Animals are driven. Man asks: "Why?" This is both man's distinction, as well as the reason for his eventual alienation.
Relentless questioning soon faces an axiom, a belief or a convention. The pioneers are those who do not stop there.
It is a pleasant activity to not be driven by an unexamined belief-system, but beware of going too far, and you may be left with no activity at all.
Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." Mark Twain said, "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all." And I say, "A life too widely examined may not leave anything to live for."
Consider the analogy of a small lake, having a dam on its downhill slope. The flow from north is just enough to maintain its level, given the opening on the dam. Close the dam, and it will overflow. Open the dam more, and the level will deplete.
The lake is one's mind. The flow from upstream is the events and questions. The dam is made up of beliefs and axioms and morals. Events engage our mind, and after coming to a decision, we act. Open the dam too much, and there is no possibility of engagement, the events/questions do not move us since there is no underlying passion or belief or morality. Open the dam too little (too much of constriction in one's acts) and we feel overwhelmed by life's events.
To find the correct closure of the dam for an individual, for him to feel engaged and alive, is not an unworthy task.
Atheists find a reasonably happy man with a certain dam level, and revel in trying to move the boulder of his belief in God. Unless he is given another boulder, the believer stares meaninglessness in the face, and therefore he hates the atheists.
Found this quote here: "God is an expression of our belief that life has meaning." (Chris Hedges). This does not say that God exists. (This is actually Wittgenstein talking, more later)
Voltaire said, "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer." ("If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him")
The question is: What is your God? Why are you living? Be very careful to even attempt to answer this question. I am not responsible for the consequences.
It is of course possible to unravel any meaning as a castle of sand, any belief as essentially hollow, it is easy to find any passionate response as an over-reaction, it is obviously intellectually pleasant to break open a vault which other people regard as sacred and mystical, but intellect is a means, and if it tampers with ends, what are you left with?
This is the age of the intellect, and that is the reason for the individual misery and the neurotic mayhem despite all the increase in prosperity. More intellect can solve the piecemeal problems of traffic congestion, urban pollution, energy production, but it cannot, by its very nature, introduce a meaning in people's lives. It is a scythe, not a seed.
Wittengstein was perhaps the only pure intellectual of all philosophers, in that he did not concern himself with the propositional answering of any question, but with the unraveling of it. He pointed out that the traditional answers make sense in a context, and are meaningless outside that context.
He said, "The meaning of life, i.e. the meaning of the world, we can call God. ... To pray is to think about the meaning of life. ... To believe in a God means to understand the question about the meaning of life. To believe in a God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning." (Journal entry, 1916)
The modern intellect is Godless, and of course it is left in a void of meaninglessness.
Serving others is merely a way to remain busy if you do not know what a man should live for, if you do not know what you are living for. You may be helping others. But helping others achieve what? You don't have to answer this.
Is it important to not think in certain situations and just "go with the flow"? Is it possible that some things are better left unexamined? The joy of making love, for example, can be killed quite easily by being aware of and talking objectively about each others' bodies. Making love is not to observe and learn, but to have the intellect go fishing while one floats in an ocean of sensuality.
"Why" about an activity is the incantation to invite tedium.
At the end of all questioning, what is the feeling that one is left with? Is it depression, or wonderment?
Wonderment is the feeling that one gets while looking at the stars, and when one is aware of the unfathomable mystery that an aware pair of eyes is watching the infinite expanse of the universe. It is not wonderment at any visual, that too, but the deepest wonder is at the fact of consciousness. It is to feel like a child of the universe.
Depression is the feeling of having nothing to live for, to have no motivation to do anything. To not see any inherent value in any activity, to lack an anchor. It is to be locked up in a 6x6 cell.
Depression feels "bad", and wonderment feels "good". But that's just the chemicals talking.
Intellect can provide for the body, but it can only take away from the "soul". When people remark that India is a more soulful country, they are right. Others say that India is a hypocritical country. They are right, too. Essentially, India has an underdeveloped intellect. Vast masses in India have still to question their ancient beliefs, and they are not astute enough to observe their own contradictions. Both are failures of intellect.
Intellect needs prosperity and literacy and leisure to develop, but once there, it cannot tolerate leisure. It brings with itself a more abstract kind of suffering which gets accentuated in idleness. That suffering, alienation, emptiness, whatever you call it, can be lulled by entertainment, but the intellect soon pierces through an entertainment and finds it silly. Hence, more and more brazen and even more stimulating distractions, with no place for thought, have to be presented.
Despite all the gadgets, the modern intellect has no leisure. The older generation derides it, but it is a sign of progress, and I'm not being sarcastic. Busyness is not a perversion, it is a need of an alienated mind, and that alienation is due to having no archaic beliefs, of rebelling against conventions. The gadgets are to fill time, not to save it. If the intellect had time to itself, it would explode in horror. People do not want leisure. They only want more control over what distractions they can have.
(to be continued)