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I’ve been contemplating the meaning of life a little recently (for no particular reason – maybe I’m just getting older) and I still seem to come to the conclusion that there is no meaning of any real consequence whatsoever – it’s just what we make of it.  I should clarify that I mean that I cannot see or understand any interpretation that somehow life goes on after this one and that there is anything ‘somewhere else’ that means anything or has any connection to this life.  Perhaps there is, but if so then I have to say that it is beyond my understanding entirely.  But I’m all good with that - My life means very little in the big scheme of things, but means everything to me whilst I am alive and maybe a little bit to others also.


Certainly, my life ‘seems’ meaningful to me - I care about how my existence is experienced and I care about others in my circle of existence (family, friends, others, the planet, etc) but I think that such meaning is really only valid to myself whilst my consciousness exists.  Once it’s snuffed out, which I believe it will be when my brain ceases to humanly function, then meaning for me will cease to exist, but I won’t know that as ‘I’ simply won’t exist anymore, other than maybe in people’s memories.


The way I see it, we all have two or three ways to live our life generally.  
1. We can live our life in a way that makes us feel it is of benefit to us and is largely what we call ‘satisfactory’.  I guess that could be on a sliding scale from a poor person who is happy they just get to eat, right through to the richest of the rich enjoying their billion-dollar yacht.  Or it might not be dollar-figure related at all, and whilst there may be negatives in there along with the positives, largely we feel that our life is ‘okay’, if not downright delicious.  We feel like our life has some meaning and/or some purpose, even if at the same time we can say we don’t believe it does.
2. Alternatively, we could live our life in a more miserable state, experiencing life as negative existence.  Maybe that makes us nasty or rude, selfish or mean, or judged otherwise as a negative type of experience according to the court of community opinion.  Perhaps our circumstances could help generate such a mindset, but ultimately that’s how we view our life a burden to be experienced before it is over.
3. And then I guess the final way to look at one’s life might be that there is no point in it whatsoever and no need to continue it.  To that end I have no issue with people who choose to end their own life – my only concern is a) that their head is in a healthy place to make that decision (which I believe it can be although a lot of the time such people are in a state of poor mental health/distress) and b) that it can be devastating for those left behind or otherwise affected by suicide.


I guess why I make the point about suicide is that I know Christians who cannot possibly imagine their existence ceasing after their mortal coil fails, and for them, I think entertaining a life without a further purpose to come, is beyond their current ability.  So when I suggest suicide is a valid and reasonable option for people who think life is 70-100years and then nothing, they simply cannot understand why I am saying that.  So I am trying to make the point that it is a valid way to look at one’s limited existence.  


For me, I am happy enough to experience the life I currently have, so presently I have no desire to  cut it any shorter than it will be anyhow, but who knows if my position will ever change.  I think of a gentleman from my home state that recently got to over 100 and chose to end his life with assisted suicide.  He had to travel to another country where it could be legal, but the point is that he felt he had lived life to the fullest, it was now a burden, his quality of life had been severely reduced, and he willingly chose to end it.  I say that is his call.


So if there is no purpose to life per se, why aren’t we all out there raping and pillaging and selfishly taking what we want to enjoy our limited existence why we can.  It is certainly a selling point from typical Christianity that without God we are all evil and want to live an evil existence and do bad things because we like them more than the ‘hard road’ that a God-path supposedly leads us .

 
But simply put, I don’t think we would enjoy that at all in the main, and I think from an evolutionary perspective we are not wired to harm the community’s interests.  Maybe rape sounds attractive to some, but I find a committed relationship and the sharing of emotion much more fulfilling.  Maybe theft sounds attractive to some, but as a community I think we largely agree that theft tears community apart, not sustains it.  I don’t think these sorts of thoughts are any God-given conscious choice, but rather we have worked it out over millions of years as what works best for our groups of our species hunkered together and what makes us actually feel better about our existence.


So why does any of this matter?  Well ultimately, I don’t think it does.  Worst case scenario is that one could live a totally miserable and diabolical 100 or so years before entering an eternal, dreamless, sleep.  And so then for them, the last 100 years would mean nothing.


Perhaps where I think it does matter is that I am alive now.  Like it or lump it I do experience emotion and I do hope my offspring and generations to come have a positive experience of their limited existence.  Once I’m gone it won’t matter to me, but whilst I am alive, it does.


Any thoughts, comments or questions?

