones.) 3 - mistakes. Yes, this still happens, people simply like sex and quite often children are produced by mistake (unless an abortion is used.)

Religion is used to force masses to do whatever the leaders desire. Leaders need followers, this means that procreation is approved by religion. In modern world, the cultures abandon religions. Birth control is up, child births are down. This of-course can create demographic problems today or in the near future (look at Italy, Germany.) Living in cities as opposed to farms and having to go through economic problems also decreases the number of birth (look at Russia, Ukraine).

However, never in the history of this planet have we witnessed a decrease in population simply due to questions like I have brought to your attention. This forces me to believe that either my theory is wrong and the humans have not lost the right to procreate as they gained their ability to think OR that this question is simply not being asked and noone really cares about such questions (yet).

Which one is it?

[ Parent ]
Quibble (none / 0) (#141)
by br284 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:00:13 PM EST

Your entire argument rests on the idea that as soon as humans gained consciousness, they lost the right to reproduce. The problem with this statement is that outside of the realm of consciousness, there is no such thing as a right. Rights are entirely human constructs, thus it does not make sense to say that humans possessed a right to procreate and lost it as soon as they gained consciousness. Either they did not lose such a right, nor did it ever exist. If the right was not lost, then humans have the right to procreate. If the right did not exist, then it makes little sense to talk of losing something that didn't exist.

I appreciate your thought on the matter, but if you're going to make any sense, you cannot base your arguments on appeals to natural rights.

-Chris

[ Parent ]

D'oh! (none / 0) (#144)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:06:00 PM EST

You beat my post by less than a minute. D'oh!

I do have to say that you're answer is along the lines I was thinking of, but I still think posing the question was a better discussion starter.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Sorry (none / 0) (#150)
by br284 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:12:58 PM EST

I didn't know that I was stealing your thunder. Who even knew that you were hiding there, just waiting to pounce?

-Chris

[ Parent ]

No apology (5.00 / 1) (#156)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:23:58 PM EST

Oh, don't apologize - the point gets made one way or the other. Do you think there's some "meaning" to be found in the coincidental timing of the posts?

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Hmm... (5.00 / 1) (#159)
by br284 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:33:46 PM EST

Meaning hiding behind false coincidences? There might be some meaning there, but I can't be bothered to look. Too busy trying violate the natural rights of the universe by trying to exercise my right to procreate.

However, if there were a universal ban on procreation, that would explain my love life at the moment. However, it doesn't explain that huggy-kissy couple in the cafe, so it must be inconsistent.

Or I may be rapidly approaching incoherence. Final incoherent thought -- what meaning is there if you were to take a shaved cat, cover it in Icy-Hot and watched it walk about all funny like? Yup, I'm incoherent.

-Chris

[ Parent ]

A flaw (5.00 / 1) (#142)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:01:06 PM EST

I do not believe that people today have any right to procreate.
One question - how do you define "right?" (Note that "right" and "privilege" are different things.) Think about it (and the preconditions and ramifications) before answering.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Rights are not absolute (none / 0) (#145)
by dcheesi on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:06:44 PM EST

What you seem to forget is that the concept of "rights" is a human construct as well. The right to procreate is just another invention of the human mind. And if you're asking whether human moral/social thought is logically consistent, the answer is a big fat "no" (followed by a "so what?").

But pretending for the moment that morality has a logical foundation: You're applying rights to nonexistent entities, on the basis that they are in some way human. (This is shaky enough when you consider that the word are implies existence, but that's a whole other can of worms). What about the ones who do want to be born? The idea that all humans have a right to life is more widely accepted than the right to non-life; if you are applying the latter to nonexistent humans, you should be applying the former as well. So perhaps we don't have the right not to procreate, as this is the only way to uphold the right of the unconceived to live??

[ Parent ]

Relative rights (none / 0) (#158)
by Roman on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:31:36 PM EST

You are correct of course. I do not believe in any absolute truth, only in a relative truth.
Rights really only make sence in comparison between equal forces. I shall refrase myself:
Once humans gained consciousness and realized the consequences of their actions, they should have realized a possibility that an unborn could agree or disagree with being born. Does it really matter to the parents?

Now, you have brought up another point - The idea that all humans have a right to life is more widely accepted than the right to non-life; if you are applying the latter to nonexistent humans, you should be applying the former as well. Agreed. The idea that all humans have a right to life is more accepted. However before an entity is born into a human it does not classify as such but there was no agreement that non-humans have right to life or non-life. Also I would like to bring your attention to this: We really do not know whether all non-born (possible) humans want to live. I in fact think that an infinite number of such unborn humans would like to be born and an infinite number would like to never be born.

Of-course until we make it possible to ask these unborn entities whether they agree to be born, we cannot predict the outcome of a birth.

[ Parent ]
Another question (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by br284 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:21:51 PM EST

I quote: "I am not religious at all, you should understand. I am an atheist to the bone. I believe that people constract their own reality - the one that fits their fears and their ignorance to the best."

If this is the case, and you enjoy the acts of procreation, shy don't you just craft a reality where procreation is a good thing? Make a reality where it is not selfish. Should be no problem, given your beliefs.

-Chris

[ Parent ]

Shaking Quakers (4.00 / 1) (#247)
by Alan Crowe on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 04:54:30 AM EST

The "shaking quakers", an extreme quaker sect held views alittle like yours. I'm not sure of the dates, maybe they formed around 1850. They forbad sex within marriage. They died out quite recently (1990?). They kept going in their early years by adopting foundlings, some of whom stayed with the faith. Society changed. Rather than abandon their babies, women would struggle on as single parents. This left the shaking quakers without a source of children. Although the sect was founded by recruiting adults, adult recruitment fell off badly in later years.

I think there is a wider point at issue. If ones utopian visions of personnal and social reform is to be viable and lasting, it faces severe practical constraints. For example, one might plan a Utopia to be sustainable, with family planning being an essential part of this. As a western liberal, this Utopia will obviously include religious freedom. Then the Catholic church forbids contraception within marriage. Well there is a dilemma. Restrict religious freedom? Accept that your Utopia eventually goes Catholic and unsustainable? Hope to be let of the hook by the lay members ignoring their priests in this matter?

I would like to live in a better and more thoughtfully designed society. I think that one of the reasons I do not, is that young persons are enthusiastic about designing Utopia for a while, but when they realise the severity of the practical constraints, they become dis-illusioned and abandon their ideals of building a better world. Which leads us back to this anguished search for meaning.



[ Parent ]
Bollocks (3.00 / 1) (#133)
by icastel on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:40:53 PM EST

"I'm not confident enough to venture what that purpose might be. I am reasonably certain I know what it cannot be."

So it follows that, if you know what it cannot be, it is everything else.

Why don't you "venture" a guess?




-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Not quite (5.00 / 1) (#212)
by Rk on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:41:46 PM EST


Growth, the consumption of resources, reproduction, and death are close to the core of its essence.

Fire does that too. And it's not alive by general (ie; arbitary) definition. "Life" is nothing more than a complex series of chemical reactions aided by a catalyst (enzymes) - it is a process, not an object.

As a process, life has no purpose, since purpose implies that it was created by a sentinent being. Since there is no evidence to suggest the existance of such a being, life has no "purpose". Life is self-propagating, despite our intelligence and technology, all we exist for is to increase entropy and refine our DNA to adapt to new circumstances. We are in that respect different to fire, which always burns the same way and is incapable of modifying the embodiement of its existance.

Think of life therefore as a continual process, not a means to an end or an end itself. Life has no end or purpose, anymore than fire has a purpose.

Since life has no purpose, you might as well enjoy it while it lasts, rather than try to fufill some higher purpose.

[ Parent ]

Sentience and purpose (none / 0) (#233)
by IHCOYC on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:13:54 PM EST

Is it necessary for life to have been created by a sentient being to have a purpose? Things with purposes made by sentient beings are tools; life is not like a tool as far as I can tell.

A chemical process like life --- or like fire, can have at least the appearance of "purpose" if by purpose we mean that they are adapted to some end, and have a nature that makes them serve that end. Both life and fire can arise in circumstances that foster them, or circumstances that thwart and exstinguish them. The purpose was not created to serve some other goal, but it arises out of the nature of life or of fire.

Living things are created with instinctive drives that have the appearance of goals. These might be accounted purposes for some end, even in the absence of intelligent design. In fact, the tragedy of intelligent life is that we feel these drives even if they are not what we would have chosen on reflection.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]

evil (5.00 / 1) (#219)
by dalinian on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:23:04 PM EST

life itself is evil.
No, it's not. Don't you remember the discussion we had a while ago?

Apart from that, I think you are mostly correct.

[ Parent ]

Actually, I did remember. . . . (none / 0) (#231)
by IHCOYC on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:40:19 PM EST

. . . . which is why the disclaimer about the ability or entitlement to make moral judgments is in there. If morality is purely a verbal game relating to humans' relationships with other humans, and cannot be applied to processes that cause suffering uncaused by humans, then you would conclude that we cannot make that judgment.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]
The Lucifer Principle (none / 0) (#237)
by vile on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:34:19 PM EST

You may like this book:
Amazon



~
The money is in the treatment, not the cure.
[ Parent ]
Meaning? Sorry, none here. Just deal. (4.00 / 6) (#124)
by pmk on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:46:20 PM EST

You are an accidentally intelligent monkey living a single short life in a crazy society in a meaningless universe.

This fact is painful so long as one maintains denial of it. And humans have invented all kinds of interesting ways of denying this reality. If one of them works for you for the moment, that's great.

But once reality is accepted, life becomes so much easier and enjoyable. The universe is fascinating enough without having to simplify or embellish it with lies.

Abandon all meaning, ye who enter here (5.00 / 3) (#146)
by kaeru on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:10:19 PM EST

The problem with your request is that you're asking that people accept something that seems obviously false to them. By this I mean that meaning seems to be one of the basic facts of our existence. From my perspective, the universe is absolutely shot through with meaning, and our ability to reason and work together for good (or ill) is a reflection of this fact. The universe seems to me to be the sort of place that is made for intelligent moral agents to apprehend and explore. I understand that you do not agree with this, since presumably you would not accept the idea of a Supreme Being as the basis of this meaning.

But please realize that unless one is an atheist, there is no particular temptation or reason to accept the gospel of "liberation through meaninglessness". And in the absence of any compelling reason to become an atheist, I see no reason to throw out the meaning that seems so apparent.

[ Parent ]

Holy "begging the question!" (5.00 / 2) (#160)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:40:32 PM EST

For an explanation of "beg the question," read another comment I wrote for another story. I'll leave it up to you to apply the logic.

Fulfillment of one's psychological needs are often mistaken for the actual existence of a given "truth," and many times has a "bad" result (cf. placebo effect, the need for double-blind experiments, imposition of moral codes, evangelism, or a host of other things). In other words, your use of the word "apparent" is reason enough to at least question (if not throw out) the existence of meaning.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Begging the question (none / 0) (#187)
by kaeru on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:02:48 PM EST

For an explanation of "beg the question," read another comment I wrote for another story. I'll leave it up to you to apply the logic.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask for some aid here. Unless there is some misunderstanding, I don't see that I made an argument that begs the question.

