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Monday, February 18, 2013

Does life matter?

The big question for me nowadays is: Does it matter what happens in life?

Almost all of us think that it matters a lot, that this is an absurd question.  I must say that I feel more comfortable when I try on the idea that it really doesn't matter.

How significant is life, really?  If you have read my blog regularly, and not just read the posts with interesting titles, you will know that I have been wondering whether we really have a choice in what we do - whether there really is such a thing as free will.  If we have no choice, then whether what happens is important, whether it "matters" or not, is a question without any meaning.  And I seem to feel more comfortable with the present moment when I am not considering how important life is.

To recap a moment, it is difficult or even impossible to show you have free will.   Many clever philosophers have tried in vain, apparently.  There is no way you can show you might have done something differently from the way you actually did it.  You can assert your freedom of choice, but that is not enough of course.  And if you are one of those people who think the brain runs the whole show, then of course there definitely can be no free will for you, because who would do the choosing?  Same applies to those non-duality-ers who have discovered there is no actual person anywhere, only a body and a mind.

I could single out some of the blogs I read - Vesta, for example, and Elisa, to mention only two of many, for whom a great part of their blog is devoted to questions about the significance or importance of what they are doing or thinking.  If they weren't like that I probably would not find them so interesting. Mine is like that, too, very often, in fact it seems to be like that right now!  Our whole world would be different if people no longer concerned themselves with what they think important, as far as choices go..  At least this whole spanking blogging community would collapse, to say nothing of the rest of the world's doings.

But would it be a better world?  I think we can still make judgments, even if we have no choices, can't we?  It's interesting to speculate on what our world would be like if we all realised we had no choice over what we do.  Could a science fiction story be written on this basis?

I'll have to try and work out just how things would be if we all assumed we had no choices.  But for the moment I am just going to sit back for a while and enjoy not thinking about the importance or significance of my life, then go and see if the washing is dry and ready to take off the line.  It's a good drying day, sunny and some wind. No moral judgment needed there, for sure.

Edit  I have been careless over the use of the word "significant."  Obviously what happens, whether we have chosen it or whether it simply happens without anyone's choice, may be significant, in that it can point to something, show or clarify something for our information;  be interesting in a cerebral way.  If however you start reading "A Course in Miracles: Workbook for Students" you will soon come across the exercise prompting you to look around you and consider that what you are looking at "has no meaning."  In other words, it has no significance apart from its existence and connection with other objects.  I'll say more about this book soon.


  1. Malcolm, I have long thought that we would all be better off if we aspired to be "a good animal" -- healthy, alert, strong, connected, expressive, curious, present, proactive... I think the notion might have been first enunciated by Herbert Spencer... That path does not preclude the thinking side of things, but puts it on an equal footing with all those other skills and patterns.


    1. Unfortunately, Sue, I m not well acquainted with Herbert Spencer's work. But as to what you are recommending - yes, I like that. What kind of an animal are we at present? Flawed? I'm not sure - perhaps we are already good animals in our human way. We could let this take us into a discussion about whether there was such a thing as "good" and its opposite, couldn't we?

  2. I believe life matters and is very significant. I tend to equate all matters of humanity with LOVE. Why are we here? To love. Why does it matter? Love matters, deeply, greatly, eternally. What is our greatest role, challenge, and purpose? To love the individuals that God has placed in our lives. Ah yes, God. I'm a believer. I wear faith on my sleeve as much as my fragile inadequate self can muster.

    To love another is to see the face of God.

    This is a lyric in the musical Les Miserables, but I stand by it and hold it as a candle to guide me, to motivate me, to remind me of my daily-ness, and use the thought as a compass for my wandering heart. The candle flickers, but does not go out.

    I have been loved, fiercely, madly, daily..and that is my blessing and my gift from another. A man who bestows upon me something of deep value that I could never force, or wager or grab for myself. He gives it, and why? Because he sees that LOVE matters. He has been loved the same, he knows the warmth and the rush of heady bewilderment at the experience of such a love.

    But what of others who have not known it? Such is why love matters, we who can must spread it far and wide, we must have open arms and hearts to love others. Fatherless them. Lost and them. Rich and bold and seemingly on top of their world? Love them too. We can never know the fullness or the emptiness of another hidden heart. So we love..on and on and on. We teach our children to love, we model it and share it and show it as we are able.

    I have an enemy whom I love. I don't love them because they have earned it, I love them in spite of the hurt and agony they have brought to my world. Why? Not because I'm an angel or holy or always do the right I love them because I'm equipped to do so, because my heart has the capacity to love when theirs does not. It's not easy, I stumble and fall but I pick myself up and continue to love. I watch their life and pray and hope for them, because hope is not accessible to them at times. I pray for others to love them too, people who are closer than I, who can physically meet their needs in the ways where I must keep at a safe distance to protect myself from harm.

    Love is complicated but it's complications do not render it powerless, rather in the pursuit of its joys and wonder we grow ever stronger and better able to navigate within its depths and difficulties.

    1. I love that line from Les Miserables too. Love is spectacular. :)

    2. Thanks so much for your comment, Stormy.

      I haven't the capacity for love that you have. I have never had many friends, and my three marriages have not been filled with love. I have just gone through life using what abilities I have, which are mainly the ability to think logically and to make or see connections where others cannot, and to see ideas to be false which others believe true; I am a good craftsman, too, and can make stuff and bring things back to useful life. Sure, I can love my dogs, my children - accept them fully into my life, do for them whatever I am able to do.

      Since love is so highly rated, I have often wondered why it doesn't figure in my life very much; but as I grow old I worry less about that sort of thing and go more for doing whatever can be done with the abilities I have. I have sometimes felt envious of those who recount experiences of great love; that's one reason I like reading your blog (which is just one long, delightful love story) and others of the same type, but envy is fruitless and it's better to use and be grateful for present abilities and character.

      I'm not a "believer", or a God-fearing person, or religious; though I have faith in life. I know nothing about any god, and I wonder whether those who talk glibly about God know any more than I do. In some cases it seems to me they have the kind of knowledge and belief one would be better off without!

  3. I spent many an angsty teenage year pondering this too.

    And then I watched Angel. You know, the Buffy spin-off about the vampire with a soul. There's a conversation in one of the later episodes, and Angel says: "If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."

    And it clicked for me. The significance of life is in the living, and the doing. It's what we do - 'cause that may well be all there is.

    So I try to relieve suffering where I can - to make someone else's (people, animals, any being sharing this existence with me) life more livable.

    For me, that's what makes my life meaningful. That and my amazing relationship. :)

    1. Thank you, Conina. I do enjoy reading your blog.

      I don't understand the quote you give, "If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do." Doesn't make any sense to me. I thought I was fairly intelligent, but evidently not enough!

    2. It's a little bit out of context - the full explanation comes in the rest of the conversation.

      Angel: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
      Kate: And now you do?
      Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because I don't think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.
      Kate: Yikes. It sounds like you've had an epiphany.
      Angel: I keep saying that, but nobody's listening.

      Basically - if there's nothing to come after life - and who says there is? Then you have to make life count while you're living it, not just for some everlasting reward.

    3. "if there's nothing to come after life - and who says there is? Then you have to make life count while you're living it, not just for some everlasting reward. "

      Yes, absolutely Conina. Living in anticipation of something better (or worse!) when you die is absurd. If you're in the habit of looking forward to better things, then if there really is a life after bodily death, you'll probably carry that habit with you into the next world and still be looking forward to something better, or dreading something worse.


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