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Meaning? Things have meaning in the same way as my kitchen chair is red. A longer explanation available on request. :)

Death ... I am not expecting an afterlife.  So I am attached at the moment to the experience I (perhaps we) call life. This universe is a zero sum enterprise, perhaps even a negative sum. I have been lucky, I have had more than my share of what this universe has to offer, so I am happy to hang on a bit longer. At some point I may have my fill of more than my share. So non existence may seem attractive at that point.

I don't think suicide or euthanasia should be stigmatized.  Not encouraged but understood.  I had a squash buddy who committed suicide. Apparently his daughter came home to find him. There's got to be a less painful way.

You seem maudlin today? :) 

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On 4/28/2021 at 5:03 AM, PaulS said:

Once it’s snuffed out, which I believe it will be when my brain ceases to humanly function, then meaning for me will cease to exist, but I won’t know that as ‘I’ simply won’t exist anymore, other than maybe in people’s memories.

I'm not wholly convinced by the "it all ends when we die" scenario - the question of whether consciousness is entirely dependent on brain activity I think is to some extent at least open. Equally, I wouldn't bet on it, either way.

The traditional Christian picture of heaven and hell doesn’t work any longer, and we haven’t found anything else to replace it. We don’t even ask the question any more. We’re afraid to ask it; we’ll hopefully be remembered, sure, by family and friends, but we know there is not going to be a shrine, or a tomb, where we’re spoken to, prayed for, as still happens in many parts of the world. The dead, for us, are in the past, not the present. Our roots are shallow. And it’s tough to find a meaning and purpose in life, to deepen your roots, if it all ends when you die. We’ve lost our connection with the natural world, with our ancestors, with the sense of life as a rolling stream which continues to include us all, past, present and future. Ironically, as science starts to suggest that reality is there in so far as it’s observed, we’ve lost the sense that life is there in so far as it’s witnessed; that our life is real in so far as it’s real to others, in the relationships we had and can continue to experience.

‘I’ simply won’t exist anymore, other than maybe in people’s memories." - The universe is inhumanly vast, probably amoral, indifferent, and the only meaning in it is one we create for ourselves. And that probably is the best we can do. Which, actually, is why I'm quite attracted to older religions, like ones that honor the ancestors. Our memories are what we're left with, and pass on. Our sense of responsibility to them (and to future generations) is a better moral guide than believing in various vagrant gods. 

I think that in order to live, rather than killing ourselves, we need to find some kind of meaning/purpose in life.   I think, as far as Christianity goes, the teaching of Jesus on the kingdom of God here on earth now (in so far as it's possible to know anything about what he said or whether he lived etc...) is the best there is. The Church turned all th\t upside down, inside out, and I think Christianity today is the worst of the major religions, epitomized by voting patterns in the USA.

But there's still something there in the idea of the kingdom of God on earth, now, to be worked for, that is something I could commit to.

But, hey, as soon as I think I'm being too much of a burden, can't look after myself, figure I'm going to lose my memory, would want the option of suicide before that actually happens, whilst I'm still aware enough to do it. The idea of being a vegetable, in a care home or on life support or whatever - that nullifies everything good that's happened to me in my life so far.  

 

 

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6 hours ago, John Hunt said:

the question of whether consciousness is entirely dependent on brain activity I think is to some extent at least open. Equally, I wouldn't bet on it, either way.

Oh I would. A lack of consciousness is not even dependent on no brain activity. A well administered general anesthetic goes a long to demonstrating this fact. 

 

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13 hours ago, John Hunt said:

...the question of whether consciousness is entirely dependent on brain activity I think is to some extent at least open. Equally, I wouldn't bet on it, either way.

I think it may be open in that people 'believe' there is an opening, but I'd be pretty comfortably betting nobody can demonstrate consciousness outside of our brain.  That there could possibly be 'something' after death has to be open by the very fact that we cannot prove what happens after death.  But the lack of information coming from those who have already died is deafening! :)

13 hours ago, John Hunt said:

I think that in order to live, rather than killing ourselves, we need to find some kind of meaning/purpose in life.   I think, as far as Christianity goes, the teaching of Jesus on the kingdom of God here on earth now (in so far as it's possible to know anything about what he said or whether he lived etc...) is the best there is. 