I am saying that the universe suggests purpose and meaning to most people, and that a theistic intepretation provides an explanation for this fact, while an atheistic one denies it. If one is not already committed to atheism, why would one accept that meaning and purpose are illusory? Where is the circularity in this question?

[ Parent ]

How's this? (none / 0) (#236)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:30:33 PM EST

An apology might be in order, although I'm not sure. Based on the subject of your comment ("Abandon all meaning, ye who enter here," which has a biblical genesis IIRC), I took it to imply that your statements (emphasis mine):
By this I mean that meaning seems to be one of the basic facts of our existence. From my perspective, the universe is absolutely shot through with meaning, and our ability to reason and work together for good (or ill) is a reflection of this fact. The universe seems to me to be the sort of place that is made for intelligent moral agents to apprehend and explore.
had a Christian grounding. I have to admit that you included just enough hedging to make it ambiguous how strong your assumptions were. I don't think I was wrong in making my own assumption that you were basing these opinions on religious belief.

Taking the emphasized parts in order, my thought was that stating - as a fact - that the universe is "shot through with meaning" is actually an assumption that defines the circularity of the argument. The idea that the universe is "made" is another assumption that implies a supreme being. The idea that humans are "intelligent moral agents" is yet another assumption that implies a purpose. (That last is not as strong a point as the others, I'll grant you. That's just what was going through my head.) Taken together, at least in my mind, the conclusion can only be "humans have a purpose to be discovered in the meaning inherent in the universe that is endowed by a supreme being."

Further, you're response:

I am saying that the universe suggests purpose and meaning to most people, and that a theistic intepretation provides an explanation for this fact, while an atheistic one denies it.
is not necessarily accurate. An atheistic explanation does not deny purpose and meaning; only that it is not attributable to a "supreme being." A naturalist position that espouses evolutionary progress towards perfection would fit the bill, although it might be difficult to actually locate someone who spewed that belief.

If I misrepresented your assumptions, I apologize. However, I'm not convinced that I did. Also, I couldn't resist the Batman reference as a subject, much like I couldn't resist the "genesis" reference earlier in this comment. Too much of my commentary is controlled by (usually bad) wordplay and obscure references, but I enjoy it. Let's just say it brings "meaning" to my life.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

how to avoid this? (none / 0) (#293)
by dalinian on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:51:43 AM EST

I'm an atheist too, but I'm not sure how I could avoid using an argument not unlike the one your opponent uses to justify his or her Christian beliefs.

The problem seems to be that we need some sort of conceptual framework to make sense of the world. It needs to exist logically (i.e. not chronologically) before the conclusion. And the framework largely determines what the conclusion is going to be. The universe really looks like it has been made by an intelligent being, but when you decide it really is, you simultaneously decide to adopt a Creationist framework and its conclusion. But when you see enough randomness in the world, you decide to adopt the framework of the natural sciences, which in turn largely determines that you are going to be an atheist.

Is there a way to avoid this? I don't believe so. There is no neutral framework, except for maybe the one of extreme skepticism.

[ Parent ]

Nope, not in Bible (none / 0) (#318)
by pmk on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:45:47 AM EST

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" is from Dante's Inferno. It's the inscription above the gates of Hell.



[ Parent ]

Ah, thank you (none / 0) (#328)
by Irobot on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 12:17:25 AM EST

The Inferno has such strong Catholic groundings, that I did in fact recall incorrectly. Now that you point it out, I just slapped my forehead and exclaimed "Of course!"

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

That reminds me... (none / 0) (#200)
by marc987 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:19:38 PM EST

The "placebo effect" is also an expression of one of the most powerful and beautiful mechanisms in human imteraction.

[ Parent ]
...That reminds me i can't spell (none / 0) (#204)
by marc987 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:20:53 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Do you understand what begging the question means? (none / 0) (#291)
by nads on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:30:06 AM EST

Begging the question is very nebulous and basically no one can pin down when and why its wrong. Hell some people believe all our knowledge stems from a form of begging the question.

My point is, begging the question is valid to point out for simple arguments. But for something like the discussion attached to this article, 'begging the question' is not a foul. Circularity isn't always bad.

[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 0) (#329)
by Irobot on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 12:24:11 AM EST

I attempt to explain my reasoning in this comment. I noted that I made some assumptions of my own in interpreting the statements made. Please critique my explanation if you feel it needs it - I would appreciate it.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Two monkeys (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by pmk on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:04:44 PM EST

Two monkeys sat down in front of a television monitor that was displaying random static snow.

One monkey said, "This is stupid," and went off in search of bananas.

The other monkey said, "Nobody would ever waste my valuable time with random static," and started to see the Monkey God's face in the noise.

Both were happy. But one of them got a real banana.

[ Parent ]

Absurdity (3.40 / 5) (#129)
by awfultin on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:30:27 PM EST

The only "meaning" or "point" to life that exists is solely a biological one. We create an equilibrium with other forms of life on this planet. That is all though.

There is no higher spiritual meaning. Something happened during the evoloutionary timeline that gave us self-awareness. I think this may have been some mistake, since now we are actually able to question our enviroment rather than just "exist" to further our species.

I don't believe in a god, etc. I do think that according to observations of energy (i.e. us), one never truly dies, just gets recycled. Life is absurd.

I was born into nothingness and I am constantly drowning in it.

What is the purpose of meaning? (3.66 / 3) (#134)
by azzl on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:46:40 PM EST

Surprisingly, the answer is not omlette du fromage.

Meaning ... (4.66 / 9) (#135)
by Bad Mojo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:49:38 PM EST

... is generated client-side.


-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

Empty and Meaningless... (3.50 / 2) (#138)
by redgren on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:55:36 PM EST

One of the most empowering things I have ever heard is that life is meaningless.  And that it doesn't mean anything that life has no meaning.

There are 2 points to the above idea.  The first is that because life has no inherent meaning doesn't mean it sucks, and it doesn't mean it's great.  It doesn't mean anything.  The second point is that you are completely responsible for creating you own meaning out of life.  And you can't blame "advertising" or "society" for what gives your life meaning.

The Phenomenon Machine (none / 0) (#155)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:22:55 PM EST

  I generally agree with you, however I'm going to replace meaning and meaningless with purpose and purposeless...

  Giving this, it seems that in the context of the last couple of billion years, our little planet has managed to produce some outstanding statistical phenomenon, much like Conway's game of life, with its simple rules, gives birth to interesting and sometimes statistically unlikely phenomenon.  

  I like to think of computers, great music, an insightful idea, or anything else that's interesting as a statistically unlikely phenomenon which in turn makes it novel.  If you look around you, you tend to find that people are usually pushing to create something novel, whether it being physically tangible such as a great book or whether it produces intangible such as a dynamic network of influential people.

  It seems that while there may be no universal purpose, it's easy to become part of some one's or even something's (evolution biology) purpose.

  Actually, I don't disagree with you, I just find that fact that this corner of the universe has been trying to physically manifest and propagate the statistically unlikely as something utterly mind-blowing.

  Hence, The Phenomenon Machine?


[ Parent ]

Apathy (4.00 / 2) (#152)
by br284 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:19:23 PM EST

I don't think that this philosophy is as strong as the "there is no meaning" one, but for me the meaning of life is something I don't think about until others bring it up.

To be honest, I could care less if there is some overarching purpose and meaning to life. The reason for my apathy -- I've got one life to live and after that - nothing. Zilch. I figure that sitting around searching for the meaning of life only serves to take time away from the amount of living I have left to do. So, why bother? Don't we have better things to do? Like amusing ourselves however we can?

-Chris

so then you know the meaning of life. (none / 0) (#186)
by JyZude on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:01:37 PM EST

So, the meaning of your life then is to have fun. I'm not knocking it, but I'm just saying that's why you aren't searching for meaning - you've found one that works for you.

-----
k5 is not the new Adequacy k thnx bye


[ Parent ]
Perhaps... (1.00 / 1) (#215)
by dazzle on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:51:42 PM EST

...it amuses some people to search for a meaning?

---
the internet: a global network of small minded people


[ Parent ]
two more cents (5.00 / 5) (#161)
by Nandeyanen on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:41:37 PM EST

If you first come to the conclusion that life has no meaning, then you're faced with a choice- to continue going through life with that as the base assumption to your reality, or, to scrap it and build your own meaning. To me, that is the value of such a conclusion. Building your own and making yourself happy is far better than the depressing glum world seen through the eyes of someone whose world has no meaning. That is- too few of us are strong enough to endure a lifetime in a world without meaning. We're not hardwired for that.

some of us are (none / 0) (#289)
by nads on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 04:53:15 AM EST

... Most of us aren't, although at times I feel like I'm headed for a life like that. Not something I'm looking forward to, if you have tips on a getting out, let me know.

[ Parent ]
The meaning of life is... (4.00 / 1) (#164)
by skintigh on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 05:45:45 PM EST

According to one of my EE profs: 1) Tell everyone everything you know. 2) Work like hell -- love it. 3) Have fun. There, that wasn't so hard. It's been documented on the web for years. I guess the author just didn't search hard enough. I posted it here in my article on how to hack a Sony TV: http://skintigh.tripod.com/sony/sony.html I suppose it's not a meaning directly, more of a plan, like mine: censor yourself from nothing, unless it would censor you from other experiences. But that leads to indecision. What more does a civilization have than it's knowledge? (I can't write that without thinking of how the Catholic missionaries burned all of the Myan's writings...) Keeping secrets adds nothing to that, so share everything. Have fun. Lighten up. If I followed my own advice life would be very different...

Religious propaganda.... (2.83 / 6) (#169)
by awfultin on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:06:32 PM EST

I was enjoying the essay until I came to the paragraph that was (IMO) propagating the belief in a god.

I was born into nothingness and I am constantly drowning in it.

So... (5.00 / 3) (#188)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:03:18 PM EST

...is any mention of religious belief unacceptable in your eyes? Can it ever be discussed positively without qualifying as "propaganda?"

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
I tend to think... (4.75 / 4) (#207)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:26:45 PM EST

The writer of the article did a pretty good job of not being dogmatic. I think the issue is with the phrasing of this sentence (emphasis mine):
It is a lasting and purposeful meaning, a meaning only God can provide and satisfy, and my actions illustrate.
No doubt, the poster feels it is a lasting and purposeful meaing. No doubt they feel that their actions demonstrate that meaning. It's the attribution to God, in particular only God that gets some people. And, although it may not have been meant this way, as written, it does qualify as propaganda.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Surely... (4.00 / 3) (#220)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:56:24 PM EST

...under the broadest possible definition this article would qualify as propaganda, but then so would nearly all of the comments and, for that matter, the vast majority of sum total of human communications. If the simple propagation of an opinion or an idea qualifies as propaganda, then any and all argumentation and acts of persuasion count as well, no? I prefer a more exclusive and therefore useful definition and I would guess that the author of the top most parent in this thread had a more specific definition in mind as well.

A common, if somewhat juvenile, rhetorical tactic in (over)use here at kuro5hin is to dismiss an argument as being mere propaganda. If a broad and inclusive definition is in use, the dismissive tactic would hardly carry any rhetorical weight: stop, you're trying to convince me! Really, how damning is that?

