1. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '07 05:372 edits
    I recall (roughly) a line from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where the old voodoo lady says to the John Cusack character: “You lookin’ for all the answers. Well, they ain’t no answers!”

    We argue and discuss on here a lot about what might be called the “ultimate” questions and answers—metaphysics, God, gods, Brahman, the Tao, Christianity, Zen, theism, atheism...on and on—things dealing with what theologian Paul Tillich once called “ultimate concern.” That’s what I am talking about here—not how many planets we can observe in our solar system, or what is a healthy diet...

    What if, as the voodoo lady said, “They just ain’t no answers”? No matter how much we wish for it, or how artful we are at constructing and defending our own favorites.

    And what if that just doesn’t matter?

    I mean, wouldn’t that be a great relief? We could continue our search for knowledge—without all the metaphysical and religious speculation; or we could enjoy the speculation without any anxiety over whether or not our formulations are “the Truth.” We could express ourselves according to our chosen religious aesthetic in the same way that we choose to listen to certain music, read certain kinds of literature, and avail ourselves of certain therapeutic disciplines for mental and physical health.

    Without the insistence that our particular formulations and conclusions represent the singular and only possible truth. Without the defensiveness. Without the angst.

    And then we die... Ah, there’s the rub! But, so far as we can see, every living thing dies. We just happen to have a weird self-looping consciousness that is aware that we too will one day die. The source, perhaps, of most religion. So—maybe there’s some sort of individual after-life, maybe not (I tend to think not, but...). It is only the assumption that some cruel and unjustly punitive fate awaits us “on the other side” that ought to cause any real terror.

    Death may be tragic, but why should it be terrifying? (Pain, yes; death, no.) As Epicurus said: “Death is nothing—and so nothing to fear.” And if there is some kind of individual continuance—why should it not be coherent with this existence? The cosmos, if anything, appears to be coherent—whether we appreciate its particular coherence or not. And if there is a God—well, no benevolent God would try to terrify it’s creatures, or create an incoherently cruel afterlife. And if such a God is not so benevolent, or is cruelly capricious—well, there’s nothing much to be done.

    People have pondered the “ultimate” questions for millennia—and come up with different answers. That’s what the so-called “scriptures” of the various religions represent; and I appreciate them as such, but... Whichever religion you choose—or none—“May it be for you and others a path of blessing.”

    Questions of “meaning” and of morality have been debated to death on here. Neither is obviously dependent on a supernatural world. Meaning and morality may be aspects of our existential condition here, regardless of what one’s particular philosophical or religious theories are.

    Maybe, for these “ultimate” metaphysical and religious questions—“They just ain’t no answers.” Except the ones we make for ourselves—which may be valid and precious, when recognized for what they are.

    And maybe, if that just doesn’t really matter—maybe we could relax a bit and learn how to make this existence a little better for ourselves and each other. Because maybe it is all we have...

    And maybe—if there is a God—that God would just as soon have us relax about these “ultimate” questions, and quit treating them as if they mattered so much. Because, even then, maybe they don’t.

    So, ponder for yourself those possibilities: Maybe they ain’t no (one, true) answer; except for that one. Maybe that doesn’t matter.
  2. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    18 Apr '07 09:39
    Originally posted by vistesd
    So, ponder for yourself those possibilities: Maybe they ain’t no (one, true) answer; except for that one. Maybe that doesn’t matter.
    Were you ever interested in the surrealists? I chance to be reading an early piece by Louis Aragon that resonates with your resounding question...

    http://www.durationpress.com/authors/aragon/wave.html
  3. Joined
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    18 Apr '07 10:581 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I recall (roughly) a line from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where the old voodoo lady says to the John Cusack character: “You lookin’ for all the answers. Well, they ain’t no answers!”

    We argue and discuss on here a lot about what might be called the “ultimate” questions and answers—metaphysics, God, gods, Brahman, the Tao, ...[text shortened]... Maybe they ain’t no (one, true) answer; except for that one. Maybe that doesn’t matter.
    So my options are:

    1) Concern yourself with what your purpose in life is or what purpose life in general has.

    2) Eat drink and be merry for tommorow we die so don't worry about it.

    I say there is a happy medium between the two. There is no reason to worry oneself to death about what we cannot change. However, there are aspects to life that "appear" to be in our control for whatever reason and there is some urgency about the matter. I think the crux of your post is the issue of angst. After all, no one likes to worry about anything. In general I would say that a certain degree of "stress" about such matters is healthy but too much is unhealthy. So if we "stress" about nothing or "stress" about too much, either way we are doing ourselves a diservice in terms of what is "healthy" for us.