I don't know about it being the 'best' - I would say Buddhism is up there but it is not as familiar because of my culture - but I do find it (or how I interpret anyway) as a good model.  That is, to try and live a life where we love one another, try to forgive ourselves and others of our mistakes, try not to judge because we just don't know the full picture, try to look after the less fortunate, and perhaps don't take it all too seriously.

13 hours ago, John Hunt said:

But, hey, as soon as I think I'm being too much of a burden, can't look after myself, figure I'm going to lose my memory, would want the option of suicide before that actually happens, whilst I'm still aware enough to do it. The idea of being a vegetable, in a care home or on life support or whatever - that nullifies everything good that's happened to me in my life so far.  

I think having the option to die, with dignity, as your own choice, should be a right.  Some cultures have gotten to this point - mine's heading in the right direction, but slowly.

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15 hours ago, romansh said:

Meaning? Things have meaning in the same way as my kitchen chair is red. A longer explanation available on request. :)

Yes, that's why I think we should take 'meaning' with a pinch of salt. But if during my existence I personally feel that I somehow benefit from doing something, that would seem to personally give my life meaning to me, wouldn't you agree?  I just think it might be a nicer way to live out one's existence, with a feeling that there is some sort of meaning & purpose to this brief existence simply in and of itself, with zero expectation following it, if one can.

15 hours ago, romansh said:

I don't think suicide or euthanasia should be stigmatized.  Not encouraged but understood.  I had a squash buddy who committed suicide. Apparently his daughter came home to find him. There's got to be a less painful way.

Yes, there is still a long way to go for many to understand suicide.  Most suicides unfortunately, are people who don't really choose to end their existence - they just can't see any other way to make the pain stop.

15 hours ago, romansh said:

You seem maudlin today? :) 

No, actually all good, Rom.  In fact, you might even say overwhelmingly positive and uplifted! :)  Life's tracking pretty good presently! 

Maybe they don't seem it when I write them, but my thoughts about this matter are actually fairly positive for me.  It's just some thoughts that have been ticking away a bit lately.

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5 hours ago, PaulS said:

That is, to try and live a life where we love one another, try to forgive ourselves and others of our mistakes

The strange thing ... in a no free will universe there is nothing to forgive. Actions that seem to require forgiveness are like objects that are red.

5 hours ago, PaulS said:

... try not to judge because we just don't know the full picture, try to look after the less fortunate, and perhaps don't take it all too seriously.

And the irony is ... Christianity as practiced by many is a really judgemental religion. Even here ... some actions have been judged as requiring forgiveness?

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10 hours ago, PaulS said:

think it may be open in that people 'believe' there is an opening, but I'd be pretty comfortably betting nobody can demonstrate consciousness outside of our brain. 

To come clean, the company I work with publishes some books that say otherwise (along with a load of gibberish, sure). One guy we publish for instance is Bernardo Kastrup-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bernardo-Kastrup/e/B004OFGCA4?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

https://www.essentiafoundation.org/about/

He's a lot brighter than I am.

I dunno. I try to figure out what I think by putting words down on a page, to see how they look. Talk to other people, see what they think. Sometimes even end up publishing the damn stuff.

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17 hours ago, romansh said:

The strange thing ... in a no free will universe there is nothing to forgive. Actions that seem to require forgiveness are like objects that are red.

Maybe there is nothing to forgive, but I see forgiveness as something that benefits the forgiver more so than the forgivee.  That is to say, by forgiving somebody who has trespassed against me, I am choosing to 'let the matter go'.  So the issue is really less to do with the forgivee, and more to do with how the forgiver feels.  Much like how the forgiver applies meaning to their own life and how they enjoy a red chair.

17 hours ago, romansh said:

And the irony is ... Christianity as practiced by many is a really judgemental religion. Even here ... some actions have been judged as requiring forgiveness?

Obviously we live in a society (the entire world) that approaches justice from the point of view that there is wrongdoing and acts that are judged as 'wrong' by whatever measure.  Christianity can be and often is certainly very judgmental - some might even say that traditional Christianity is the ultimate hypocritic with judgement and the exclusionary club it creates.  I think what might be better to work toward is treating judgement like I referenced above - it should be more about being at peace and letting go when another rocks your boat, and less about condemning or getting hung up about what the other has done as 'wrong'.  I mean we would all be the same as that 'wrongdoer' if we were them instead of us.

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Well, for one, I don't give much thought to an after-life, because linear time is a human perceptual experience. 