As for the "only God" part of the article, it's the author's testimonial and the author's beliefs surely play into that. It was hardly an inappropriate and gratuitous reference. An appropriate and reasonable response from a non-believer would have been to offer up a counterexample of some meaningful existence found apart from God.

Not everybody has to agree on this or any other issue, but I get tired of the knee-jerk venomous anti-religious silliness that goes on around here. Every time religion and/or God is mentioned (unless, of course, it is done derisively) you can count on a least a couple histrionic posters acting as if the mere mention of such has somehow violated their rights. Few theoretical positions and/or belief systems merit an out-of-hand dismissal.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Absolutely (5.00 / 1) (#230)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:36:17 PM EST

Note that I wasn't arguing in any way, shape, or form. I just tried to answer your query as to why it might irritate someone. In going over the article, the only thing I found that might be objectionable was the phrase "only God can provide and satisfy." Which, as I mentioned, obviously was the poster's opinion - even though it (technically) wasn't stated as such. Again, I wasn't trying to slam anyone, just attempting to answer your question.

As for "propaganda," I don't think the article itself qualifies at all - it was an honest, if somewhat rambling, post. In fact, the sentence under consideration doesn't even qualify by itself; it does so only in the context of common associations. To me, the key from the dictionary defintion is "The systematic propagation of a doctrine." With the barrage of both religious and anti-religious viewpoints we endure constantly, I suppose both viewpoints qualify. Part of the reason I included the link, however, was definition 3, which reads:

Propaganda Roman Catholic Church. A division of the Roman Curia that has authority in the matter of preaching the gospel, of establishing the Church in non-Christian countries, and of administering Church missions in territories where there is no properly organized hierarchy.
I hadn't realized that the word had a specifically Roman Catholic connotation; technically, this puts any espousement of Christian beliefs one step closer to the definition than other subjects. Not that I'm advocating that use, for the dismissive connotations carried by the word "propaganda" aren't always appropriate. But, as I said (and hedged as to the author's intent, if you'll notice), "as written, it does qualify."

Yes, it would be nice if we could have a non-flame filled discussion dealing with religion, even though I admit I'm sometimes guilty of fanning those flames. I try hard not to; but it's difficult when people make unjustifiable statements as a matter of course. (It comes from both camps, although IMHO one is more likely to get such statements from a religious believer. It seems to me to be inherent in faith.) Anyway, I don't expect to ever get rational discussion about religion in a public forum. In fact, I'll include the disclaimer I put at the bottom of another comment:

I always feel that I have to include a disclaimer when discussing things like this. It's not that I have anything against religious beliefs per se; in fact, they serve as wonderful vehicles for teaching morals and providing a social fabric. I do have a problem with applying logic to something that is, by its very nature, beyond logic. After all, what is faith but belief that cannot be proven? What are miracles but occurrances that defy logic?
I'm not sure what else I can say about it, except that yes, people should not resort to "knee-jerk venomous anti-religious silliness." But posters should expect it if "silliness" (or irrationality) accurately describes the content.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Well yes, but. . . (none / 0) (#311)
by Fantastic Lad on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:26:21 AM EST

There's good and bad propaganda, and it all has to do with intent.

In this instance, the poster clearly believes in the feelings and experiences he's sharing, and indeed, in his solution. And because of this, I find the propagandic quality of his post entirely forgivable. Especially since the last paragraph is a poor sell job at best and as such can be easily ignored while the questions raised in the first 90% of the post remain interesting and engaging.

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

some people believe in god. deal. [nt] (none / 0) (#317)
by Shren on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:49:17 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Culture Balance Morality Spirituality and Religion (2.00 / 2) (#172)
by mberteig on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:20:08 PM EST

Culture:
The culture we grow up in influences everything about us, but does not define us or give us meaning.  Capitalism, Democracy, Science, Catholicism, Islam can all be cultures or part of a culture.  But culture is the primary influence only in an unexamined life.

Balance:
At some point, introspection and awareness of the world leads to a feeling that balance is important.  Some people go for the Golden Rule, others go for "objectivity", others find "freedom" yet others find socialism.

Morality:
After balance, comes a recognition that other people don't accept the same balance that you do, and therefore there needs to be an external definition imposed/accepted by everyone to have "true" balance.  This can manifest in a legalistic sense but more usually manifests in a moral stance derived from some authority such as religious teachings or philosophical investigations.

Spirituality:
When morality doesn't work, or is hard to do (guilt builds up), then an individual will try to become spiritual: to transcend the details of physical life by some mystical or magical means.

Religion:
Finally, when reality impinges on spirituality, a person may find that religion offers the true solution by incorporating culture, balance, morality and spirituality.  All major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity include all these aspects and provide a self-consistent system for life.  These systems all contain some basic common truths since they are all Divinely inspired.

Religion is the appropriate and final goal of an individual's search for meaning since it addresses both personal and community needs, and does so with Authority.


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile

I'm sorry, but... (3.33 / 3) (#181)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:51:27 PM EST

Are you on crack? At any rate, based solely on the following lines, something is hindering your critical reasoning process:
All major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity include all these aspects and provide a self-consistent system for life.
I have yet to discover a truly self-consistent religion (not that I'm an authority). Literalists don't have a chance and interpretatists get mired in minutiae trying to make it all fit. Which it never quite does. The closest I've seen is pure Buddhism (ala Nagarjuna, not its bastard offshoots). But, given a logical system that says that A = A can be violated, it doesn't exactly fit the standard definition of self-consistent. Further, the following line:
These systems all contain some basic common truths since they are all Divinely inspired.
is quite the example of "begging the question."

Sorry about the opening slap, but for different subject matter - say, evolutionary theory - this reasoning would only suffice for pseudo-science. Get thee to a philosophy class (or ten). Quickly.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

A self-consistent religion (none / 0) (#201)
by trimethyl on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:19:54 PM EST

I have yet to discover a truly self-consistent religion

What's wrong with Christianity? Is it not self-consistent? If so, can you show this?

I'm not trying to flame, I'd just like to know.



[ Parent ]
Some standards (2.00 / 1) (#214)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:45:12 PM EST

It's sort of pedantic and may not be satisfactory in the context of "meaning of life" questions, but it'll suffice for logical purposes. The Christian God is omnipotent. The logical conundrum is "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him/her to lift?"

Perhaps you'd like another better. The Christian God is totally benevolent. Why then do disease, pain, and death exist?

Or, perhaps you'd like a different one even more. Take the holy trinity. 3 = 1? AFAIK (and I have a link from another comment that I never followed up on, nor do I plan to in the immediate future), the logical justification for the trinity is that there isn't one. Or, more specifically, it isn't one that humans are equipped to understand. God has his/her own rules of logic.

Of course, you can remove religion from the realm of logic, but then the claim of self-consistency is kind of useless, isn't it?

I always feel that I have to include a disclaimer when discussing things like this. It's not that I have anything against religious beliefs per se; in fact, they serve as wonderful vehicles for teaching morals and providing a social fabric. I do have a problem with applying logic to something that is, by its very nature, beyond logic. After all, what is faith but belief that cannot be proven? What are miracles but occurrances that defy logic?

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Good points. (3.00 / 1) (#227)
by trimethyl on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:55:14 PM EST

The points you brought up are common objections. I'll handle them one by one.

The Christian God is omnipotent. The logical conundrum is "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him/her to lift?"

This is actually are rather amatuer argument. I'm surprised you mentioned it. No, God could not create a rock too heavy for him to lift, because He is capable of lifting any rock, no matter how big. But the question is really a moot point, unless you want to claim that God can create a logical contradiction - a claim which I've never heard made. Yes, God can create things that are impossible for man to understand, but this is a matter of our limited intellect in comparison to God. Christianity claims that God can do anything that's possible, including those things impossible for humans, and do such with infinite power.

The Christian God is totally benevolent. Why then do disease, pain, and death exist?

Many possible reasons: God desires us to have faith and trust in Him, and to love each other. Pain, suffering, and death are the vehicles by which we learn to transcend our world, as God is transcendent of the world. And God often uses such things to bring about a positive change in a person; a person who has experienced pain is more empathetic of others. Were there no pain, no suffering, no hunger, how could we show ourselves loving before God? How could we show ourselves worthy of eternal life if we did not have the opportunity to give to others?

But really, it isn't our place to demand of God an answer. If you think about it long enough, you realize that even your life was the gift of another; we did nothing to deserve being born. Hence, we should not complain about any pain or trial that we go through, for God in his infinite wisdom (see point 1) could have forseen all of our sin and decided not to create us in the first place.

Take the holy trinity. 3 = 1? ... God has his/her own rules of logic.

Simple analogy: a milky way bar: caramel, nougat (sp?), and chocolate. All in one candy bar. Must be a logical contradiction, right? No, things can coexist together. What we do know about the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God, does not make a union of the three a logical contradiction. Furthermore, in saying that "the three are one" is not necessarily a statement of physical reality, for we could just as easily say that all of the soldiers in an army unit are one, because they corporately act as one force on the battlefield. When talking about metaphysical realities, the paradigms of the physical world are hardly appropriate, though they can provide a metaphor for understanding. Thus, even though we may not understand completely the manner in which the trinity are three discreet beings, yet one, we can posit that such a relationship exists simply because it is conceptually possible even within the physical realm - and - there is scriptural evidence of such. If we are willing to accept that holy scripture is the word of God, then it is true, even if we fail to understand it completely. In fact, by extension, a being of finite understanding could not completely understand a being of infinite intellect.

The interesting part about this is that God never requires us to understand the doctrine of the Trinity as a part of our salvation. A Christian is asked merely to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and repent from a lifestyle of sin.

Another question: If one really believes that God is superior in every way to humans, wouldn't that person have to accept the fact that there will be some things about God that are beyond the grasp of the human mind? If we claim that we, with a limited human intelligence, can understand something of infinite intelligence, aren't we the ones believing a logical contradiction?

What are miracles but occurrances that defy logic?

Finally! Someone who understands the nature of miracles - they have to defy the rules of logic, or there would be nothing extraordinary about them, and hence, no reason to believe that they were from God! If miracles were ordinary happenings, we would have no reason to suspect that God exists.

But about the logic part. Yes, Christianity is logical, but we realize that there are some things that have been revealed to us which are simply beyond our ability to understand. If we could understand everything that God did, God would be nothing more than a metaphysical machine - not a conscious being who cares for us and loves us. If we held God to our rules of logical understanding, then logic would be the ultimate authority, rather than God, to which we appealed. If we really believe that God is supreme in all matters, then we must consider everything He's said to be truth. So our views are logically consistent, but we realize that our intellect is limited.



[ Parent ]
I realize (5.00 / 1) (#232)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:59:17 PM EST

Yes, I realize they're common objections (which is why I titled the post "Standards.") Yes, I know they're somewhat amateurish (which is why I said they're pedantic and unsatisfactory.) However, I believe they were sufficient and I don't feel you adequately answered my point:
Of course, you can remove religion from the realm of logic, but then the claim of self-consistency is kind of useless, isn't it?
In fact, I think you simply reinforced it. As far as I'm concerned, as soon as someone mentions "self-consistency," we're in the realm of logic. And that is not logic in a "beyond human grasp" form, which is no logic at all.

