Is it relevant for our lives to know what’s the meaning of everything?

©

Leandro Castelluccio

 

(Image obtained from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/movies/movie-review-linklaters-boyhood-is-a-model-of-cinematic-realism.html)

 

It is a usual question of philosophy: “what is the meaning of life?” or “why are we here?” or “what is our purpose?” Whether such questions are real problems or whether we are able to find an objective response to such issues is not the key point here. Probably knowing about these things can guide our behavior effectively and produce positive results as we know more about the world, but if we are unable to answer the question, if we do not know the meaning of everything, are we unable to live our lives?

There is a scene towards the end of the movie Boyhood (link) with a very eloquent message. When the son asks the father what is the meaning of everything, we could summarize his answer in a: -What do I know? … Does it matter? … We just have to let ourselves go, go with the flow-. This is not the simple answer you see when trying to minimize or ignore the question of a child and treat it as something unimportant, on the contrary, it is an important question, and the answer reflects a wisdom that may be difficult to glimpse, and that is: life is always going its course regardless of what we think of it, regardless of whether we are aware of all its aspects.

In a way, this is an essential part of Taoist thought and Zen Buddhism. And we can exemplify it in a simple way. A multitude of events are happening at every moment without our consciousness, things happen by themselves, without trying, just flowing naturally (as with the Tao). Think of the enormous number of processes linked to us that transcend our consciousness at all times, such as neuronal, physical-chemical and biological processes in general, and then also group or social processes, of which we are not particularly conscious either. All these things are happening, and we do not need to be aware of them to live, in a certain way they are under a veil of darkness or uncertainty. And only recently in the history of humanity have we achieved advance with science of our knowledge of these processes. But the reality is that we do not need to know how to digest food, we do not need to know how to talk, remember or imagine, these things simply happen, and so the life of the organism and people happen, flow, transiting processes of their nature, like any other living organism.

It is in this sense that ignoring the meaning of life does not affect the fact of living it. When we understand this aspect of the Tao, of reality, that things happen simply by the very nature of things, we understand better the previous message of simply going with the flow of life, flowing in it, this can might happen to be more important than finding meaning in life in our daily busy lives.

The message in a certain way would be to let ourselves go, because many processes are unconscious, they simply happen, and consciousness sometimes blocks us and even harms us. And here comes into play many times the depression, certain pessimistic or nihilistic attitudes because of the belief of absence of meaning or when we do not find meaning in our lives. This is a way in which our cognition, our thoughts, or our consciousness play against us. And this is a very broad field. A multitude of religious, social and philosophical movements that are and have been harmful to the lives of people have at their base the ideas in general, the perception of certain things, or things that are considered the truth, that obscure the natural tendencies of human life, instead of letting life take its course naturally, these things are introduced as the sense and guidance to act in the world, resulting in harmful effects they generate. The truth or what is right is usually something very elusive, and it is only after many attempts, reflections, thoughts, and ultimately, after growing in wisdom, that one usually get to certainties.

Many social movements start by raising awareness about aspects of human life, such as work, religion, social relationships, economics, politics, etc., and people start thinking in a certain way, and that affects their behavior and what happens in different spheres of human life, the problem is that such conscious aspects, ideas or perceptions of reality are often wrong, or are very peculiar perspectives that may imply realities and effective consequences for some subjects but not for others. As I said, the human intellect requires a lot of time and wisdom to find the right thing. Many of the current social movements are based on incorrect ideas, by the very nature of our intellect that is not infallible. And these are issues that clash with the natural evolution of our life, which happens on the basis of life itself. This does not mean that harm should be allowed if the vital tendencies of some people are towards destruction and harm to others, because naturally and for the most part we tend towards the protection and care of others and ourselves.

And reality cannot be manipulated against it, so inevitably when we go against the current of life it responds and the negative consequences arise, which in reality could be seen as a process of healing or restoration of balance, yin and yang. When we have a lot of yin, the yang arises with force, and vice versa, when a social movement arises, its opposite appears, when the reality of such movement takes things to a certain point, those negative consequences bring us again new ways of considering life and we return to a better balance. All this is happening in a continuous flow, where nothing remains for a long time. Thus, it could be said that the same totalitarian movements generate their own destruction and give way to freedom and justice, and when freedom is total to the point of anarchism and the absence of laws, movements emerge abdicating greater control over the lives of people. Seen in this way, it is as if reality responds to our favor, always, in favor of balance, balance and the correct path of tnatural flow of life, to the point that it is like a healing process. The negative consequences of certain movements are reality and life trying to return to the balance, because such consequences drive us against such movements.

Many movements are people, absent of wisdom, of abstaining to judge hastily, without opening to other ideas, and without studying and reflecting on the truth for a considerable time, who try to tell us what is right, what we should do, how we should behave, etc., at the same time they tell us that we are exploited by the system, that we are like slaves, or that we are unfair to others. Ideas have a great transforming power, but they should not interrupt the natural evolution of things, they should not interfere with life manifesting itself. When that happens we usually have all those negative consequences. So perhaps more important than knowing the meaning of life is to understand that this may not be so relevant if we do not know it, in such a case it is best to go with the natural flow of life.

Next I leave this link on an interesting talk by Edward Slingerland about the power of spontaneity.

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