Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
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27-10-2015, 04:57 PM (This post was last modified: 27-10-2015 06:27 PM by claywise.)
Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
Up front, I must say I've always looked askance at the "personal issues" region of this forum. Seems, I dunno, whiny.

Not sure, then, if this is the right place for this one. Could go in Philosophy?

I embraced my atheism fully about two years ago, or rather, became willing to say aloud that I did not believe in god/gods/the supernatural. But I had been, at best, a weak sort of theist for a long, long time.

As it turns out, I've had what I can honestly say are the best two years of my life since then. To some extent, it really is because in "coming out," I walked away from the vestigial fear of god, hell and so on that remained from a modest Catholic upbringing.

To be perfectly clear: I accept that there is no meaning of life, and embrace the idea that there is (or can be) meaning in life. And yet....

As I say, a great two years. I've done and accomplished the most amazing things — I auditioned for and got a part in a production of (don't laugh!) 'Jesus Christ Superstar'; I thru-hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail; I published two new books; my wife and I made the decision to sell our house, become absolutely debt free and move to a place where I can ... surf! Most of all, I've been part of a remarkable effort for the last five years to recover the remains of around 500 Marines lost in the 1943 battle of Tarawa, including my grandfather, a Medal of Honor recipient — and in May, we found him, along with three dozen other sets of well-preserved remains. I arranged for an amazing three-days of memorial events in his hometown, and this is the perfect ending for a book I've been working on for five years.

Life is great. And yet....

I still find myself sometimes feeling rather empty, or perhaps rudderless. Having accomplished all these things for which I've worked so hard, I look up and realize that I am extremely dependent on being (as a wise old teacher once said), a "human doing" rather than a "human being."

Another layer — at least tangentially — is the persistent, quiet whispers echoing in the back halls of my brain that still want to know, What's it all about?

I never did find much "meaning" in the idea of god or the afterlife or any of that (indeed, the idea of eternal life is utterly terrifying; why haven't more horror writers worked with that?) And I am simply unable to believe in the idea of a "soul" or some part of me continuing after death.

And yet.....

My human instincts still poke me with the same goddamn questions that (literally) used to keep me up at night as a kid: If the universe isn't infinite, what else is there? If it is infinite, holy shit, how can that possibly be?

Yes, yes, I know — we make our own meaning. And I do — for example, I have been a hospice volunteer for many years — but that's still doing something. And when I'm not doing, it does seem a bit, well, empty.

I've done some decent reading on this, including Dan Barker. Still not satisfied.

Is it really just a series of doings until we croak? Should I just pursue pleasures and goals at all times and assume that's my "meaning"?

I'll be most curious to hear what anyone else has to say. Mostly, what I've heard over the years here and at AXP, and in atheist tomes, winds up feeling rather glib.

Thanks for listening.

P.S. I once had a problem with opiates and booze. I'm a moderate drinker now, but I must confess that when these enormous questions and perceptions of, for lack of a better word, meaningless arise, I find myself wanting to be high to escape. No, I don't need a "higher power." But interesting to me that when nothing is going on, I want to be somewhere else, figuratively speaking.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 05:19 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
Hug
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27-10-2015, 05:23 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 05:19 PM)Peebothuhul Wrote:  Hug

Why thankee, Peebo.

But I don't mean to suggest I'm depressed or truly "empty" and weeping and gnashing teeth and so on.

More along lines of, So this is it? And: Holy shit, my tiny brain is blown when I think too hard about infinity ... or not infinity.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 05:26 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 04:57 PM)claywise Wrote:  Up front, I must say I've always looked askance at the "personal issues" region of this forum. Seems, I dunno, whiny.

Not sure, then, if this is the right place for this one. Could go in Philosophy?

I embraced my atheism fully about two years ago, or rather, became willing to say aloud that I did not believe in god/gods/the supernatural. But I had been, at best, a weak sort of theist for a long, long time.

As it turns out, I've had what I can honestly say are the best two years of my life since then. To some extent, it really is because in "coming out," I walked away from the vestigial fear of god, hell and so on that remained from a modest Catholic upbringing.

To be perfectly clear: I accept that there is no meaning of life, and embrace the idea that there is (or can be) meaning in life. And yet....

As I say, a great two years. I've done and accomplished the most amazing things — I auditioned for and got a part in a production of (don't laugh!) 'Jesus Christ Superstar'; I thru-hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail; I published two new books; my wife and I made the decision to sell our house, become absolutely debt free and move to a place where I can ... surf! Most of all, I've been part of a remarkable effort for the last five years to recover the remains of around 500 Marines lost in the 1943 battle of Tarawa, including my grandfather, a Medal of Honor recipient — and in May, we found him, along with three dozen other sets of well-preserved remains. I arranged for an amazing three-days of memorial events in his hometown, and this is the perfect ending for a book I've been working on for five years.

Life is great. And yet....

