Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life Without Meaning Is Empty

Counting with numbers, both in the East and in the West, makes use of the decimal system. A poet writing for the Catholic Times suggests that we started counting this way because  we have five fingers in each hand, for a total of ten.

Why, he asks, do we have five fingers in each hand and five toes in each foot? Not easy to answer, he says. Is it the  natural order of things or did it happen by chance? There are many other series of fives in life. We have the five physical five senses, and in the East the basis of philosophy is the negative-positive of  the five elements that compose all life: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. He asks what is the meaning of these five? Isn't this meaning hidden from us?

Because we have the five senses, we can go out to the whole universe, he says, and the universe can come to us--by way of these five passageways. However, the poet  prefers to use, instead of the word  passageways, the metaphor of a window, five windows of different colors to express the five  senses. 

Each of the senses has it own sphere of interest. How full of splendor the world the organ of vision sees; it dazzles the eyes; the world of sound, how deep and solemn; the world  of smell, and so on... Even though there  are many sense openings to the world, they come together in a harmony of oneness. Trying to  discover the depth  and different facets of the universe, we are captivated by the worlds our senses bring to our awareness. 

We have received our bodily life from the material substance of the universe, and by accommodating and overcoming the difficulties of this environment we continue to have life and live.

The way we see life forms our attitudes. It is obvious that the whole of life is not only what we can see. We can say that material things are necessary for life, but we can't say that material things are  the whole of life. We can say that depth psychology and its revelations about the unconscious has been able to explain much of our actions. But to say it explains all our actions is clearly preposterous. Life is made up of many different and yet harmonious factors that still elude our understanding.

We are faced with accepting this often mysterious life, with all its difficulties--accepting it with meaning or seeing it without meaning, as essentially empty. You are forced, our poet says, to accept one or the other. If one accepts meaning than with time more meaning appears and with more depth; all will then be seen positively and with hope. Even pain itself will make us see life more completely. On the other hand, seeing life without meaning with time all becomes more meaningless. We end up in the grasp of the god of nihilism from whose hold one has difficulty escaping: the variety of its fascination is numberless.

The writer says that he is just over thirty years old and after many ups and downs he has given the  meaningless position  a kick and withdrew from its embrace, joining the side for meaning. Since then his world  has been a zig zagging path but still keeps going toward light and life.

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