Tuesday, August 24, 2004

On Loss, Humanity and the Meaning of Life

August 24, 2004

There are so many nefarious variables and factors in the modern world, that, due to the sheer quantity of temptations and dangers, it's rare to see a long, gratifying marriage run a long course, or to see a close friendship carry on without significant bumps in the road. To impinge on quasi-biblical thought, evil deeds can ruin a good thing. Purity is the exception, and like a gosling in the harsh forest, its chances for survival are tiny.
On that note, I once decided to take a whack at the whole "meaning of life" thing. Usually the correct answer is "there is none" but I had to take a step back on it and venture toward my predictably unpredictable, spite-fueled interpretation of all things overwhelming. Let's roll...

Life's meaning is embedded in the physics from which it came. It is intended to be an elaborate microcosm of the universe's journey. Like the universe itself, life's "meaning" is to ultimately conform to the only pure and original precept from nature - the circle - and complete a cycle, as the line of a circle might. This cycle, for life itself and its mother universe, is to proceed from its origin of a single, perfect, static point, almost microscopic in size, explode into vast, chaotic subsets, and finally, somehow, return itself to a perfect, solid endpoint - as it began. Clearly the universe is more of an orchestra than overt chaos, and some argue the same for human interaction (the "everything has a meaning" theory). But as life itself, with it's birth, expansion, chaos, and ultimate demise, so closely emulates the big bang cycle of the universe, we stand to learn great things from the progression of astronomy, cosmology, and all the collisions, formations, explosions, and wonders therein.

Some find it bizarre that there is serious consideration for the existence of similar life in other galaxies and solar systems. While religious pundits claim that this position somehow poops in the sovereign oatmeal of religious and spiritual dogma, I've yet to see an adequate explanation as to why our singularity as a race is a requirement to theological conformity. Why couldn't multiple earths and races have one god? It's silly, selfish, egocentric, and very much a sepia toned replay of the persecution of Copernicus as he innocently noticed that the solar system and sun doesn't actually revolve around our muddy little planet. The universe is so unimaginably large, with so many galaxies, it's simply a mathematical likelihood that something might have spawned - or is still spawning - in a theater not near you. Get over it, you closed minded, Oswald-lone-gunman idiots. You're the same donut chomping bunch who said the internet was a fad. Thanks, and keep your two brain cells in your can of Skoal. Anyway, few can draw the comparison between our refusal to acknowledge other worlds, and Pre-Columbus leaders, who refused to acknowledge that anything might lie beyond that big ocean. All things considered, we're not all that advanced, when compared to the 4+ billion years that the cosmos have danced. Some race just might have beat us to the Darwinian punch here. It's probability, Otis. Have another batch of "chaw" buddy.

It might make sense that there is a controlling influence of the progression of all things, and even "control" in that context might be a misnomer. Something obviously started this whole universe/existence fiasco, be it "God" or a guy using a cell phone while pumping gas. Despite the best of intentions, comets crash into planets and destroy them, and people murder other people. The wondrous portraits of sorrow and destruction are painted by the disparate primary colors of chaos, and less frequently those portraits feature a perfectly eye-catching, pastel colored brush stroke of a delicately composed flower. The artistic elements of nature might be merely remnants of a lost era, when earth was less tainted by the rippled oil slick of humanity's confused tendency to bind with chaos, rather than dwell within the instinctive comfort zone of nature and sustenance, like our oldest ancestors. When people lose a loved one, they exclaim "why?" with rhetorical anguish. Good people are taken from us amongst the bad ones - and finding an answer to why this fate can be so arbitrary is tough and often without reward.

For those that favor the philosophical side of things, losing something intangible carries an effect directly proportional to that person's own personal completeness. Many of us, as emotional products of our consistently flawed venues of nurture, tend to have festering gaps in our personal lives, conveniently filled by those important people, pets, plants, and activities. Unfortunately those implements that complete our inner puzzles have the very same flaws of inconsistency and unreliability that burden our own psychological paths.
Losing someone important to our own inner completion is a gut wrenching battle, and no soldier can adequately contribute security, ammunition, or moral support in any palpable way. Quelling the aches and inner confusion of personal loss can only be achieved with the personal sacrifice of realizing that there are other avenues to explore - and that fear must not imprison this innate resolve. When losing a commodity of our own personal security or completeness, the first instinct is to shed tears out of fear for the future. In all scenarios, we're prone to fear the future even in the most stable and confident frames of mind - take any aspect of security away, such as losing a significant other or friend, and that component of security is ripped unceremoniously from the heart, and the mind scrambles to sketch an image of how the world will appear without this critical puzzle piece. Uncertainty is an unrelenting poison. It creates unhealthful stress, robs us of peace and sleep, and looms like a predator over our overall survival instinct. Questioning our own safety, abilities, or source of a meal and home, can lead us all to shiver.

One of the greatest injustices in the world is the imposition of unwarranted loneliness. Isolating a good person from the support systems and equitable devices of emotional growth can be considered a crime against humanity in some circles. There's simply nothing worse than having nobody in your dugout when the ninth inning comes around. Since most people are notoriously flawed, selfish, toxic, and impetuous, the human course has easily been characterized as a thankless struggle ever since mankind's first iniquity (choose thy religious tale for deriving the source). Certainly if we were all perfect and of no threat to others, an existence without a comrade might be easily achieved - unfortunately fighting the ills of human nature needs to be a team sport, and losing a teammate can create vicious pangs of invulnerability. Defeating the formless antagonist of uncertainty can be almost impossible without the aid of allies - and those are the ones we truly "need". Those dismissible religions that preach their "everybody love everybody else" isn't just airport terminal fodder; it's oddly practical for personal survival against those who, without allies, had to succumb to the impurities of chaos and its destructive wake. Though the plague is spreading, the best preventative medicine is in maintaining and fostering our personal circle of human support systems.

Bear in mind that I qualified things by saying how unjust it might be to isolate a good person from good support systems and caring people. Our penal system will put a horrible prisoner into solitary confinement, and few of us bat an eye - because we don't want the bad apples anyway. Judgmental grey areas develop, however, when good people are spoiled by not the bad apples of humanity, but the slightly not-so-fresh apples. This is where evaluation loses its objectivity, and thus becomes difficult to determine if one person is bad for another, and vice versa. While we might advise a close friend as to whether or not another person is good for someone, it isn't necessarily in our jurisdiction. We're not so perfect ourselves, so who are we to judge? But we care, sometimes, about a persons well-being, and that incites the need to give opinions and convince someone important to achieve the same interpersonal happiness that we seek. We have many enemies hurled toward us by chaos - the asteroid flying by, the thief eyeing your back, the pathogens scrambling around our homes. To defend the old fort, we need our personal armies to be large and unified. We should take advice from other pack animals, as many of them herd themselves into a tight group when natural enemies threaten. Strength in numbers! What might be the moral of this adventure? Perhaps it's that we should do everything we can to dissuade conflict with our friends - keep them close and concede if necessary. In difficult times, you'll be glad you did.

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