I still find myself sometimes feeling rather empty, or perhaps rudderless. Having accomplished all these things for which I've worked so hard, I look up and realize that I am extremely dependent on being (as a wise old teacher once said), a "human doing" rather than a "human being."

Another layer — at least tangentially — is the persistent, quiet whispers echoing in the back halls of my brain that still want to know, What's it all about?

I never did find much "meaning" in the idea of god or the afterlife or any of that (indeed, the idea of eternal life is utterly terrifying; why haven't more horror writers worked with that?) And I am simply unable to believe in the idea of a "soul" or some part of me continuing after death.

And yet.....

My human instincts still poke me with the same goddamn questions that (literally) used to keep me up at night as a kid: If the universe isn't infinite, what else is there? If it is infinite, holy shit, how can that possibly be?

Yes, yes, I know — we make our own meaning. And I do — for example, I have been a hospice volunteer for many years — but that's still doing something. And when I'm not doing, it does seem a bit, well, empty.

I've done some decent reading on this, including Dan Barker. Still not satisfied.

Is it really just a series of doings until we croak? Should I just pursue pleasures and goals at all times and assume that's my "meaning"?

I'll be most curious to hear what anyone else has to say. Mostly, what I've heard over the years here and at AXP, and in atheist tomes, winds up feeling rather glib.

Thanks for listening.

P.S. I once had a problem with opiates and booze. I'm a moderate drinker now, but I must confess that when these enormous questions and perceptions of, for lack of a better word, meaningless arise, I find myself wanting to be high to escape. No, I don't need a "higher power." But interesting to me that when nothing is going on, I want to be somewhere else, figuratively speaking.

I have to strongly disagree with your wise old teacher on the "human doing" vs a "human being" bit. People doing things is what life's all about. Moving through life doing things is much more profound than sitting around philosophising about it and attaching all kinds of meanings to every event. Who cares. Personally I never visit the philosophy section. I find it dumb and boring and a waste of time and life.

So there ya go. Girl_nails

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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27-10-2015, 05:30 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 05:26 PM)dancefortwo Wrote:  Who cares.

Thanks, D42 (your official droid name?).

So for you, proceeding through your daily "doings" is plenty? And you don't ever stop in a non-doing moment (well, we're always doing, but you get the idea) and think, This is it?

Serious questions.

And again, I truly have to be one of the luckier people on earth to have gotten to do the things I've done in my life, and especially the past two years. Just amazing.

And yet....

Feel free to smack me.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 05:40 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
Once I started asking why there even needs to be a meaning to it all, it felt very liberating. Not having that answer is acceptable to me, and likely the best answer I'll ever get.
There is no special meaning to why I exist, I could easily not exist too.
You've accomplished a lot, the meaning to your life is what you make of it, enjoy it and don't sweat what you can't control.
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27-10-2015, 05:48 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
I love the words, "I don't know."

My dad was a man who felt he had to have answers, and I started my fathering career the same way. Once I saw how foolish it was, I, too felt liberated ... and my son is the better for it.

I have this notion that if I could truly be liberated from the fear of death (and I think I'm a long way further down the road than most people I know) — fully lose it — I think the idea of "meaning" would dissipate like smoke in the wind.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 06:04 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 05:48 PM)claywise Wrote:  I love the words, "I don't know."

My dad was a man who felt he had to have answers, and I started my fathering career the same way. Once I saw how foolish it was, I, too felt liberated ... and my son is the better for it.

I have this notion that if I could truly be liberated from the fear of death (and I think I'm a long way further down the road than most people I know) — fully lose it — I think the idea of "meaning" would dissipate like smoke in the wind.

You're going to die, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Worrying about this fact is a barrier.
Take off the ball and chain, and dance. Thumbsup
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27-10-2015, 06:04 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 05:30 PM)claywise Wrote:  
(27-10-2015 05:26 PM)dancefortwo Wrote:  Who cares.

Thanks, D42 (your official droid name?).

So for you, proceeding through your daily "doings" is plenty? And you don't ever stop in a non-doing moment (well, we're always doing, but you get the idea) and think, This is it?

Serious questions.

And again, I truly have to be one of the luckier people on earth to have gotten to do the things I've done in my life, and especially the past two years. Just amazing.

And yet....

Feel free to smack me.

I actually do go through life this way. I kinda live in the moment.

I'm a little odd though. I wasn't aware of a god concept until I was around 9 or 10. It was a combination of living in a cabin in the woods, far from the madding crowd, away from modern conveniences and having atheist parents. "God" was not a word that exited for the first decade of my life and an afterlife wasn't a thing either.

Yeah, I'm weird.

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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27-10-2015, 06:10 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word
(27-10-2015 06:04 PM)dancefortwo Wrote:  I actually do go through life this way. I kinda live in the moment.

It's by far the most sane way to live, I agree. Not easy to pull off, but completely rational, IMO.


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God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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