As you say, God's will is unknowable. Miracles defy the rules. As soon as you grant that, any method for determining consistency goes out the window. You simply take is as a given that God is logical, at least in his/her own way. Your argument then begs the question, as you've already assumed what you're attempting to prove. No consistency is actually required, because you can always fall back to the position "We can't understand it" to justify anything, no matter how patently ridiculous it is.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Reality and Logic (none / 0) (#294)
by trimethyl on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:25:08 AM EST

Of course, you can remove religion from the realm of logic, but then the claim of self-consistency is kind of useless, isn't it?

As you say, God's will is unknowable. Miracles defy the rules. As soon as you grant that, any method for determining consistency goes out the window.

No, here's the key: There is a difference between doctrine and observations. Miracles, divine revelation, personal experience, etc.. fall into the realm of observations. Doctrine is mankind's attempt to explain the observations. According to Christian belief, something revealed by God must be true - it can be taken at face value. Doctrine, however, must be consistent with the observations, and can change based on additional revelation from God.

The claim of logical consistency within Christianity is this: We claim that the doctrine is logically consistent with what mankind has observed regarding God. The fact that some observations, or divine revelations, may be inexplicable does not in itself exclude them from being true. For truth is not dependent on logical consistency; had science thrown out all observations that didn't agree with a logically consistent model of the universe, we'd still believe that the earth is the center of the universe (for to claim otherwise would be logically inconsistent!).

Yes, there are still some things which we don't, or perhaps cannot (because of our limited intellect) know about God. But these things are not essential to fulfilling God's will in our lives - we need not understand completely all of the Creator's nuances in order to love and serve Him.

Religion concerns itself with first knowing and doing God's will, and secondly, with understanding God. While we may not be able to make a claim of logical consistency concerning observations, we must ensure that doctrine is logically consistent with these observations. Which means, that in many cases, since we cannot explain an observation in a manner consistent with all of our previous observations, we must conclude that understanding such is simply beyond our ability; we just don't know. But we don't simply give up, or exclude an observation from our realm of thought because it is inexplicable. Rather, we suspend judgement until we have further revelation on the matter.



[ Parent ]
Consistancy vs. Repeatability (none / 0) (#334)
by mberteig on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 01:35:59 AM EST

In logic, consistance and repeatability are so often identical, we forget that they need not be.  In science this is much easier to see: a logically consistent scientific theorem may not perfectly match up with actual observations because we cannot properly control experiments enough to repeat them.

In the case of religion, it is very important to separate consistancy and repeatability.  Religions make very weak claims about repeatability.  If you pray, you might get what you ask for.  If you follow the "rules" your life might be better.

This is one of the big differences between science and religion: science limits its domain to those physical things which we can repeatably demonstrate.  If its not "physical" and its not repeatable, then it isn't science.

But both science and religion have a set of axioms upon which they build a world-view.  In science, one of those axioms isn't even repeatable!!! (Occam's Razor - the principle of simplicity - is usually stated as a probable guide.  It is nevertheless an axiom of science.  Maybe it is not true that the simplest explanation is the best!)  The existance of God, the Fashioner, the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful, is an axiom of Christianity, Islam, etc.  In both science and religion, a human being's experience of the world allows for faith in the basic axioms of either science or religion or both.  Simply because you have not had the experience which allows you to accept the axiom of Occam's Razor (or God), does not mean that others have not had that experience and may therefore be _correct_ in accepting it.

This could get into a huge discussion regarding knowledge, communication, etc.  For a sortcut, I highly recommend "Progress and Its Problems" by Larry Laudan.  This is a seminal work on the philosophy of science.


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]

Consistency (none / 0) (#341)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 09:57:17 AM EST

It seems to me you may be mixing up two notions of consistency - the first being repeatability and the second being a logical defintion that says a system doesn't have contradictory arguments.

Also, Occam's razor is most definitely not an axiom. In fact, arguments that use it as such are bad arguments. It is, as you point out, a principle. And some scientists (check Stuart Kauffmann's work in complexity) theorize that it plays a very small role in the actual workings of the universe. In other words, the simple explanation is, many times (I think he cites a number around 60%), actually wrong.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Missed this (5.00 / 1) (#246)
by Irobot on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 03:35:02 AM EST

Another question: If one really believes that God is superior in every way to humans, wouldn't that person have to accept the fact that there will be some things about God that are beyond the grasp of the human mind? If we claim that we, with a limited human intelligence, can understand something of infinite intelligence, aren't we the ones believing a logical contradiction?
Yes. But I'd see this more as an argument for atheism, not the self-consistency of Christianity. An argument based on belief isn't really a sound argument, after all.

Oh, BTW, I appreciate your subject line of "good points." Very nice of you to be indulgent, especially after my totally overboard opening with the "crack" line. (Sometimes I do wish there was an "Undo" button for comments.) However, I'd disagree with you about it - they're terrible points; certainly not worthy of debate in and of themselves. They were quick, easy, and merely sufficient to make my point.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Standard answers (5.00 / 1) (#253)
by bugmaster on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:35:18 AM EST

I might as well give the standard answers to all these points; though I am sure everyone has seen them all before.

This is actually are rather amatuer argument. I'm surprised you mentioned it. No, God could not create a rock too heavy for him to lift, because He is capable of lifting any rock, no matter how big.
Yeah, the question itself is a logical contradiction. I always found it a bit silly. Moving on...
The Christian God is totally benevolent. Why then do disease, pain, and death exist?
Many possible reasons: God desires us to have faith and trust in Him, and to love each other. Pain, suffering, and death are the vehicles by which we learn to transcend our world, as God is transcendent of the world. And God often uses such things to bring about a positive change in a person...
But why does an omnipotent God require "vehicles" ? He can just snap his fingers (so to speak), and make everything better. Even more drastically, he could have created us without built-in design flaws to begin with. After all, God is infinitely smart. When he was hitting that "compile" button, he knew that humans would eventually sin, and doom themselves to lives of pain and misery. Why not fix the bugs beforehand ? Why wait thousands of years and then apply the Jesus patch, which doesn't even solve the problem 100% ? After all, this is God, not Microsoft. We could expect better of him, especially since he is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good.

Come to think of it, why did God make humans so susceptible to pain in the first place ? Each day, multitudes of people suffer due to disease, sunburn, lead poisoning, broken ankles, pinpricks, starvation, etc. etc. -- mostly through no fault of their own. Why not make us all supermen , or some sort of energy beings, or crystalline entities out of Star Trek ?

But really, it isn't our place to demand of God an answer.
This answer is perfectly fine in context of Christianity; however, it is awfully weak if you choose to argue on general principles. What you are saying is this: "All the wondorous things around us are proof of God's existence. All the evidence that would seemingly speak against God's existence is also proof of God's existence, because I have defined it to be as such". Ok, so you defined yourself into a win-win situation; but this position would be intellectually dishonest for anyone who does not share your faith to begin with.

for God in his infinite wisdom (see point 1) could have foreseen all of our sin and decided not to create us in the first place.
Good point. Why does an omnipotent, omniscient God need to create followers ? In addition, why does he need to create helpers (angels) ? The helpers can't possibly help him with anything (since he can do everything by himself), and the worship of humans is inconsequential, seeing as we are infinitely punier than bacteria in comparison to God.
If one really believes that God is superior in every way to humans, wouldn't that person have to accept the fact that there will be some things about God that are beyond the grasp of the human mind? [such as the Trinity]
This is the same "It would seem like I lost the argument, but really I won" type of deal as I mentioned above; commonly known as "begging the question". Note that this only becomes a problem if you use this tactic when talking to a non-believers. Believers accept this argument on faith, and faith is beyound logic by definition. So, while your belief may be internally consistent in terms of your faith, it is not consistent globally.

I actually think this is the point that both atheists and Christians (and other theists) often miss. Both the theist and the atheist worldviews could be made internally consistent; they are just not consistent with each other. And since faith in God (or gods) is based on, well, faith (in other words, an unfounded assumption), logic cannot be used to justify the superiority of any worldview over any other one.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

You are trying to do something you cannot do. (none / 0) (#259)
by jjayson on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:35:38 AM EST

You are trying to understand the mind of God, and that is not possible. You sound like my 4 year old little brother than keeps asking me "Why? Why that? Well, then why that?" When I get tired of it and tell him the fully detailed answer, he just looks at me confused not understanding anything I said. As a child cannot understand the way an adult thinks, you cannot hope to understand how God thinks.

I am sorry, but we just have to admit that we don't know why thing are the way they are and leave it at that many times. There are many mysteries in life.

But why does an omnipotent God require "vehicles" ? He can just snap his fingers (so to speak), and make everything better. Even more drastically, he could have created us without built-in design flaws to begin with. After all, God is infinitely smart. When he was hitting that "compile" button, he knew that humans would eventually sin, and doom themselves to lives of pain and misery.
We were given freewill. Love requires it. You have to make a choice to love somebody, you cannto be forced to do it. With freewill comes the chance that we sin. Our flesh is weak, even though our spirit may be strong. If you go on a diet, but you wife knows that there is no way you will no break it because of all the good tasting food you are around. Does that mean when you do break you diet, you are not responsible because she and all you friend and co-workers know you wouldn't keep it? How about if she tests your diet by leaving your favorite dessert on the counter, knowing you will sneak a few bites. It's still your choice. The best answer to this is, we don't know.

Why not make us all supermen , or some sort of energy beings, or crystalline entities out of Star Trek?
Why number 6. We don't know.

but this position would be intellectually dishonest for anyone who does not share your faith to begin with.
Why is it dishonest to say that we don't know and may never know in this life.

Why does an omnipotent, omniscient God need to create followers
Why number 7. He wanted to have a loving relationship and that is hard to do with just one person. The angels don't have freewill, so they don't get to count. And the real answer: we don't know.

In addition, why does he need to create helpers (angels) ?
Why number 8. There are many Old Testament stories that descibe what happens when people hear God or see him: they die. He dwelt in a place called the Holy of Holies, meaning there is none other holier. You cannot mix the holy and the unholy, so it dies. An ever better answer: we don't know.

the worship of humans is inconsequential, seeing as we are infinitely punier than bacteria in comparison to God.
What do you mean inconsequential? We are all important, and He knows each one of us by name. None of us are unimportant to Him. This is where that whole love thing comes in, and He sends his only son to die for us. Would He do this if we were unimportant?

This is the same "It would seem like I lost the argument, but really I won" type of deal as I mentioned above; commonly known as "begging the question". Note that this only becomes a problem if you use this tactic when talking to a non-believers. Believers accept this argument on faith, and faith is beyound logic by definition. So, while your belief may be internally consistent in terms of your faith, it is not consistent globally.
It's called admitting that we don't know. That doesn't make it inconsistent, however it might make it incomplete. Consistent but incomplete is the best we can hope for. Even mathematics does not do better than that. Requiring a religious system to be consistent and complete is something you don't even require of the logic systems you use daily.


-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]
Not understanding, merely illustration (5.00 / 1) (#261)
by bugmaster on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:57:30 AM EST

Actually, I am not trying to understand the mind of God at all. For me, that would be equivalent to understanding the mind of the Tooth Fairy, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or any other imaginary entity.