    Now in terms of a "meaning" about our lives, we all have various answers for this. As a result, I must then conclude that there is a meaning to our lives. In fact, to have no meaning or no purpose in getting out of bed in the morning is a fate worse than death. And that brings us to death itself. I guess thats the urgency of it all. Will our meaning/purpose die with us? I say it does'nt as I would probably conclude most others would agree. It then all comes down to how and why and how one goes about backing up such claims.
  4. Cape Town
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    18 Apr '07 12:17
    Originally posted by vistesd
    So, ponder for yourself those possibilities: Maybe they ain’t no (one, true) answer; except for that one. Maybe that doesn’t matter.
    Most of the debates I have been in are to do with topics that do have answers.
    For example I believe the following do have answers:
    Is evolution a valid scientific theory?
    Does abiogenesis violate the second law of thermodynamics?
    Approximately how old is the earth?
    Do we have sufficient evidence to know whether time is finite or infinite and whether it had a beginning?
    Are morals absolute?
    Is there a valid reason to believe that the universe was created?

    Sometimes the answer is that we do not know something or do not have good reason to believe something but that statement of lack of proof or knowledge can be a finding in itself.
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '07 15:24
    Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
    Were you ever interested in the surrealists? I chance to be reading an early piece by Louis Aragon that resonates with your resounding question...

    http://www.durationpress.com/authors/aragon/wave.html
    I printed it out so that I can read it away from the computer screen; will let you know. Thanks for it.
  6. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '07 15:281 edit
    Originally posted by whodey
    So my options are:

    1) Concern yourself with what your purpose in life is or what purpose life in general has.

    2) Eat drink and be merry for tommorow we die so don't worry about it.

    I say there is a happy medium between the two. There is no reason to worry oneself to death about what we cannot change. However, there are aspects to life that "appear" then all comes down to how and why and how one goes about backing up such claims.
    So my options are:

    1) Concern yourself with what your purpose in life is or what purpose life in general has.

    2) Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die so don't worry about it.


    I’m, not sure how you got that false dichotomy from what I wrote—but perhaps I was not very clear. I am aware of the simple redundancy that how I live my life determines how my life is lived... (BTW, Epicurus would never have said, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die".)

    “Meaning” and purpose are not given to us. That is part of the “Maybe they ain’t no answers.” Was I clear that I am talking about answers to such metaphysical questions?

    This reminds me of something that bbarr wrote to a Christian theist on here a couple years ago—

    Indeed.

    "I want this little ego of mine, this precious sphere of consciousness, to last forever. I want to be rewarded for the sacrifices I make, so that they are not really sacrifices. I want those who harm me to be punished. I want to have a purpose given to me, and a path laid out before me, so that I do not have to find a way to imbue my own life with meaning, or deal with the terror of being truly free. I want to be special, I want to be loved, I want to be a child for eternity."

    Welcome to your faith.


    Of course, I have taken that out of the context of the discussion at the time.

    Several people were offended by that. I saved it because I realized that it said all too much about myself, and so to objectors I could say, “If the shoe fits; if not...” Whether or not you would put it as starkly to yourself, or use the same terms as bbarr did.

    It is those very kinds of questions for which you seem to want to be given the answers—or at least not to difficult to “find”—that I am aiming at with that statement: “Maybe they ain’t no answers.”

    And maybe that doesn’t matter—so that you can get on about the creative enterprise of imbuing your own life with meaning and purpose...
  7. Standard memberKellyJay
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    18 Apr '07 15:47
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I recall (roughly) a line from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, where the old voodoo lady says to the John Cusack character: “You lookin’ for all the answers. Well, they ain’t no answers!”

    We argue and discuss on here a lot about what might be called the “ultimate” questions and answers—metaphysics, God, gods, Brahman, the Tao, ...[text shortened]... Maybe they ain’t no (one, true) answer; except for that one. Maybe that doesn’t matter.
    I like the book 'The Divine Conspiracy' by Dallas Willard I think you
    would enjoy it, as it is well written and goes to this question.
    Kelly
  8. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '07 15:54
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Most of the debates I have been in are to do with topics that do have answers.
    For example I believe the following do have answers:
    Is evolution a valid scientific theory?
    Does abiogenesis violate the second law of thermodynamics?
    Approximately how old is the earth?
    Do we have sufficient evidence to know whether time is finite or infinite and whethe ...[text shortened]... o believe something but that statement of lack of proof or knowledge can be a finding in itself.
    Well, I undoubtedly would agree with all your answers to the first five. But none of them are metaphysical—or even existential.

    Re the sixth one, my “Wittgensteinian” response has been that such questions about “before time” are literally non-sensical.

    Re the seventh: Depending on what you mean by “absolute,” I suspect that you might get different answers among a sample atheist group, as well as argument between atheists and theists.

    Re the eighth: Well, a lot of bright people think so (e.g., the cosmological argument); I disagree. I think there is an error there (among others) of treating the universe as an entity-in-itself, rather than the totality. Then even if there is an identified cause for everything “in” the universe, they assert that the “universe-itself” remains an effect that must still have a cause “external” to “it.” (All those scare quotes ought to be indicative of what I think about that...)

