Monday, 13 February 2017

Is suffering incompatible with a higher purpose?

If it's considered that suffering is incompatible with some higher purpose to our existence, then what would the world have to be like so that it is compatible with some higher purpose? Perhaps if no one ever experienced any pain; not just physical but mental pain too? And no one ever experienced misery, least of all depression? Indeed, that our lives are in a constant state of maximum happiness?

And what would such happiness consist in? Pleasures? Or the feeling like you had as a child when you woke up on a Christmas day morning? Or if you were in a permanent state of a certain type of intellectual satisfaction?

Obviously that's silly. But perhaps people mean there's too much suffering -- not that we shouldn't have any suffering at all. But how do we work out how much suffering would be compatible with some higher purpose?

I think arguably suffering, pain, anguish, despair, loss of a loved one etc, could conceivably be held to be compatible with some higher purpose. For much of history, mankind lived a life full of dangers with the constant threat of death, and suffering, and loss. Close brushes with death from predators with the consequent comradeship and camaraderie when others save your life, and you theirs. The collective outpouring of emotions, the bitter and sweet taste of life in the raw.

In the modern west we are cosseted from all the harsh elements of life. I'll probably die an old man rather than get eaten by a predator. But perhaps, safe and rich as we are, the modern western way of life loses something. It loses the sheer rapture of being alive. If we never experience any dangers, then the sheer thrill of having overcome dangers is also lacking.

So it's not clear to me that suffering is necessarily incompatible with some higher purpose. The problem here is we don't know what the purpose of life is! Hence I think it's impossible to answer such a question.

Maybe it is, but until we know what the purpose of life is, why we are here, how can we say what the nature of our lives should be like?


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Feel the rapture of being alive!

Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth said:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Our modern world is not ideal for experiencing the rapture of being alive -- indeed the precise opposite. I reckon that's why so many people get depressed. Instead, life has to be an adventure. Like it might well have been in the stone age. A journey with ongoing meaningful experiences. Close brushes with death with the consequent comradeship and camaraderie when others save your life, and you theirs. The collective outpouring of emotions, the bitter and sweet taste of life in the raw.  All this with the implicit feeling that death is just another journey and all will come right in the end.

Of course what
Joseph Campbell articulating here is how we get satisfaction and fulfilment in life. Which is a different question to what the meaning of life is, as in the sense of what is the purpose or ultimate goal of existence is.  See a blog entry by me here.  Having said that, I do agree that perhaps most people, when lamenting about what the meaning of life might be, are motivated by a dissatisfaction with their own lives that they undoubtedly would not express if they felt the rapture of being alive.