What I was trying to demonstrate is that all your arguments are only valid (as well as sound) only if you argue within the limits of your religion. That is, everything you say is consistent, assuming your audience believes in God.

However, not everyone in your audience believes in God -- and yet, you seemed to claim that that your statements are true objectively, regardless of belief or disbelief in God. Unfortunately, such a statement is bound to run into massive problems, some of which I have illustrated. Note that the "yes, but the mind of God is incomprehensible" response is not valid in this case, since you are assuming that God exists in the first place, in order to justify your belief in God. I think your post above illustrates the futility of such an approach; my apologies if you were not making an objective claim, after all, and I misinterpreted the context.
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

You misunderstood my point. (5.00 / 1) (#285)
by jjayson on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:19:00 AM EST

you are assuming that God exists in the first place, in order to justify your belief in God
That wasn't a justification for belief in God. I was not trying to bridge the gap between logic and religion. You can never do that; it is why they call it faith. I was simply giving quick answers for the Christian perspective. Other keeps saying that Christianity in itself is not consistent. It is consistent, just not complete.

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]
quick answers (none / 0) (#255)
by jjayson on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:01:18 AM EST

It's sort of pedantic and may not be satisfactory in the context of "meaning of life" questions, but it'll suffice for logical purposes. The Christian God is omnipotent. The logical conundrum is "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him/her to lift?"
That doesn't make any sense. You might as well ask "Is that red a dog?" Yes, in some sense it might be considered syntactically correct, but that doesn't mean is has an answer.

Perhaps you'd like another better. The Christian God is totally benevolent. Why then do disease, pain, and death exist?
We create pain and suffering. We were given free will, we sin, and we cause it.

Or, perhaps you'd like a different one even more. Take the holy trinity. 3 = 1? AFAIK (and I have a link from another comment that I never followed up on, nor do I plan to in the immediate future), the logical justification for the trinity is that there isn't one. Or, more specifically, it isn't one that humans are equipped to understand.
No, there is no good explanation. If you wan't to try and understand it, then think of time: past, present, and future. Or think of a man with a son who works as a counselor. He is a son to his father, he is a father to his son, and he is a counselor to many.

God has his/her own rules of logic.
Yes, exactly. Think of a child trying to understand why you do thing or the world around them. Now think of a dog. Now an ant. Well, understanding that God is omniscient, then obviously the difference between our understanding and God's understanding is greater than any of these examples. Or are you too vain to admit that humans might not possess to most sophisticated logic. Our logics cannot get around Godel's Incompleteness.

Of course, you can remove religion from the realm of logic, but then the claim of self-consistency is kind of useless, isn't it?
You kinda have to. Religion deals with a being far greater than us, that we will not understand in this lifetime. Anything involving omniscience cannot be reasoned about because of Godel.

It's not that I have anything against religious beliefs per se; in fact, they serve as wonderful vehicles for teaching morals and providing a social fabric.
But Christianity is not a religion that is primarily about morality. Christianity is about God with us, Emmanual, and what He has done for us. All the morality is symptomatic of God's saving, but not the cause of God's saving.

After all, what is faith but belief that cannot be proven? What are miracles but occurrances that defy logic?
Exactly. I agree with almost everything about removing the Creator from the constraints of logic, but not necessarily the whole of religion.

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#267)
by Irobot on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:02:17 AM EST

Exactly. I agree with almost everything about removing the Creator from the constraints of logic, but not necessarily the whole of religion.
Yes, any believer - when given the ground rules that we have to agree on what qualifies as logic - must choose that path. I noticed you voted some of my other comments up, so you already know how I feel about the arguments I presented (they're bad). But now I'm curious...in the context of this discussion, what does it mean to remove "part of religion" from the constraints of logic?

One last point:

But Christianity is not a religion that is primarily about morality. Christianity is about God with us, Emmanual, and what He has done for us. All the morality is symptomatic of God's saving, but not the cause of God's saving.
Perhaps you misunderstand what I was trying to say. Religions, even for those who do not believe in them, still serve as wonderful vehicles for teaching morality and providing a social cohesion. I am not commenting on what their teachings mean to someone who subscribes to any particular doctrine. The statement removed all traces of necessary belief, in addition to the particulars of that belief. I was just saying that a system - in this case, Christianity - where one is told to act a certain way simply because a higher power decrees it to be so, is a great way to get people to act in just that way. Further, it provides common ground for its adherents, which provides a sense of community.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

removing logic from part of religion (none / 0) (#277)
by jjayson on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 04:25:41 PM EST

But now I'm curious...in the context of this discussion, what does it mean to remove "part of religion" from the constraints of logic?
I meant that you should not try to apply our logic to the Creator. Omniscience implies logical contradictions to us, so why do we try to judge him logically. However the actions of men and their implications are not necessarily free from this, or you could have people running around claiming anything. I think that God tries to make what we need to know, understandable to us, but there will always be holes in our understanding of Him and His actions.

This doesn't explain it much better, I know. My favorite answer to fall back on is to tell the truth: I don't know. In a short time, I have learned that I am a horrible appologists for this reason.

Perhaps you misunderstand what I was trying to say. Religions, even for those who do not believe in them, still serve as wonderful vehicles for teaching morality and providing a social cohesion.
I understand now. I might have a knee-jerk reaction to people's misinterpretation of Christianity. People do know morality without religion though, so it isn't necessary. It may be useful in a paternalistic sense, though.

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]
Proof either way of self-consistency is impossible (3.00 / 2) (#209)
by mberteig on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:35:02 PM EST

Or in other words, the halting problem is undecidable, or in other words, take a look at Godel's Incompleteness theorem.

That's logic.

So.  I can't _prove_ to you that a religion is self-consistent, and I seriously doubt you can prove to me that a religion is not self-consistent.  Unfortunately for you, just showing A=A and A!=A doesn't cut it because you would also have to include a complete enumeration of the axioms of a religion.  And the funky thing about religions tends to be the axiom of the "existence" of a power external to _existance_.  That axiom is the primary reason why religions are considered systems of "faith".  And at least they are open and honest about it.  Science unfortunately is just as much about faith as any religion, but the followers of Science try very hard to hide that.  (Not to say that I think that Science is bad - on the contrary, Science is great and I am a follower... just aware of its limitations.)

Really all I am trying to say is that solipsism, relativism, and many other common belief systems are insufficient for actually working in the real world.  From a historical perspective, and in current reality, the vast majority of human beings find that religion is the practical solution to that process of searching for meaning.  True, not all of those humans have gone through the whole process of independently searching for truth.  In fact, again, probably the majority have not and are "merely" blindly imitating their family and friends.


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[ Parent ]

Now that phrasing I can (almost) agree with (4.00 / 1) (#216)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:00:40 PM EST

Really all I am trying to say is that solipsism, relativism, and many other common belief systems are insufficient for actually working in the real world. From a historical perspective, and in current reality, the vast majority of human beings find that religion is the practical solution to that process of searching for meaning.
This is not what you implied in your original post. Instead, you made unsupportable, absolute claims.
a person may find that religion offers the true solution by incorporating culture, balance, morality and spirituality. All major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity include all these aspects and provide a self-consistent system for life. These systems all contain some basic common truths since they are all Divinely inspired.
If you had softened them in your original post the way you did in your response, I never would've commented. I would still take issue with the statement that "solipsism, relativism, and many other common belief systems are insufficient for actually working in the real world." I think plenty of people successfully apply these belief systems. Other than that, I'm have no issues with what you're saying.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

You're right... sort of. (none / 0) (#218)
by mberteig on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:15:20 PM EST

I did soften my claims - if you think that I was claiming that I could prove my original statements.  But that's not what I was claiming...

I still think those comments are accurate, but I certainly don't claim they are provable.  Namely, the "true solution ... all major religions ... self-consistent system ... Divinely inspired" part.

Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't even think my original comments are "True" with a capital "T".  Just that they are my best understanding at this moment in time and that I do try to think and act in accordance with that (i.e. I belong to a religion).


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]

There was more (none / 0) (#239)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:51:50 PM EST

It was dinner time, and I had to hastily finish my first comment. Claiming an absolute generally invites the request for a proof, since it should be justifiable. Once you softened it, I could no longer demand it.

But, beyond the absolutes cited, there was the progression that bugged me. Not that I didn't appreciate it; on the contrary, it showed some interesting thinking, IMHO. But, it isn't necessary. One could just as easily cut out the argument and simply claim that meaning is inherent in existence. Or, as many people seem to be doing, one could claim that there is no meaning at all. Alternately, one could pick at any one of your points to arrive at a different conclusion. I'll not do so, as it would be tedious for both you and me.

At any rate, your conclusion:

Religion is the appropriate and final goal of an individual's search for meaning since it addresses both personal and community needs, and does so with Authority.
stated with such absolute authority was what really got me. (Once again, the spectre of absolutism.) Saying that "Religion is the appropriate and final goal" implies it is the only true goal. I couldn't let that one go for the reasons stated above.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Learn the meaning of theorems before you use them (4.50 / 2) (#250)
by zakalwe on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:04:14 AM EST

Please, before you use terms like Goedel's incompleteness theorem, or the halting problem, learn what they are.
Or in other words, the halting problem is undecidable.
No it isn't - its perfectly and simply decidable.  There is provably no solution to the halting problem.  Nor does Goedel's theorem remove the possibility for determining whether a system is consistent - it just makes a statement that certain formal systems cannot be both complete and consistent.
Unfortunately for you, just showing A=A and A!=A doesn't cut it because you would also have to include a complete enumeration of the axioms of a religion
No, showing A=A and A!=A would be sufficient to prove it.  Its pretty much the definition of an inconsistent system.  There is no requirement to "enumerate all the axioms"
Science unfortunately is just as much about faith as any religion, but the followers of Science try very hard to hide that.

I disagree.  Science is concerned with believing something because of empirical evidence.  Faith is usually taken to mean believing things without such evidence.  In what way is science as much about faith?

[ Parent ]
BTW (none / 0) (#271)
by Irobot on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:06:24 PM EST

It's generally considered bad form to mod down a comment that you reply to. If your reply is adequate, the modding shouldn't be necessary.

And I apologize for the "crack" crack. As I said in a later response to someone else, sometimes I wish there was an "Undo comment" button. I phrased it badly and was out of line.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

Ah... (none / 0) (#333)
by mberteig on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 01:07:26 AM EST

I'm pretty new at kuro5hin.  Thanks for the tip.

Mishkin.


