Saturday, November 07, 2015


Since I was a child it seemed often I did not know the people in my dreams, and I also ran into well-known international leaders.

For example last night in my dream I was in a crowded room and there was a little girl crying. Vladimir Putin stuck his face out and told the people to be quiet because they were disturbing his little girl. I shouted at Putin that he was governing a powerful country and I have a question for him. That question was, what is the meaning of life?

Putin walked away without answering.

I want to add that since I was ten and even younger, I always questioned the "meaning of life." To this day I don't understand the meaning of life. I am requesting my readers to please give your views on the meaning of life. In particular I am asking Mound of Sound and Lorne Warwick, my favourite bloggers.

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  1. Hi, LD. I am quite flattered that you are seeking my view; I hope my answer does not disappoint you. I am going to post it in two parts, as I just found out there is an upward limit of about 400 characters for comments.

    The question you ask is something that I have thought about for a long time, along with related matters. Much of the non-fiction I read has to do with some of these larger questions which, in my view, point to a transcendent reality that we can but dimly grasp. While I have little time for the traditional interpretations of religion, ones that talk in the standard Christian voice of salvation only through belief in Christ and the Christian God, I deeply believe that there is far more to existence than what we see and experience in the here and now.

    The materialist notion that this is all there is, and the cant of the professional atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc, leave me cold, because the arguments they bring forth are based on the mythology of organized religion, the one that sees an all-powerful father-figure deity sitting in judgment on us, ready to send us to Hell should we not conform to his standards.. I reject such a notion outright.

    In progressive theology, writers such as Marcus Borg, Bruce Sanguin, Harvey Cox and John Spong take a far less definitive view of God; Spong calls God (and this took me a long time to get my head around) The Ground of All being, a description he never really defines, but when you think about it, it is a perfect description of the force or divinity that seems to permeate all of existence. It is existence that seems, from my own observations, always on an upward trajectory, something that suggests some underlying principle at work.

    I see ours as a universe of potential. Whatever God is, for me it is a force that offers the opportunity for all life to find full expression. Personally, I believe human consciousness arose, not as a result of divine creation, but as a realization of that potential. In other words, I don't think that our existence was planned or preordained in any way, but arose through a fortuitous combination of forces that were set in motion when the universe came into being. I want to distinguish this from the notion of God as the clockmaker who established the universe and is no more to be seen; I simply mean that the divine force, as a creative expression, set down certain principles by which all kinds of possibilities might be realized.

    Which brings me to the meaning of life. The only thing I can think that perhaps starts to answer your question, LD, is that we, as conscience beings, are expected to pursue our full potential, to use the things we are to better both ourselves and our world. For me, personally, part of that responsibility entails treating everyone and everything (except mosquitoes!) with as much respect as possible. Although very much buffeted by the often cruel realities of existence, battling both internal 'demons' and external obstacles, we are far from being simply victims of our circumstances and our biology. We can keep climbing the stairs no matter how many times we fall down. That is the most, and the best, that can be expected of us.

  2. Part 2 -
    I take great inspiration and comfort from some of the moral giants who have lived and sacrificed much for their fellow human beings. At the top of the list for me would be Nelson Mandela, who maintained his principles and his integrity throughout his long period of incarceration, an incarceration that could have been abbreviated had he been willing to compromise his core values. Surely such people are expressions of the divine, embodying and reflecting part of what we mean when we use the word God.

    As to the ultimate goal of all existence? I'm not sure there is one, other than continuous growth and progress; in that regard, I see God, or transcendent truth, as our partner in this journey, not our judge and jury.

    Each person has to conduct his or her own search, LD. What is truth to me may appear as complete nonsense to others. The best thing I can suggest is that you perhaps take a look at some of the writing of the authors mentioned above. It took me a long time to come to my own views, but they certainly helped to point the way. May your own search lead you to some satisfying conclusions.

  3. Thank you Lorne for your answer, very in depth and gave me a lot to think about. I read it more than once and saw new meaning on re-reading it.

    I agree with you on traditional interpretations of Christianity (applicable I think to the monotheistic faiths in general), they do not resonate with me. It has to be more than just “salvation”, heaven and hell. Also, should not people do something good for the sake of making a positive contribution, not just for expectation of reward or fear of punishment?

    Science and research are important, but they are still less exact than many proponents claim. We still know very little about the true nature – or even extent – of our universe. There has to be something more.

