Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Meaning of Life - Lorne Warwick

In a previous post I asked about the meaning of life, my friend Lorne gave a great response which I have posted here below:

"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.

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."

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