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]

Viewpoints (quotes) (4.33 / 3) (#177)
by Irobot on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:32:22 PM EST

From the "Use and abuse me" file:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
- George Bernard Shaw
From the "My life is entropy" file:
I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable grayness...in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary...I was within a hair's breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say.
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
From the "Holy baloney" file:
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.
- St. Augustine of Hippo
From the "Hobo glorification" file:
The only alternative to sleeping out, hopping freights, and doing what I wanted, I saw in a vision would be to just sit with a hundred other patients in front of a nice television set in a madhouse, where we could be "supervised."
- Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums
From the "Good day to quit amphetamines" file:
I'm on the edge of it. I sense it. They all think I'm killing myself at this pace, but what they don't understand is that I'm living at a peak of clarity and beauty I never knew existed. Every part of me is attuned to the work....There is no greater joy than the burst of solution to a problem....This is beauty, love and truth all rolled into one. This is joy. And now that I've found it, how can I give it up? Life and work are the most wonderful things a man can have.
- Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
From the "You can call me Dieter" file:
For him, too, starting over, departures, a new life had a certain luster, but he knew that only the impotent and the lazy attach happiness to such things. Happiness implied a choice, and within that choice a concerted will, a lucid desire. He could hear Zagreus: "Not the will to renounce, but the will to happiness." He had his arm around Lucienne, and her warm breast rested in his hand.
- Albert Camus, A Happy Death
Hope you enjoyed them.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn

Dogma (4.00 / 1) (#178)
by Silent Chris on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:39:53 PM EST

I recently saw the movie Dogma, and for me it most closely describes the "meaning" some people look for.  It's not the clerical or biblical reign in religion, for example -- it's the fact that people have faith in anything at all.  Faith in the unknown carries man to achieve.  

(By the way, I question myself whether I believe in God or not.  At this time, I believe there is no God).

Consumerism (2.00 / 5) (#179)
by pgrote on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 06:45:36 PM EST

I live in the US. We're consumers. Plain and simple that is what we are. For those who live in the US and say they aren't consumers you're living in denial. The fact you have a computing device and an internet connection means you are a consumer.

Tyler Durden actually said, "The things you own end up owning you." That is different from what you stated and what he said is *the* truth.

We've been beaten to hell and back that we need a new car, we need a bigger house, we need (insert new item here).

The key to meaning in the context you speak of is finding a balance.



Set your sights higher, my friend (5.00 / 2) (#190)
by azaad on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:03:49 PM EST

When standing before the wide open horizons of human potential, why stake out for yourself a two foot plot of land?

[ Parent ]
Living in denial and loving it (2.00 / 1) (#242)
by speedfreak2K2 on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 01:11:00 AM EST

Oh, and the proper term is customer. Referring to yourself as a comsumer makes you look like you're nothing more than a brainless statistic. To me the word customer says "hey! I have what you want! use any means necessary to get it! I don't mind!" where customer says "hey! you want my money, you better not screw me over, or i'll tell my friends! (negative PR)" And they don't like negative PR. Maybe that's why there's been a spike in advertisements recently. They don't want you to go to a friend who's opinion they have no control over to tell you that their product sucks. They flood you with their rhetoric and tells people what to think of a product. The coolness and fun factors come to mind quickly. Such as coke, pepsi, and Pontiac Vibe commercials. Some commercials even go as far as using children to pass on advertisments to their parents. If this is consumerism, every advertising department that's wants me to see their product everywhere I go, whatever I do, can shove it.
You! Take that crown off your head, I'm kicking your ass!
[ Parent ]
Self Improvement (3.00 / 1) (#195)
by Eight Star on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:14:25 PM EST

Fundamentally, self improvement is what my life is about. Making myself a better person. Programming computers, becoming a minister, and homeschooling my kids (which at this rate is a long way off) are all important to me, but self-improvement is the mode I think in to achieve them. What should I learn? How can I do this beter?

As a purpose in life it has the virtues that you can never really fail, and you are never finished.

Creativity (3.50 / 4) (#202)
by peppo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:20:05 PM EST

I create music and art, that is what currently gives my life meaning. Playing drums in a group environment, mainly improvisation, also helps me survive.
bongo
Yes (2.50 / 2) (#203)
by nanook on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:20:34 PM EST

This is a comment. It is not intended to be understandable. Hang on.

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it is understandable through strenous meditation, more often not. By understandable I mean what really we are able to understand, not what in a more abstract sense is understandable. If you understand it, think of man's understanding as n-dimensional and God's as n + p-dimensional. Obviously, this our topologically limited understanding impair our knowledge of reality, but less so our understanding of it.

Life is a game. That is the only reasonable position. The goal is to be master of all that is tought in life. When you have played once the results are summed up and presented to you by means unknown. You are then given a new body (and soul, for those who think they got one), and proceed then to try to master this new earthly garb, only to once more fail miserably.

When repeated (a number of times; 10^4 is an approximation) your latent (unconscious) knowledge of things becomes so evident that you at one point decide: "I will no longer do my work on my own, for my self; I will rather work for the unity, freedom and development of my fellow humans." If tried at any earlier point than required, you will feel like you are making a sacrifice, and it will not be an emotive-neutral decision.

Who knows the right time? Who knows the right way? Only those who have reached the goal before us and present to us the directions to a place where the will of God is known.

This will can be projected unto our limited world-view, and the projection is science. Also, this will can be projected unto our life-view, and the projection is religion.

The statement "They will never learn" is false. The world always ends well. Think about it.


--
"I am a charlatan, a liar, a thief and a fake altogether." -- James Randi

The best I can do . . . (none / 0) (#221)
by Grahf on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:03:49 PM EST

. . . right now is that the search for meaning is the current meaning of my life. It doesn't make much sense, and it can drive you a little crazy, but those who have been there know what I'm talking about. I just hope that someday I will see it, whatever 'it' is.

I found meaning right here (5.00 / 3) (#222)
by Scurra on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:24:29 PM EST

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=meaning

and my search only took 0.29 seconds!

sydney (none / 0) (#224)
by blisspix on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:30:42 PM EST

mate, you and I both live in Sydney. That's your answer. Sydney is a soulless, confused city without direction. Is it New York? Is it Manilla? Is it the Aussie outback? It can't decide.

Advertising has gone overboard, yes. The advertising in food hall tables you describe is now found at the Grace Bros food court in the city. I hate food courts.

At any rate, I find meaning in exploring my profession, librarianship, and in my fiancee. We've had some tough times lately, which has made us assess what is really important. It sure isn't having a new jumper or a car or any such nonsense. Although we do like to collect records.

Amen. (none / 0) (#245)
by static on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 03:34:37 AM EST

I, too, am a Sydney-sider. While I couldn't quite believe those table-ads when I saw them today, my first thought was "does the next Mel Gibson movie need that much advertising?" :-) And at least we don't have advertising back in trains yet (they used to, decades ago) though those projector screens on major stations are often annoying enough.

But Sydney does feel like there's a spiritual war going on. Like much of western society. I belong to a church with a strong presence of the Spirit and for that I'm thankful - it is a defining characteristic in my life.

Wade.


[ Parent ]

I learn stuff (none / 0) (#225)
by Builder on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:31:26 PM EST

The only thing that really gives me a buzz is learning new stuff. At the moment I'm studying for my Amateur Radio licence and next year I'm planning to start a Bsc. Comp. sci. degree. I've been out of school for nearly 10 years, so this is a challenging step.

Tonight (well, this morning) I'm trying to install Linux on a shitty IPaq 3630 that I picked up for nothing. Yes, this has been done before but not by me :)


--
Be nice to your daemons
Logical conclusion (5.00 / 1) (#226)
by Anonymous 7324 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:43:11 PM EST

(and I know I can't be the only one) is solipsism.

Define 'meaning of life' (4.00 / 4) (#234)
by jig on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 11:18:35 PM EST

Because as Bertie Russell says, what is the meaning of 'the meaning of life'?

The problem with asking 'what is the meaning of life', ironically enough, is that the question itself is meaningless. By that, I mean the word 'meaning' when used in the phrase 'meaning of life' turns into some nebulous thing that you can no longer seem to define.

But let's attempt to define it anyhow.

Does it mean having a point to living? It doesn't seem to be, since there already is a point to living, in that people live because they desire to live, and those that no longer do kill themselves, but most people will still reject such meaning as invalid.

This raises another question of whether people can reject the meaning of life if there was an objective one. For example, if religious people were correct and there was some supreme being who created the universe, and who provided an objective meaning of life within that universe... is it then possible to reject such a meaning when we stumble upon it? If it is, then that would seem to negate the whole enterprise of searching for an objective meaning, since even the almighty himself is not able to set a valid meaning for people, as in the end it is the people themselves that will judge whether a provided meaning is valid.

Perhaps, the 'meaning of life' means 'having a point to living that is not based on desire'. But it doesn't seem to be that either, since there already is a point anterior to the desire to live that nature has forged for us, which is to procreate and ensure our specie survives and thrives, and people reject that also as invalid.

So, I don't know. What is the meaning of 'the meaning of life'?

-----
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

Create your own meaning (5.00 / 3) (#240)
by akuzi on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:24:08 AM EST

There is no intrinsic meaning or purpose to life.. so the idea of searching for it is futile. Asking 'what is the meaning of life?' is like asking 'what is the purpose of a rock?'.. there is none - it just is! (Although evolutionary biologists may argue that the 'purpose' of life is to create more life).

Having said that there is no intrinsic meaning to life to find, that does not mean that you cannot dedicate your life to goals which will satisfy you in a deep way.

The most obvious purpose you can dedicate your life to is having a positive influence on the world. The reason why this will be satisfying is that altruism is built into us through evolution - we feel good about ourselves when we help others. We also like the feeling of importance and power that comes with helping others.

Ways you can have a positive effect on the world include:

  • Help other people in some way, direct or indirect. For example, better the state of the environment we live in, create art to enrich people's experience of life or communicate ideas that stimulate and inspire others.
  • Have children that posiively influence the world.
Examples of things which won't have any influence on the world, and probably will not gain you much sense of meaning...
  • Self improvement for it's own sake. eg. spending periods of time learning about the world and not applying what you have learnt to affect any outcome.
  • Engaging in activities solely for your own enjoyment and happiness that do not influence others. eg taking drugs.
  • Praying to or giving thanks to imaginary friends ('God', 'Allah' etc).
In short stop thinking about making yourself happy (by searching for meaning in our own life) and start thinking about how you can help others.

'Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.' - Nathaniel Hawthorn



strong disagreement (5.00 / 1) (#251)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:23:04 AM EST

The reason why this will be satisfying is that altruism is built into us through evolution - we feel good about ourselves when we help others.
How is that? I don't know about you, but I feel very much like an egoist. I try not to hurt other people or animals, but I'm not actively helping them either. I don't even know how I could help them - I'm just not good at that sort of thing.

Despite all this, I feel pretty good. If you are correct, evolution screwed up when making me, because I feel awkward when trying to help others. Are you sure you are correct? My suggestion is that evolution really has nothing to do with any of this, but our own free will and our ability for self-reflection have.

Have children that posiively influence the world.
Isn't this dangerous advice? If you don't know why you yourself should keep on living, are you in any condition to make babies?
Self improvement for it's own sake. eg. spending periods of time learning about the world and not applying what you have learnt to affect any outcome.
That is exactly the thing that provides me the most satisfaction. And I know I'm not the only one, so I don't think I'm a rare freak either. And I think it was Aristotle who said that purely theoretical contemplation is the most satisfying activity one could pursue.
Engaging in activities solely for your own enjoyment and happiness that do not influence others. eg taking drugs.
Doesn't eating good food belong to this category? So you're saying that eating good food cannot give you a sense of meaning? Many hedonists would certainly disagree.
Praying to or giving thanks to imaginary friends ('God', 'Allah' etc).
I'm an atheist, but I don't see why a religious person would be unable to find meaning in religion. If it doesn't work for you, it may still very well work for someone else.