    Neither the dogmas of interpretations of the monotheistic faiths, nor the reductionism of “science as religion”, are adequate in my opinion.

    I am interested in the progressive theology you talk about, I haven’t read those authors you cite but I would like to. I did, however, read many writings of Western thinkers, including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, other Russian writers, and quite a few other Western thinkers. I like to think that our purpose is about making a positive contribution, helping in some way. Maybe it is at a small scale, a neighbour, or a larger scale, a country or the world. However, in some way knowing that the world is better, even if in a very small way, because one lived is an important accomplishment.

    Trying to realize our full potential, aspiring to our best, is also appealing. I do not think “everything happens for a reason” as there is horrible suffering in our world that I struggle to come to grips with. However, I think there is something to overcoming adversity, fighting injustice, and upholding high standards of integrity.

    You mentioned Nelson Mandela, I read his autobiography. He was indeed an extraordinary man. He spent 27 years in isolation and hard labour but he always stood by his convictions. He did nothing to benefit himself, it was about helping his fellow human beings. When he succeeded, he did not go for revenge but sought reconciliation.

    Thanks for your thoughts Lorne and for taking the time to type out such a great response. I would like to post your response as a blog post, I want to share it with as many as I can.

  4. LD, I happily defer to Lorne on this one. My concept of spirituality is beyond rudimentary in comparison. I've never been able to place great value on life or longevity as most do, some obsessively. On clear summer nights with the starry Pacific sky overhead I love to gaze at length into the furthest reaches of the universe that my eyes can discern, all the while knowing that there is more billions of light years beyond. I find it settling to realize that some of the light just now reaching my eyes has crossed almost six trillion miles of space to reach the very spot I occupy on my planet which itself is more than 5-billion years old. I find peace in recognizing just how inconsequential I am, how fleeting is my own existence. All of us, whether we live 20 years or 90 are just the briefest flash of light. Yet we are all we know and so we imbue that existence with meaning and attributes that are difficult to justify when placed in perspective. I think some times those fanciful notions become impediments holding us back. It takes a lot of energy to focus on preserving our own lives, extending our existence to the maximum limit. Living detached from that focus does not mean being less moral or even less spiritually guided.

    1. Mound, thank you for your reply. The vastness - and age - of the universe does put things into perspective. By one measure, the last star will burn out 100 trillion years from now, that makes our short lives seem all the more fleeting. Those focused purely on material gain - of course we all want to live comfortably but those who are obsessed - can get caught in such a narrow (VERY narrow) focus that they miss the bigger picture.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts Mound.

  5. Hi LD. Thank you for your response to my comments. I just wrote a detailed comment here, but the computer malfunctioned, and it was lost, but I will try to briefly summarize my thoughts.

    Your comments about science really resonated with me; I have been reading several science-oriented books lately, and although much of it is really beyond me, what I do take away from them is that science and religion are definitely not an either/or proposition. Ultimate questions, such as why there is a universe, many scientists believe will never be answered, and several say that such questions are more the purview of theology than they are of science.

    As well, reading about the incredible complexity of the universe as we understand it today fills me with an awe that does not diminish, but rather augments my spiritual beliefs. In my view, those who claim science as their 'god' are either incredibly arrogant or incredibly short-sighted.

    I also agree with your rejection of the notion that everything happens for a reason. Such a childish notion of God as a deity that hands out favours and dispenses punishment is just not tenable.

    As I said, I am flattered that you sought my opinion, but also grateful, as attempting to answer what you asked also helped me to clarify some of my own thinking.

    May your journey of exploration yield you some satisfying results, LD.

    1. Thanks again Lorne for your insights. Very true about science and religion not being exclusionary, too many do unfortunately treat it as an either/or. One can both wonder about the universe, contemplate something beyond our senses, yet also seek to explain/explore it as much as we can.

      I have read about a few religions, and I remember reading that in Islam the Prophet Muhammad encouraged his followers to seek knowledge, even "if they had to go to China." In the 7th century, that was a daunting journey, maybe almost like going to the Moon or Mars today.

      It is interesting that there is a lot of commonality between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, sadly, they often don't get along. The troublemakers find their own erroneous interpretations of these religions.

      There is so much complexity, in our world and universe and in seeking a spiritual explanation/meaning.

      Thanks again Lorne for your great insights.