Monday, May 09, 2005

What If Everything You "Knew" Changed Overnight?

What if tomorrow morning you woke up and just "knew". You somehow just knew there was no God, no heaven, no hell. What if your purpose on the planet was not defined by any external source other than your own environment, and it was up to you to define your goals in life and your method to reach those goals? In this scenario you would not have forgotten what you used to think or anything like that, or actually maybe it could? Maybe think about both possibilities! Maybe you would simply think differently at that point, or maybe you always thought it. It would not mean an absence of right or wrong either. It would just mean that humans and humans alone would decide what is acceptable behavior in society. Would it upset you? Would you be happier? How might your life be different? How would it affect your priorities in life? How do you think the world would be? What would be better, and what would be worse?

I already live my life with that assumption, though I am far from certain whether my assumptions are true or not. I usually don't give it a second thought, but I wonder how others would handle it.

22 comments:

Two Dogs said...

I would freak because then I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no meaning to life. We are simply a different species of cattle.

If there was no higher place, life would lose its meaning.

soundboyz said...

>f there was no higher place, life would lose its meaning.

:(

Cro said...

It would just mean that humans and humans alone would decide what is acceptable behavior in society

And who, exactly, other than humans is deciding what is acceptable behaviour in society now?

Erik Grow said...

I mean in the "ultimate" sense, Cro. I didn't explain it that clearly, but that's what I meant. Sure, humans decide, but what if humans were in fact, the final arbiters of everything?

Erik Grow said...

I'm getting the impression that life would lose its meaning to those who believe in a higher power right now. (A different species of cattle? Even assuming we are evolved from cattle somehow, aren't we still unique?) The uniqueness of the your own consciousness and thirst for knowledge about the world and beyond is not enough to sustain you spiritually?

nicnerd said...

YOu almost sound gleeful as you write this. Do you really find it liberating to have no purpose to life? What a depressing existence. It sort of defies statistics and probabilities.

Erik Grow said...

No, it is not glee that you are detecting, it is fascination. I'm not putting anyone down. Everyone has their goals. I just find it interesting that many people would be upset if the only goals that they had came from within.

You imply that if we make our own purpose in life that it is like having no purpose. Can people not define their own purpose?

Why would it be a depressing existence? Do I seem depressed to you? I think my life is going pretty well so far.

nicnerd said...

A life absent of spirituality seems very empty to me.

Hector Vex said...

That happened to me, but then I found out it was just Total Recall.

Erik Grow said...

The world is a huge place full of places to explore, people to meet, and knowledge to be gained. It's not the destination for me, it's the journey. Death is just the end of the journey. I don't see the method of the journey affecting the final outcome.

Erik Grow said...

Oh...forgot the point there. Point being, even devoid of *external* sprirituality, I find my life to still be incredibly full and complex!

Knott said...

I think that the "meaning" that some people's spirituality offers is just an illusion. Not that I'm trying to knock other people's illusions, we all need a little something to get us through the long dark night of the soul, but I am a little offended that so many people are trying to make me accept their illusion. Think what you want, but leave me (and everyone else!) out of it.

Devo said...

Hey Erik, interesting post... your description sounds vaguely reminiscent of some kind of mild satori-like experience. That's Buddhist talk for a momentary awakening, or a taste of Enlightenment. It's amazing how closely the Buddhist ethic resembles the type of secular humanism you're talking about. Quite the contrary to what most of the commenters above seem to think, this philosophy has the exact opposite of "no meaning." Furthermore, it is deeply spiritual in the most basic and visceral sense of the word. The only problem is doing the contemplative work necessary to realize and fully incorporate this type of realization into one's life in the most responsible and meaningful way...

Anyway, Erik, if this is truly a philosophy you have come to embrace, and it was truly accompanies by such a profound insight, I urge you to try meditation or some other marginally crunchy practice focused on contemplation. It will significantly expand and lend meaning to that which you've already discovered...

Cheers!

Hector Vex said...

The eat some Organic Zen and you'll be just fine.

Anonymous said...

So erik… you already live your life with this assumption huh? Interesting…..

What if God’s purpose and then meaning behind God’s love, is ultimately for us to tap into that part of ourselves that is Godly? In the sense that we treat others the way we wish to be treated, love our brothers and sisters, etc….. live in the spirit of self improvement, and the betterment of ourselves through living our lives in a clean and pure way…… sounds nice to me.

Erik Grow said...

Knott, you may well be right. It's hard to say. It's whatever makes people happy I guess. People tend to find what works for them, even if everyone else thinks it strange.

Devo, interesting and thoughtful post, thanks. Still absorbing what you said a bit. My wife does yoga, and enjoys it greatly, and I know there is often an aspect of meditation that goes along with it. It may be somewhat Buddhist. I have been called a secular humanist I think before, though it sounds a bit like another name for an anti-religion religion, and that's not really "me" either. My understanding of it is probably incomplete though. As for the meaning part of it, yes, I definitely agree there! I am very perplexed by people saying that my specific meaning is actually a lack of meaning. It's very odd to me that people would see it that way, and that they would so quickly dismiss my prime directives in life as essentially meaningless.

Erik Grow said...

Anonymous, sounds reasonable to me too I suppose, and somewhat utopian, but then there is still this problem of "what is clean and pure" or not, and what is to be done and not done. Hmmm...

Imara said...

Erik, I have often asked that very same question. Still working on the answer...

Steve B said...

Many people consider the religious conversion experience in much the same way as you describe, but in the other direction.

What if you woke up one day, and there WAS this vision of a grand design and purpose?

Erik Grow said...

It's a good question, and I should and will address that in a future post.

Michael said...

Dude, this question rocks. I have asked myself this. I just barely finished asking a similar question: What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and there was no one left on earth? Would you shrivel up and die? Could you find happiness being alone?

As far as finding out there is no creator and no after life, I don't understand why our lives should lose meaning. I like to look at human's relationship with God, the same as a father does to his own child. If I were to die, I would be very sad if my child lost the reason for why he should continue to live. Furthermore, the greatest gift I can give my child is the ability to love themselves. For my child to find something they truly care about and pursue it. To be happy in that pursuit...happy about the means just as much as the end.

It makes me think that God would want his children to be happy and peaceful in this same way. He would want us to have meaning in our lives regardless whether or not he is there.

Wow, it is late, I hope I made sense...

Erik Grow said...

Actually, it did make sense Michael. I actually hadn't considered it a matter of God "dying" or "poofing" or whatever it would be. I was thinking of it more as he never was in the first place. Interesting take on it though, and you could be right.