Monday, 14 April 2008

The Martian Philosophy of Life (Monday's Bit of Wisdom)

I was so fed up with life in general that I had given up hope of finding anything vaguely uplifting or thought-provoking for today, so I thought I'd look for something that would help me, and maybe it might help you too.

I am trying really hard to find some point to life - being an unemployed atheist widow whose kid has flown the coop does have a tendency to remove most of the obvious ones - so I turned to a little book which I have quoted from before and found this:
But what makes life worth living? Any short answer will sound trite, but there really is no mystery about it. Ray Bradbury put it pithily in his short story And the moon be still as bright. This tells of Martians rather than humans, but the moral of the story translates.

"The Martians realized that they had asked the question 'Why live at all?' at the height of some period of war or despair, when there was no answer. But once the civilization calmed, quieted, and wars ceased, the question became senseless in a new way. Life was now good and needed no argument."

When times are hard and life is going badly, life can seem pointless. But when life is good there is no need to question. As in the example above, if one's work and home life are going well, it is in a way senseless to ask why such a life is worth living. The person living it just knows it is.
From Atheism - a very short introduction by Julian Baggini

I don't think this is a complete answer. In fact, I think both Baggini and Bradbury must have been in happy longterm relationships when they wrote these statements - it shows. But there is a kernel of something simple yet profound there. When you are living a good life, it is worth living. When things are going badly, you wonder what's the point of it all. Simple.

Not that this helps much if you are not happy in your work or home life - in fact, it might make people in my situation even more depressed. But the very fact that there are times in your life - when you are busy and occupied and happy - that you do not feel it necessary to ask the question "What's it all about?", is interesting.


Reasonable Robinson said...

Hi Daisy, this seems to be getting right to the heart of it. In my recent philosophical readings I read that as we ponder more about these issues it is natural to reach a point where we find things/life becoming 'meaningless' because the things we once held for certain suddenly no longer are. This clearly happens when we have upsets in our lives too. This issue is also the crux of my colleague Ruths survey that is posted on my blog. Ruth is a star and she is about to publish a book on her reflections on this very subject. (tba don't know when exactly) She takes the view that we gain meaning and purpose through paying attention to what we we can learn from our experiences. This seems to echo ideas from Carl Jung on the process of individuation too, so you might have a glance at that for interest. In a cryptic way I am starting too think that the meaning of our lives is to uncover its meaning for us, and consequently this is an endless process. I also think that too much of that and you can swim too much in 'lake me' so experiencing and doing figure alot too. You might also look at Ken Wilber's stuff Theory of Everything, although his spiritual musings might not be up your street. His other books might be of interest too...?

Puddock said...

Had a look at Ken Wilber - not really my thing, as you suspected, but thanks for the recommendation.

I love your line "the meaning of our lives is to uncover its meaning for us, and consequently this is an endless process." I think this sums up both the human condition and the only solution to it. We are, in the fashionable phrase, hot-wired to be inquisitive and to find patterns in things, (sometimes we find them when they are not there!) so we are driven to do it, and to believe it is important. The trick is to be able to keep on doing it even when you come to believe it is merely a trick of evolution. It's a bit like Pavlov's dog discovering that that damned bell is a trick, but he can't help responding to it every time, just in case...

Oh, and I've done my contribution to Ruth's investigation - much better than a market survey!