I also don't think that human consciousness can necessarily grasp all that much, so I just accept what I cannot understand, including meaning. 

What I can grasp though is that very happy people don't tend to worry too much about the meaning of their lives. So I focus more on being a happy, thriving person than fussing too much about what I'm "supposed" to do. 

I feel happier and more comfortable with my own existence the more I feel compassionate for all people. The message of loving everyone, even those who hurt us is what resonates most with me. 

I spent years understanding the psychological and neurological basis of behaviour. Understanding is the basis of compassion, and compassion is the basis for dignity and respect, which are the basis for love. 

So that's my purpose, to try and understand, feel compassion for, and respect all people. 

Does any of it matter to anyone beyond me and the people I interact with? Who knows! Who cares??

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On 5/1/2021 at 3:03 AM, PaulS said:

I see forgiveness as something that benefits the forgiver more so than the forgivee.

I get it ...  Me thinking of the chair as red benefits me more than the chair.

But I am not sure how ignoring the illusory nature of forgiveness or the chair being red is of an 'ultimate' benefit. Would not "understanding there is nothing to forgive" be of benefit as well?

To think of forgiveness as a benefit, one would have to think that there is some sort of independent good or not good floating around.

Think of Alan Watts'  Chinese farmer story here. Maybe?

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On 5/2/2021 at 11:58 AM, romansh said:

I get it ...  Me thinking of the chair as red benefits me more than the chair.

But I am not sure how ignoring the illusory nature of forgiveness or the chair being red is of an 'ultimate' benefit. Would not "understanding there is nothing to forgive" be of benefit as well?

To think of forgiveness as a benefit, one would have to think that there is some sort of independent good or not good floating around.

Think of Alan Watts'  Chinese farmer story here. Maybe?

Yes, there is benefit in "understanding there is nothing to forgive" But that is an understanding normally gained through passing through the dichotomy of unforgiveness and non forgiveness and belief in an independent or objective good or bad which leads most often to guilt. It seems to me,  life is a journey and that understanding usually requires passing through the dichotomy of it .

In my view, as far as the meaning of life goes, that is to me a non-question. Life is its own meaning in that the meaning is in itself  To search for " THE meaning of life" is fruitless because that which gives this life existence is Life, of which source is in, yet also, outside physical boundaries and mental explanations and can only be marginally understood in any sense of the word by being/living That. And then we are left without words.

Joseph

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On 5/2/2021 at 11:58 PM, romansh said:

I get it ...  Me thinking of the chair as red benefits me more than the chair.

But I am not sure how ignoring the illusory nature of forgiveness or the chair being red is of an 'ultimate' benefit. Would not "understanding there is nothing to forgive" be of benefit as well?

Hmm, that is a good point.  I could be that person who I might be forgiving if not for the circumstances that I'm not them, but I'm me.  So in a no-free-will world where we simply are what our experiences have made us, how could we do anything but accept another's actions as they are.  That could have just as easily been us.  No credit, no blame.  Interesting.

On 5/2/2021 at 11:58 PM, romansh said:

Think of Alan Watts'  Chinese farmer story here. Maybe?

Yes, maybe! :)

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12 hours ago, JosephM said:

In my view, as far as the meaning of life goes, that is to me a non-question. Life is its own meaning in that the meaning is in itself  To search for " THE meaning of life" is fruitless because that which gives this life existence is Life, of which source is in, yet also, outside physical boundaries and mental explanations and can only be marginally understood in any sense of the word by being/living That. And then we are left without words.

Joseph

So Joe, do you think it is more meaningful to live a life one feels more satisfied with compared to living a life that one doesn't feel satisfied with?  I know it's never going to be all beer and skittles, but still, is there any relevance to what we make of this life, whilst we exist?

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On 5/6/2021 at 6:29 AM, PaulS said:

So Joe, do you think it is more meaningful to live a life one feels more satisfied with compared to living a life that one doesn't feel satisfied with?  I know it's never going to be all beer and skittles, but still, is there any relevance to what we make of this life, whilst we exist?

In reality, it is no more or less meaningful. Yes, it is usually more favorable to one to feel satisfied with the living of his/her life. What that encompasses can be different for each individual. Life in this body is subjective at best and ones desires and fulfilments usually affect ones satisfaction with ones living. Having said that, i have found, the only lasting satisfaction while living here, disregards self in favor of the whole.

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