Mind got kickstarted again…so here’s a rant.
Purpose. What little I know about it is that a) life seems meaningless without it, b) I have one, or more, and c) I have no idea what in heck they are, much less what they mean, and how and to what extent they fit into the grand scheme of the universe.
Perhaps I’ve already fulfilled it (or them), and my remaining task in life is but to realize I’ve done so. Unlikely.
Many stories and notions deal, ultimately, with human purpose.
Dune (Frank Herbert)…the ultimate grasp at universal, infinite human purpose. In all his years (decades) of exploring that universe and concept, he never reached a finite conclusion. There was plentiful relative purpose…but never absolute, ultimate purpose, other than existance and continuous improvement within ever-expanding human webs.
Patriotism. What better sense of purpose than to work towards the survival and expansion of the American way. Build advanced technologies, giant militaries, throw our clout around in the world, convince everyone else our way is best. It has the ring of purpose, because our work in the present is felt by many generations in the future. But. Ultimately, it’s relative. It iterates, and never ends, like the explorations of many Sci-Fi stories, such as those two above. There is a general fealing of good vs. evil, but it is vague, cloudy, and largely undefined.
Battlestar Galactica…yet another grasp at definition of human purpose, and again, it fails to conclude, implying merely repetition of a complex system (life) in a, for all intensive purposes, infinite universe. Perhaps the one obvious purpose they all had throughout was to ensure that the cycle continues, but in the end, it defaulted to a deity, an absolute. The only purpose the deity clearly had in mind was continued existance. Not bad. A step in the right direction. However, it is missing something. Good vs. Evil. It muddies and mixes good and evil, and ultimately does away with them, defaulting to one polar extreme. This does not ring true to me. The universe is quite obviously not monopolar in nature. Nearly every experience I’ve had indicates that existance favors two poles.
The Lord of the Rings…the classic narrative of good vs. evil. It implies they are two polar extremes…absolutes, and that ultimately, human purpose is to ensure that the former prevails. This rings true with me, as it does with most. Everyone knows good vs. evil, and most hate evil, when it is clearly recognizeable. Unfortunately, this life is not so simple. There is no clear absolute enemy on the horizon, no glowing red eye in the east to direct our purpose towards. It is fleeting, it hides, shirks, wiggles, and creeps its way into every facet of our lives. There is no defeating it, at least of our own accord. How I would love to pick up a sword, and run screaming into battle, hurling myself at evil until it is vanquished, or falling in heroism and honor while trying. Were it only so easy.
The Purpose Driven Life…arguably the best (modern) Christian attempt at definition of purpose. It is a microcosm, and generalization of purpose. It defines five concrete purposes: 1) You were planned for God’s pleasure, 2) You were formed for God’s family, 3) You were created to become like Christ, 4) You were shaped for serving God, and 5) You were made for a mission. It presupposes Christianity of course; it is not (at least directly) an argument for Christianity. It merely tells us how to fight the battles of life, to help win the war of our lives. It implies, again, the existance of and struggle between two polar opposites of good evil, and is providing guidance within a specific religious context. It does very little to help one distinguish individual purpose in many daily actions, unless you’re considering becoming a clergyman.
It, and the rest of the Christian faith for that matter, never really answers, or even addresses purpose after the war. It implies that, once at the pole, purpose is continued, infinite existance in goodness and harmony with God. There is never any discussion of God’s ultimate purpose(s), if there are any, outside of his creation. But, maybe that is the key. If God is the true absolute, he does not require a purpose. Shakespeare put it best. He is, and his purpose is to be. Hence, adherenace to the best polar absolute is necessarily the only true human purpose.
I think the choice and derivation of purpose starts with a decision between belief in a mono-pole or bi-pole. I have admit that while there are many indicators of bi-poles to me (electic polarity, good and evil, matter and anti-matter, positive and negative), there are no crystal clear proofs or discriminates of what exists at the absolute(s). There are still fleeting indicators of monopoles (gravitation, existance of zero). That said, I think we can narrow it down by logically formulating our choice between the two. If the universe is truely mono-polar, then it is easy to argue that the choice is meaningless anyways, without consequence. If the universe is bi-polar, then there are consequences to choice. So, if one does not know, self-preservation would dictate it is safer to choose adherence to the most desireable of the bi-poles than not to. This is perhaps a weak argument to base ones faith upon (which is not surprising…the fact I am searching for an argument at all implies I am more lacking in faith than others), but it is one of the few truths I know. It is a selfish notion, and it is survivalistic, but it rings true.
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And here I am…still no closer to reaching an answer that satisfies me. Are continued existance and adherence to an absolute the only true ultimate purposes?