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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Peripatetic Philosopher ponders:


Tutorial of Ideas

MEANING – MUSIC WITHOUT LYRICS

JAMES R. FISHER, JR., Ph.D.
© February 12, 2019

A READER WRITES

Finished John Gray’s book Seven Types of Atheism.  He basically stated that the world is like it is; it has always been like that, and it will never be any different.  


The people he writes about are all looking for meaning, and each of these people has created some sort explanation of what all of this is about.  


For many years I have been on the same search in looking for meaning in religion, philosophy, literature and art.  Before I even started reading this book, I finally came to the conclusion if there is meaning it won’t be determined by humans.  


We should accept that and live just as plants and animals live.  Since the earth began there have been extinctions, climate changes.  There is always going to be a beginning and an end as far as we know.  Plants and other animals apparently accept the situation as they live and die.  We should do the same.  We came about apparently by accident when the asteroid killed the dinosaurs.  


Because we can experience life with greater complexity, we think we are special.  So we create all these myths which are basically no different from fairy tales that portray us better and greater than the plants and animals that share the planet with us.  


However, we are just like them.  Just as animals and plants because of their makeup may see differently and hear differently, we also see and hear differently.  


So all this searching through religion, philosophy, literature and art is nothing more than forms of entertainment and a way to pass the time and nothing else.


RESPONSE


If you want to think of yourself like a plant, that is your prerogative but a plant can't control its destiny and man can because he has a conscious mind and can make moral choices.  


The whole world we have created has risen out of our imagination.  


It is real as long as we believe it is real, and ceases to be real when we no longer choose to think of it as real.  


Religion rose out of our imagination because we felt alone, terrorized for what was happening that we didn't understand.  


The shaman rose out of that imagination, then through many eons so did religion, an anchor in the storm of the unknown and the unknowable.  


It is no accident that science rose out of dedicated religiously trained shaman-like priests who weren't content to stop their imagination at the door of the absolute, which religion had become.


Read about these early scientists, then about people such as Newton and Einstein and you see a pattern, the pattern of the imagination dealing with the reality encountered, and wondering consistent with that imagination.  


Mathematics is one of the inventions out of this imagination as a more precise language than that of religion for dealing with the unknown, but from a similar foundation.  


One of the dangers of seeing ourselves other than a plant is now possessing those dedicated to science, as earlier those so dedicated were to theology.  For example, the venerated curriculum of Oxford at Cambridge was for 600 years primarily theology.  


Scientists like theologians before them have come to take themselves and their work at times so seriously as to brook no challenge (take global warming).  They have come to see themselves as gods with no need for a God Almighty.  


Indeed, they have come to confuse the reality of the imagination with the imagination of reality.


See yourself as a plant or as an agnostic or atheist.  It doesn't matter.  Whatever floats your boat is okay.  


Author John Gray whom you reference here had great hopes for Marx, then Lenin, then Stalin, and for the imaginative wonders of communism, which, alas, failed to materialize.  


Gray writes book after book, similar to the book you've just read, struggling with his dilemma of life's meaning and the meaning of life he had expected.  


"Meaning" is something a plant doesn't have to bother about, but which man seems to obsessively and sometimes compulsively be concerned with to the point of his utter distraction.


Meaning to some is being rich and powerful and beyond sanction, in other words free and happy and above reproach in that freedom and happiness.  


But having a mind not possessed by a plant -- to my best knowledge -- it seldom if ever works out the way we expect.


Meaning, like freedom and happiness are a product of the reality of our imagination and therefore have little to do with wealth or power or control of our circumstances, but everything to do with the imagination of our reality and the mindset that enjoins.  


For many, believing in God is sanctuary for the human soul irrespective of concrete reality alluded to here.  


Does the imagination make it real?  Yes, because believers choose to see it so.  


That said, people will continue to strive for meaning, for happiness, for wealth and for power, and for control and dominance over others, believing that to be in possession of such attributions they will be envied, adored, emulated and beyond reproach.  


This will convince them that they are a cut above everyone else and have reached the ultimate, the end of the Yellow Brick Road.  


Capitalism is based on that premise to their narcissistic delight.  


But such self-indulgence never has enough of anything including recognition, identity and celebrity.   It may be why some nearly two billion souls are on social media devotees chasing that same phantom.  


We are more other-directed rather than inner-directed and self-directed because we are so programmed by corporate capitalistic society.


Christianity, which has failed, attempted to rein in this madness but without success.  Paradoxically, Christianity has been caught up in the deceptions of its own imagination of reality, trying to be what it cannot be, while failing to understand that its basic premise had meaning, not because Jesus was God, but because Jesus was parent to our souls.


Keep thinking, stay strong!