[ Parent ]
We Have K5 (none / 0) (#265)
by anylulu on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 10:57:18 AM EST

Practical problem 1: we are better able to improve our living conditions working together than alone. Note the development from wandering hunter-gather tribes to the sophisticated societies over the last approx. 5 thousand years. Yes, you can make qualitative judgments about this development, but it would be hard to contravene that as a group we are more effective now in providing for our basic needs (food and shelter).

Practical problem 2: The universe appears to have no purpose.

Practical problem 3: Humanity is gifted and burdened with consciousness and conscience. We can envision a universe with purpose and meaning. We can even strive to seek and create purpose and meaning in our lives, albeit always limited to our very small, very brief existence.

We are everything for each other and without each other. We are nothing for each other and without each other.

We have K5.
-- peace, love and anylulu http://www.anylulu.com
[ Parent ]

problems? (none / 0) (#269)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:59:59 AM EST

we are better able to improve our living conditions working together than alone
Exactly. But this has little to do with evolution (unlike the original poster said), and a lot to do with the fact that working together is simply the rational thing to do. When I say I find myself unable to help others, I don't mean that there is absolutely no way I can be of any use to anybody. It's just that I'm better with theoretical matters. But the fact that I am unable to build houses for the poor, for example, does not mean that I can't find meaning in my life (unlike the original poster seemed assume).

But if I can in some way help others, of course I feel good about that as well. But it's not the only thing that makes me feel good.

The universe appears to have no purpose.
To me, this is not a problem at all. It only gives us more freedom to choose.
Humanity is gifted and burdened with consciousness and conscience. We can envision a universe with purpose and meaning. We can even strive to seek and create purpose and meaning in our lives, albeit always limited to our very small, very brief existence.
I don't see how this is a problem either. It seems more like a solution to me.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps issues... (none / 0) (#295)
by anylulu on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:50:02 AM EST

...would be a better word than problems. It was my attempt to distill the essential kernels of thought that the original poster tried, but failed, to link.
-- peace, love and anylulu http://www.anylulu.com
[ Parent ]
Information consumption (4.00 / 1) (#270)
by akuzi on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 12:05:43 PM EST

Self improvement for it's own sake. eg. spending periods of time learning about the world and not applying what you have learnt to affect any outcome.
That is exactly the thing that provides me the most satisfaction. And I know I'm not the only one, so I don't think I'm a rare freak either. And I think it was Aristotle who said that purely theoretical contemplation is the most satisfying activity one could pursue.
Most people seem to love learning (including myself), but isn't this just another form of consumption if you make nothing from the knowledge you have gained? We are all information consumers and there is a huge industry of information sources to feed this addiction (newspapers, magazines, internet sites) etc. but I don't think by itself consuming this information will give you a lasting sense of fulfillment in your life, unless you use it to teacher others or produce something that has a positive effect on the world.



[ Parent ]
consumption (5.00 / 1) (#274)
by dalinian on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:10:15 PM EST

isn't this just another form of consumption if you make nothing from the knowledge you have gained?
There are two main differences:

First of all, consuming information isn't really consuming, because when I receive information, nobody loses anything. It's just harmless duplication of resources.

Second, we have to treat something as an end, and not just a means to get something else. Taking and giving is just an empty cycle if there are no ends. Kant said that we should always treat a human being as an end, and never just as a means. And we are human beings ourselves, so we can't treat ourselves as mere altruist machines.

I believe theoretical contemplation is a noble activity in itself. The cycle has to end somewhere.

[ Parent ]

Mutual Aid, Peter Kropotkin [n/t] (none / 0) (#343)
by 5pectre on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:01:30 PM EST

In the animal kingdom, mutual aid is used to ensure the survival of the species. It makes sense to help each other.

Admittedly, we are able to overcome this to some extent because we are egoists, but i think that it still exists on a lower level. After all, don't you feel good when you help someone? I know I do.

Also, how do you explain the huge volunteer sector? Would they be doing it if they didn't get something out of it?

"Let us kill the English, their concept of individual rights might undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!!" - Lisa Simpson [ -1.50 / -7.74]

[ Parent ]

yeah (none / 0) (#344)
by dalinian on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 06:09:40 AM EST

After all, don't you feel good when you help someone? I know I do.
Yeah, I do too. But unlike the original poster assumed, it's not the only thing that makes me feel good.

[ Parent ]
Well what the fuck is up with people? (4.25 / 4) (#252)
by elshafti on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:23:38 AM EST

I was going to read all the comments but i just can't stand the bullshit being written, I mean there have been hundreds of good philosophers out there detailing every milimeter of our known existence, and all i see is a quote from a fucking blockbuster, i like fight club for what it is, but philosophical,come on people, lets just read a little bit.

I think the comment about the office workers who seem unhappy is so cliched I nearly fell off my chair, ok so they don't look happy, but the most basic human instinct is survival, now this would imply that we need shelter to not perish from the cold, food to feed ourselves and water to drink, and some attire to protect our fragile bodies, now that is all, but do you think that those gloom workers who be happier with a piece of land eating whatever they planted, no I don't think so, they are content to work in an office, (like I do), doing pointless work, with no apparent purpose, just to be several layers above the basic survival line, why, well otherwise you are condemming yourself to a life of poverty, society like it or not, has rules, in the EU most health services are free but you have to "exist", thus contribute to society, yes you can live isolated but the body deteriortes, untreated illnesses can hamper your health, and so on.

So what is the solution, well there are alternatives, if you like to help people, become a volunteer, or better still take the facilities you have in your devweloped country to study for something that is invaluable to a poor country, whether it be a doctor, nurse or even carpenter.

If you don't want to leave your country you can just have children and give them the happiness and purpose that you life may have lacked, but I don't also agreed that we are in life to do positive things, we set the limits ourselfs, so if your a peadophile you just have to move to where that is according to that societies rules not a crime, I know that I am going to get abused for this but the reality is that in Japan consenting age for sex is 14, now in europe you would get jailed for that. So who's guilty?, Japan for allowing it or me for pointing it out, Japan also has a problem with enjo-kosai where high school girls have sex with older men in exchange for expensive gifts, what i'm trying to say is that what makes one person happy doesn't necessarily have to approved morally or legally by us.

Who i'm i to say what other people can do or not.

Religion is also a load of bollocks but a lot of people find real comfort believing in religion so if that's what rocks your boat that is fine, "The God works in mysterious ways", or "God doesn't work in any way at all" phrase is just pathetic, i'm agnostic by the way, so i neither reject or claim it to be true,but i grew up catholic and people kept telling me that there was a higher being at the other side of the door, and in time of need i knocked on that door, repeatedly, with no answer, "god works in mysterious ways" I heard, "the answer must come from within", and there it was, so if the answer is within why the fuck do I need "god", well god helped you find the answer i was told, so why did I keep making mistakes, does he not know the answer?, god wants you to try all possibility I heard, well I tried them all and have found that i don't need him to make mistakes, and I don't need him to try all possibilities, and I don't need him to be absent when I'm in need, and the thing that hurts the most is that I am a good person who harms no one, unlike many so called religious people who kill other human being and proclaming their actions on religion.

P.S. If you have a problem with the length of this comment, you have two alternatives: 1. Don't read it or 2. Go fuck yourself (you might find some pleasure there).


I think I am learning to give up on the tragedy of not attaining perfection. -Persimmon

huh? (5.00 / 1) (#279)
by nanobug on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:51:11 PM EST

Okay, can you read that and then re-type it in english please?

[ Parent ]
Option Number #2 (1.00 / 2) (#292)
by elshafti on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 06:38:43 AM EST

go fuck yourself
I think I am learning to give up on the tragedy of not attaining perfection. -Persimmon
[ Parent ]
Who do you recommend? (none / 0) (#321)
by Alan Crowe on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:37:23 PM EST

I was going to read all the comments but i just can't stand the bullshit being written, I mean there have been hundreds of good philosophers out there detailing every milimeter of our known existence, and all i see is a quote from a fucking blockbuster,

It is quite a problem, having hundreds of philosophers to choose from, like truth is a tree hidden in a forest.



[ Parent ]
Bad things ! No biscuit ! (4.33 / 3) (#257)
by bugmaster on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 07:16:51 AM EST

Ok, so I realize this article is a pretentious troll, but I am tired of debugging and bored, so here goes:

Why is it always taken for granted that owning things is a sin (or, at least, a moral flaw) ? Is it just the latest fad, like disco pants ? I honestly don't get it.

I have a roof over my head (I rent it, not own it, but still). It keeps the rain from falling on top of me. It sure as hell beats dying of exposure. I own some furniture. It keeps my ass from going numb from sitting on the floor. I own a few posters, and even a painting -- it wasn't created by any kind of a famous artist, but sometimes I feel better when I look at it. I own a computer, and I wish I could afford a faster computer, or maybe a T1. And of course, I own some techno-toys, like a PDA, and LED flashlight, etc. They are quite amusing, and, surprisingly enough, they actually come in handy once in a while (particularly the flashlight). I am a pretty bad cook, so occasionally I eat out -- sometimes even at McDonalds, if I'm in a hurry.

Does owning all these things (in addition to clothing, electricity bills, medicine, etc.) make me a soulless, shallow abomination ? Would I really be all that much better off if I were to live as a hermit, in the wilderness under a tree somewhere, dying of exposure and hunger by the age of 40 ? I honestly can't see any justification for this.

Of course, it may be argued that only caring about things is a moral flaw. This may in fact be true (even if this claim is nothing new). But somehow, this statement has mutated into the more familiar "owning anything is bad" form, and I just can't support that.
>|<*:=

Don't have to become a hermit... (3.00 / 1) (#264)
by Cougaris on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 10:20:33 AM EST

Perhaps its not so much that having things is bad, but rather the effect they have over you that is the problem. You admit to having nifty little gizmos like PDA's and the such. If I were to come along and smash them (lets just say I'm your 5 year old cousin), you would not be too happy. I sincerely doubt you would turn around an go "Hey, what the heck, it doesn't matter. Its only an expensive PDA". It is more likely that you would get annoyed that your possesion had been destroyed. I don't think that having these things at your disposal makes you a soulless shallow abomination. But getting upset when something happens to one of your attachments is not too good for your soul/psyche/whatever-you-believe ...

[ Parent ]
Attachment (none / 0) (#323)
by bugmaster on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:00:34 PM EST

If I were to come along and smash them (lets just say I'm your 5 year old cousin), you would not be too happy. I sincerely doubt you would turn around an go "Hey, what the heck, it doesn't matter. Its only an expensive PDA".
I don't think this is necessarily bad, either. I worked long and hard to earn money for that PDA (LED flashlight, computer, book, etc.). I spent more time configuring it. I put effort into it, and a part of myself. In relation to the PDA, actually, this is even more true, since the PDA holds a lot of my personal data.

