Natural Enquiry

Natural Enquiry

My question, and this is hypothetical, is if there is any purpose to life, why not take it as far as saying it all has a purpose. Similarly as a wood is something in its own right along with each individual tree…or where do we draw the line for the objective? At the acorn? At the seedling? At the molecular? At the treetop?

Even if we weave our lives’ meaning out of psychological interpretation of experience - extracting sense, being glad about it (with a bit of luck), then getting low and perceiving the same situation as actually rather chaotic and unsatisfying, before seeing the circumstance as part of a bigger picture, more meaningful and somehow more precious, with higher stakes perhaps, and so on and so forth into grandiosity, or triviality, taking the form of a chapter out of a novel from one point of view one day, transforming into a gigantic saga an hour later.

However it thrives or breaks, the story of our existence can’t always make good sense, but it is, arguably, always meaningful. As long as there is a glimmer of awareness, consciousness’ door is open for the business of experience.

Meaning, which is partially abstract from a literary definition, and seems a direct consequence of apprehension, doesn’t necessarily require language. Which means it is always there, as long as there is some perspective.

Well, there is some perspective.

There are many.

There might even be said to be a collective perspective.

And we’re back to the wood! Not that there’s anything wrong with a tree…a tree can be great!! Or can an acorn!!! I wouldn’t go so far as to say a wood is any better than an acorn in terms of meaning. A wood is a collection of trees for a start, but a seed is a biological foundation of each one. Can’t reasonably do away with either seeds or woods as a concept without philosophically bulldozing the whole thing.

As an extrapolation, individuals’ actions, behaviour and viewpoint have equivalent import as those of any other individual or group. Which leads me to suppose, if meaning is derived from experience, which accords to any degree of awareness, life is as meaningful as the perspective taken will allow.

You can’t depart from the conscious agency of your unique physical being, but you can elicit variations on your view of the environment (or your imaginations) so as to draw experience and thus meaning from it; say, with respect to features such as colour, distance, shape, timbre or character of sound or atmosphere. And realistically, we want to get away from meaninglessness. Life devoid of meaning is a depressed state of affairs. Where we find no meaning, we find no value, and in this way absence of meaning can be the source of cynicism and despair.

Which is why practices such as meditation can bring happiness into people’s lives; because it asks them to focus on the immediate environment (sounds, sights, atmosphere), or breathing techniques (alongside a plethora of yogic composure I’m sure), trains them to apprehend sense-data more vividly and effectively, and make a more satisfactory appraisal of their setting in real time, and in a way significant to them personally.

On the hypothesis under examination, I refer to meditation as a technique somewhat related to questions such as: is it not realistic to open up ones mind to a version of the world where there is real meaning and purpose for an individual as well as a multitude? Is that a preferable stance to take? And finally, should you have faith in your belief system, not as a cause or effect of rationality, but on an intuitively equal footing with it?

I am persuaded that some measure of faith belongs where a belief is not known with certainty. Serving different functions, reason and faith are not necessarily inconsistent in real life. They are distinct types of intuition - of a very different character to one another - similarly to analysis and synthesis: analysis is essentially rational and deconstructive, synthesis is empirical and creative; analyse a logical conundrum like a so doku puzzle to find the solution. Synthesise raw materials like rock and wood to build a hammer.

Reason and faith don’t need to compete for good…reasons; reason is to suppose the sun is secure for a good few millennia at the very least. Faith is how we attribute our belief it won’t fizzle out in the next 3 months (given most of us get our proof about this from the experts, who aren’t sure themselves.)

Faith is sometimes posited to account for morality, and there are good arguments for this as well; reason is of the highest importance in ethics, however good reasoning can’t be taken for granted; it has to be grounded in something. The backbone of reason is logic, it won’t proffer any guiding moral principles, because logic can aid the study, but it can’t draw conclusions on ethical matters.

A decision to act in the contingencies of the real world is a transcendence into faith; where, less than ideally it has to be conceded, a little bit of hope is thrown in with the assertion of good judgement.

Rationality, experience and faith combine in moral values and principles. Reason is a tool for navigating the support structure for the belief system constructed through experience. Faith is the grounds.

We can argue till the cows come home about the rationale of chopping up rainforests, but it is logically necessary to maintain basic assumptions (complicated in themselves) which we have enough confidence to believe. Principles I suppose, not necessarily simple, despite being basic, but foundational to the argument. E.g. we need rainforests as part of a natural weather cycle, but still we need fuel and raw materials to support our industries. These factors are relatively uncontested.

We could conceivably be wrong about those basic assumptions. For example if on the one hand; research into how to maintain the health of the atmosphere without rainforests advanced tremendously, or on the other hand; we made satisfactorily fantastic strides in the efficiency and availability of renewable energies. Unlikely, right? Well, they are the extremes of what would be required - a couple of miracles…untenable and not to be banked on.

So the assumptions stand, and the arguments go back and forth in dialectical pursuit of a solution. A thousand printouts of a paper on the excesses of deforestation, especially if left unread and unheeded, would almost seem to be a joke in light of the circumstances…I’m not just having a cheap dig at the irony of bureaucratic gluttony on resources; I’m still trying to be metaphorical about the nature of the question: do we believe each and every thing has a value? From the branches to the roots? Every wood chipper? Every page? If the answer is yes, should we not say it has meaning as a totality?

The answer is in the question to an extent. Do you have confidence in your basic assumptions? - Of course you do.

Does confidence not share something with faith?

I think we have faith in one thing or another whether we like it or not to some small degree; where beliefs are known with less than absolute certainty, a relative amount of faith is needed to carry them forward, not to devalue either faith or reason.

Resolving the conflict of interests between the sides of the debate on environmental conservatism for the benefit of all is achieved by proceeding with comprehensive attention to the reality of the situation. Each individual tree is a substantial constituent of each individual wood; it’s important not to lose sight of the significance of either the wood or the trees, but to take a perspective which finds value and worth in particular things and people, and invariably in the whole lot.

We should take responsibility for the assumptions we have in support of our belief systems, and recognise where our own faith lies…whether it is in religion, science, humanity, nature…all enquiry has to start somewhere - why draw a conclusion on the matter if the truth is less than fully disclosed?





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