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.