If the PDA is destroyed, and I shrug and say, "oh well", this means that I do not value all that time and effort I spent. I do not value my own efforts... I do not value myself. Is this really the holy grail of enlightenment -- to hold myself worthless ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]

Yes (4.66 / 3) (#268)
by Irobot on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:47:28 AM EST

There are those who'd have you believe that owning anything makes you shallow. If they are sincere, these are the types (generally) who are shallow themselves, in that they're applying the tenets of poverty and self-denial (that's not the word I'm looking for, but it'll do) in a superficial way. (Readers of this site making that type of assertion most likely fall into this category, for if they truly practiced what they preach, they most likely wouldn't have the means to post comments on K5.)

There are those who'd have you believe that being "attached" to anything you own makes you shallow. This is a bit harder to find a problem with, since it enters a continuum of attachment. On the one extreme, if you're not attached in any way to anything, you very likely fall into the aforementioned category of not owning anything. Except that that seems like a valid expression of that belief, at least to me. On the other extreme, being so attached to your property that any loss of property really screws your world up, I'd think you can be considered mentally imbalanced.

Where does that leave us? Monkeys in the middle. And you know what? It seems to me that when people are criticizing ownership of physical things, it's not the ownership they're actually criticizing. It's the lust for more. It's the sense that getting that shiny new bike/car/PS2 will somehow make their life complete.

No, no. You're absolutely correct. Owning things is not shallow nor is it a sin. Such claims are a shallow application of a (perhaps) worthy point.

In a somewhat related note, I feel the same way about pride. It really irritates me every time I hear "Pride is a sin." Taking pride in something - say, your work - isn't a sin. To be proud of your accomplishments is a good thing. There is a point where it interferes with judgement, which can be bad. But a sin? That statement is simply a means of cutting another's accomplishments down. IMHO.

Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

The lust for more... (4.00 / 1) (#280)
by Cougaris on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 08:44:30 PM EST

Indeed. When some people say that being attached to anything is sinful, I always remember a small pendant I used to hang around me neck for years. It always reminded me of some good times I had, so in a technical sense, I was attached to it. It served as a conduit to those memories - if it was lost, the memories remained, but I would prefer to have the pendant hanging around my neck. Somehow I doubt I would be judged as a sinful person for this.

You are probably right in saying that it is the lust for more that causes suffering. Perhaps we see these attachments as stepping stones to greater attachments, so that when an attachment is ripped from us, we feel distanced from those greater attachments. This is getting way to Zen/Buddhist-line-o-thought for my liking!

Oh, and getting a PS2 would make my life that bit more complete :)

---

[ Parent ]

Piet Hein (5.00 / 1) (#273)
by borderline on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 01:32:09 PM EST

THE TYRANNY OF THINGS

I am trying to rule
        over ten thousand things
which I thought
        belonged to me.
All of a sudden
        a doubt take wings:
Do they...
        or could it be..?

A hardhanded hunch
        in my mind's ear rings
from whence
        such suspicions may stem:
that if you posses
        more than just eight things
then y o u
        are possessed by t h e m


[ Parent ]

good luck (1.50 / 2) (#275)
by dogcow on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:44:59 PM EST

people spend an entire lifetime living in fear, running away from their problems, trying to fill their life with things like tv, religion, drugs, beer, and vanilla coke. the only way to find meaning in life is to confront and destroy these problems . I read that you've become a Christian. That is the first step to finding meaning. "Anyone who is born of Christ overcomes the world" since he overcame death when he died and was raised to life. Good luck with your new life.

...right (4.00 / 1) (#283)
by Mickey Kantor on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:17:08 PM EST

I also suppose that I, along with 80% of this world, will be going to hell because I have not accepted Jesus Christ. This is my one big beef with Christianity. Just because I don't want to believe your savior was ressurected does _not_ mean that I am going to spend eternity in torture and pain. Sorry. I just don't buy it.

As soon as your religion comes out of it's "one true way" mentality will I accept it as a valid and respectable religion. Until then, I view it purely as a fanatical cling to a purpose that doesn't exist. Unless, of course, you reject that one specific teaching that someone goes to hell if they are not Christian. Then I have respect for your interpretation of Christianity. But to have the audacity to tell me that even though you are a distinct minority in this world that I will never meet God if I don't blindly and totally accept what you believe in comes off, in my opinion, as egotistical and ridiculously self-righteous.

Sorry. I know. It's off-topic. Mod this as 0. I just had to get it out.

[ Parent ]
proof? (none / 0) (#284)
by jjayson on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:08:06 AM EST

I don't blindly and totally accept what you believe
As opposed to what? You wan't logical proof of His existence?

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#287)
by Mickey Kantor on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 03:02:54 AM EST

As opposed to what? You wan't logical proof of His existence?

Yes. Either that or Christianity to stop ejaculating that they know it all and have it all worked out and know exactly who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. Either talk straight and tell me you don't know what God is about and even if there is a God, or, if you claim that you know God, then prove it. Don't tell me to "save" myself by accepting Jesus Christ and then I'll see the way. Bullshit. I want cold, hard proof without converting. If you can't provide it without citing "faith" then your faith is equivalent to a blind trust in a book written over the course of, what, 100 years 2000 years ago? (7 BC to 96 AD, right? I go to a Catholic high school) Sorry. I'm not buying it. I'd just as quickly accept the Torah or the Koran. Why the Bible? I see no compelling reason.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry then.... (none / 0) (#288)
by jjayson on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 04:09:19 AM EST

You are never going to get logical proof, sorry. God's actions transcend out humble logics by way of Him being omniscient. Omniscience is impossible in out systems of thinking (Godel's Incompleteness and Turing's Halting Problem both prove this), so by definition anything that is omniscient cannot be reasoned about. The best we can come many time to explaining why God doesn't perform miracles daily for us to see is: I don't know. Maybe He does and we just don't want to see them. We try and give imperfect rationalizations and are satiated with filling our own egos by then proclaiming that we understand everything.

I'd just as quickly accept the Torah or the Koran. Why the Bible? I see no compelling reason.
Well, the Torah is part of the Bible. The way you know is to read, study, and learn. Jesus was the fulfillment of over 70 Old Testament prophesies and falls perfectly inline with Judaic theology. The system of belief is internally consistent. I cannot convince you of these, you just have to learn about them yourself, and hopefully you will open your mind a little and do so one day. All I can do is pray for you, others on K5, and others in the world like you.

God bless.

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#298)
by Mickey Kantor on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 01:57:03 PM EST

You still neglected to address the increasing problem of, you know, me going to hell because I don't believe what you believe. What do you have to say to that?

[ Parent ]
I'm not trying to address that. (none / 0) (#299)
by jjayson on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:38:27 PM EST

How can I talk to you about matters of theology when we have no common ground to discuss them from?

We are only talking about you. You have heard God's message and rejected it. You now have a burden upon you. It is easier for those who have never heard the message, for they will not be judged by it. Jesus says that if we turn our back on him now, then he will turn his back on us before the Father, but if know him now then he will know us in from of the Father. Like many things in life, salvation is somewhat mysterious to us.

You don't become a Christian to avoid Hell, eternal separation from God. You become a Christian for love of what God has done for us.

-j
"It's text. It's mostly anonymous. It pretends to be diverse. It steals little boys' innocence. It's the Internet. I'm a 12 year old Asian girl from
[ Parent ]

The nerve. (5.00 / 2) (#325)
by Mickey Kantor on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:26:42 PM EST

You have heard God's message and rejected it.

Who are you to tell me I've rejected God's message? God manifests himself in many, many different religions (Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so many more), yet you continue to insist that your religion is the right one. Address this one question: How am I supposed to blindly accept that your interpretation of God is the one that will save me from eternal damnation, when there are hundreds of other religions in this world telling me the EXACT same thing? What makes your religion right? And, more importantly, what proof do you have to support the claim?

Your quickness to reject all other beliefs and ideas about God in itself shows me that your religion can't possibly be what it claims. Consider this: From what you have told me, if I were today to accept Hinduism, your God would not accept me in heaven. According to you, he would, in fact, "turn his back on me." Pardon me for pointing this out, but this means your God is intolerant of other religions, of other beliefs, and of other ideas. How can an intolerant God be perfect?

[ Parent ]
relax. (4.50 / 2) (#316)
by Shren on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:44:44 AM EST

Despite the obesessions of the local Christians, weather or not you believe in God is probably not something God cares about.

[ Parent ]
Tip.. (2.25 / 4) (#276)
by robinei on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:51:41 PM EST

One single LSD trip will probably give you more meaning than your entire journey.

Funny? (none / 0) (#286)
by Francis on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 02:51:30 AM EST

I hadn't jumped to the conclusion, based on what I had read in the article, that the author had not ever experimented with drugs...  Strange that you were led to that conclusion?  What was it led you there, if I may ask?

[ Parent ]
It was... (none / 0) (#297)
by robinei on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 01:52:01 PM EST

Assumption =) The great mother of error and misunderstanding... It was not really meant as a joke. I've merely observed that intellectual quests for meaning often lead the individual circles, without ever really answering anything.

[ Parent ]
No, I haven't (none / 0) (#310)
by grumpy on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:47:02 PM EST

As I said, for me the search for meaning is the search itself. The journey, not the destination.

And no, I haven't experimented with drugs because the only asset I have is my brain, and I've met too many people who have had theirs deep fried from LSD,  grass, or whatever. And, it scares me what I might become.

Mmmm ... I'll have a take away large decaff soy mocha
[ Parent ]

stay away (none / 0) (#342)
by 5pectre on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 10:47:58 PM EST

if you are scared, stay well away from drugs. being scared or uneasy is the number 1 cause of bad trips.

"Let us kill the English, their concept of individual rights might undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!!" - Lisa Simpson [ -1.50 / -7.74]

[ Parent ]
There we have it... (none / 0) (#319)
by Francis on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:49:03 AM EST

Your intuition served you well...

[ Parent ]
Meaning? (4.33 / 3) (#282)
by tzanger on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:05:25 PM EST

To me, the meaning of a (human) life is to leave the world in a better place than you found it.

I find that especially true now that I have three children. Trying to teach them everything you think they need to know about the world and how to interact in it is an enormous task, and one that I really think I suck at, at times. In the end I think it comes down to a few basic things: love and respect for self, love and respect for others and love and respect for the world they're in. Sounds trite and snooty and cliche but I think that's pretty much what it all comes down to.

I know that I live for my three kids. If anything were to happen to them I'm not sure what I'd do because it would be a major crisis in my own life.



Please do as your doctor told you... (1.50 / 2) (#308)
by basj on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:00:22 PM EST

... and keep taking your medication. Trust us; it helps. It'll pass. You'll get over it.
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
Running (none / 0) (#327)
by jgbustos on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:28:32 AM EST

I am 26 years old. An EE graduate, working as a technical manager for my company, living alone, and financially well off.

The only thing that fills the void inside is pain and suffering. Believe it or not, training for a marathon for 3 or 4 months, and finally running it in less than 4 hours provides with sufficient pain to keep bad thoughts at bay.

Were it not for this injuring activity, I'd sit on my couch, watching TV and spending countless hours wondering wether my life would be more interesting if I packed and left.

Cycling (none / 0) (#338)
by roadcyclist on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 07:05:55 AM EST

I pursue a very similar hobby. Do a 100 mile on the weekend and 30 miles three times during the week, you will not loose your sleep over anything but to give yourself enough rest. Good luck.

[ Parent ]
The Search for Meaning | 344 comments (331 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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