    In a sense, my post is directed from the (Camusian) absurd situation in which we, with our strange inquiring consciousness, ask metaphysical questions for which the universe discloses no answers. The universe may disclose evidence—e.g., facts and their relationships—but not interpretations of that evidence.* The universe does not disclose “meaning.” We are left to wrestle with the existential questions of our lives—for which “They ain’t no answers,” in terms of that kind of disclosure. To grasp for such answers that are given is an attempt to escape from the tension of that absurdity, according to Camus—to attempt an existential leap (such as a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith” ) out of the Sisyphean struggle.

    This Camusian absurdity is at the foundation of my own “spiritual philosophy,” and conditions it. And that may go to your last statement above, with which I agree.

    However, I don’t feel that I am putting any of this very well... 🙁

    * Again, I am not talking about scientific interpretations toward a descriptive theory that best fits the facts.
  9. Hmmm . . .
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    18 Apr '07 15:55
    Originally posted by KellyJay
    I like the book 'The Divine Conspiracy' by Dallas Willard I think you
    would enjoy it, as it is well written and goes to this question.
    Kelly
    Thanks, Kelly. I will look for it...
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    18 Apr '07 17:511 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    “Meaning” and purpose are not given to us. That is part of the “Maybe they ain’t no answers.” Was I clear that I am talking about answers to such metaphysical questions?
    But eveyones life has a "meaning" of some kind. Some people live for loving relationships, some live for the love of money, and some for the love of their God and some for the love of themselves or a combiniation thereof. Notice, however, that the underlying meaning is the love of something or someone. It reminds me of a movie I saw called "City Slickers". in the movie Billy Crystal was having a mid life crisis and no longer knew what his life was about. He was impressed by the cowboy named Curly who seemed to know what life was about and seemed to have it all together. Billy asked him what his secret was and what he thought the meaning of life was about. Curly looked at him and held up one finger and said that it all comes down to one thing. Billy looked at him puzzled and asked him what that one thing was. Curly just looked at him and smiled and told him that was for him to figure out.

    I would agree with Bbarr's synopsis as to the meaning of my life being grounded in narssicism.......that is if there is no God to give my life meaning outside my own reality. However, it is my belief that my life has enough meaning for a God to send us his Son to die for me so that I can be reconciled with him. It is nothing I did to deserve and it has nothing to do with God's reliance on my being reconciled with him, rather, it all comes down to his love for me and for you.

    BTW I would argue that there is a huge difference between there being no answers and a consensus on those answers. There are answers but not necessarily a consensus on those answers. That is for you to determain.
  11. Gangster Land
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    18 Apr '07 18:07
    Originally posted by whodey
    But eveyones life has a "meaning" of some kind. Some people live for loving relationships, some live for the love of money, and some for the love of their God and some for the love of themselves or a combiniation thereof. Notice, however, that the underlying meaning is the love of something or someone. It reminds me of a movie I saw called "City Slickers ...[text shortened]... e answers but not necessarily a consensus on those answers. That is for you to determain.
    Out of curiosity, is your "one thing" God? Do you think God wants to be our "one thing"? Why or why not?
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    18 Apr '07 18:54
    Originally posted by TheSkipper
    Out of curiosity, is your "one thing" God? Do you think God wants to be our "one thing"? Why or why not?
    Does God want to be our one thing? Well, according to the Bible the #1 commandment is to love God with all your heart above all else so yes, he is a believers one thing, so to speak. Christ also said that if you love mother or father or sister or brother or child more than me you are not worthy of me. This goes along with the commandment to love God above all else. After all, if God be God then those people and things were placed in your life because of him so why not focus on the source of what you love in your life rather than merely the objects of love created by God?
  13. Donationbbarr
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    18 Apr '07 19:19
    Originally posted by whodey
    But eveyones life has a "meaning" of some kind. Some people live for loving relationships, some live for the love of money, and some for the love of their God and some for the love of themselves or a combiniation thereof. Notice, however, that the underlying meaning is the love of something or someone. It reminds me of a movie I saw called "City Slickers ...[text shortened]... e answers but not necessarily a consensus on those answers. That is for you to determain.
    I'm sorry, just what claim are you attributing to me?
  14. Subscriberno1marauder
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    18 Apr '07 19:22
    Originally posted by whodey
    Does God want to be our one thing? Well, according to the Bible the #1 commandment is to love God with all your heart above all else so yes, he is a believers one thing, so to speak. Christ also said that if you love mother or father or sister or brother or child more than me you are not worthy of me. This goes along with the commandment to love God above ...[text shortened]... the source of what you love in your life rather than merely the objects of love created by God?
    Your God is sooooooooooooooo needy. He sounds like a teenage stalker.
  15. Subscriberno1marauder
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    18 Apr '07 19:23
    Originally posted by bbarr
    I'm sorry, just what claim are you attributing to me?
    I think he's saying you have derived your epistemological outlook from "City Slickers".
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