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January 23, 2005

Promises in the Mist

I've always considered myself fortunate to have an innate curiosity about science, computers, religion, philosophy, culture, and politics. It's a pleasure to read different perspectives on the source of wisdom and the foundations of truth. My first seven summers between teaching were spent intensely reading Plato, Gould, Goethe, Kant, Augustine, Hawkings, Homer, and many others. I've listened to others speak about what's important to them and why, and I've tried to keep an open mind to what is Truth, what is Real, and what is Possible.

But now, at the other end of a long time spent searching for the above, I find myself disappointed. You see, there always seemed to me to be a promise made to anyone participating in the "Great Conversation" that there was a sort of destination awaiting anyone willing to spend the time and effort reading the difficult stuff. One day, you wake up and feel enlightened; you've arrived and congratulations, here's the secrets to it all. Here's Meaning, Purpose, and Morality. Use it for good and not evil.

I think, though, that I can only honestly say that the more one reads, the less one understands. To think about the human condition enough and maintain intellectual integrity is to whittle down the options to futility and nihilism. Not a despairing, kill yourself type meaninglessness, but an accepting, let's-all-laugh-or-we're-gonna-cry type existence, an acceptance of the impossibility of knowing anything for certain except what wells from within. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Frost's Fire and Ice, and Sartre's Nausea have risen in importance for me as I've aged, but even they are vindication, not direction.

I remember seeing a sig line on Slashdot that said: "There are no paths out here; there are no trees." That sums up nicely how I feel. I should have seen it coming when reading Job's or Faust's or Hamlet's words, but I guess I didn't want to admit that, when you glimpse behind the scenery of life, there's only scaffolding and rigging. Just keep reading. Nothing to see here.

Move along.

Oh, and Molly's got some long overdue pics available!

Posted by tat at January 23, 2005 07:17 PM

hey man, keep in mind, it's not the destination, it's the journey...


Posted by: hareball at January 24, 2005 07:52 PM

I thought long and hard on a way to respond without sounding like a right wing nut... but I don’t think that it can be done. So I’ll just voice my opinion:

Often times, when people, in general, question these concepts and the realization that there is no end in sight to the road they travel, they find the peace of mind in faith based endeavors. Whether the faith is in a “God” or a doorknob, the belief that at the end of this journey, they will find a heavenly Nirvana of goodness and virgins, with streets paved with gold, and then come back as a higher life-form. (Trying to include most popular religions here.)

Now, I am not saying that the faith based beliefs are the ONLY way to go. But, going on experience here, I do find that it helps the days pass a little easier. Plus, I don’t feel that my intellectual integrity has been diminished by these beliefs, nor do I feel that those who do not subscribe to these beliefs are intellectually jaded. If anything, I find that those without said faith based systems of morality are more open minded and accepting,then those without.

But, I guess what I am trying to say is this, as the days go by and you wonder “Where does this all go? Where is the “Great Enlightenment” that permeates my being allowing me understand the great mysteries of life?”, if a person who has faith, probably wonders it a lot less... thereby freeing their mind to think on greater thing: i.e. Remembering the combo for Hyper-Speed in UT2K4.

Posted by: Jason Alam at January 26, 2005 10:36 AM