The Meaning Of Life

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Geg6_-3jPzI (Sounds Like Life To Me by Darryl Worley)

What is the meaning of life? First we should ask, what is the meaning of meaning in this question. Sometimes, the meaning of something is what it refers to, something beyond itself. The meaning of each of our lives is whatever our individual lives refer to. Reference is a contextual affair, and so it is in life, too. The meaning of our particular acts can be explained by reference to goals and conventions (He did that in order to signal a left-hand turn). But can we similarly explain the meaning of our whole lives? When people ask about the meaning of life, however, they often have in mind just such reference to something beyond them, something outside of their lives. They may even be the most important things in life. In despair people come to the conclusion too quickly that life has no meaning at all. It is worth noting that linguists now insist that meaning must be found within the context of language. A word has meaning not just because of its reference but, more important, because of its sense in the language. The meaning of life is to be found in the context of our lives—the sense they make and the sense we give to them—rather than in reference to anything outside of life. Devotion to God answers the question of the meaning of life insofar as one actually lives for God.

The meaning of life is more of a metaphor that is required, an image, a vision of life in which you can see yourself as having a definite role, a set of reasonable expectations, and—what makes this so important—your vision in many ways determines the life you will lead. The meaning of life is not just a matter of discovery but also an important act of creation. Thus, some philosophers who have had a gloomy or pessimistic temperament have willfully formulated rather cheerful and optimistic philosophies, not to deceive themselves but to change themselves, and some of them have succeeded remarkably well. The images we use to talk about life define the meaning we find, or don’t find, in it.

What is the meaning of life? The question is vague and the answers are not always literal truths that can be defended by argument and reason. The question about the meaning of life is most likely to arise in a time of confusion, when we are depressed or when some incident has upset our values and expectations. Life seems crammed full of meanings—there’s a term paper to write, an oil filter in the car to change, a good party to look forward to, the prospect of an important job interview sometime in the next few weeks. But when we begin to think abstractly, it becomes obvious to us that none of these small goals and expectations could possibly count as the meaning of life. And so we look at bigger things—happiness in general, doing well in life, success, influence, love. But then the ominous message of Ecclesiastes hits home: “All is vanity,” and soon to pass away. A key phrase in the book of Ecclesiastes, “under the sun,” describes the world lived on one level, apart from God and without any belief in the afterlife. If you live on that level, you may well conclude that life is meaningless. Ecclesiastes gives some words of hope, including the final summary: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). That’s the positive message, the “lesson” of Ecclesiastes. But such positive words are almost overwhelmed by the author’s powerful negative example. You could summarize his whole life in Jesus’ one statement, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Jules Renald once said, “As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to love it more and more.”

Life is what you make out of it. It is a matter of discovery and an act of creation. Life is a learning experience that contains adventures, blessings, and sufferings. Life is full of goals to make and accomplish, expectations to meet. Life is a maze because it can be confusing and fun at the same time. Life may seem like a puzzle, however, as a Christian, I know the picture is suppose to look like a world-wide community of people living in harmony. It is obvious that we live not just moment to moment or for some single great goal, but rather we follow a rather detailed script, a story, a narrative, which to at least some extent we make up as we go along. Our families, culture, and circumstances provide the outlines and our roles. Our plots continue to unfold day by day as we continue developing our characters and personalities through various events throughout our life. We often find ourselves making decisions about our lives using the standards we also use in evaluating literature or a movie: Is it interesting? Is it boring? Does it have enough suspense? Is it in good taste? Is it well timed? Is it carried out dramatically—or overdramatically, “overacted”? Is this action in line with the character of the hero? It is not the end goal or outcome of life that gives life meaning but the quality of the story, the quality with which one lives out and develops his or her role or roles.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k4ujBGRGf8 (Life’s A Dance by John Michael Montgomery)

If life is a game, it is not to be taken so seriously. The significance of the game lies in the playing itself. Some people see games as fiercely competitive, a contest in which you win or lose. It is important to ask what kind of game this life is. Some games are played for fun alone, others are played to prove superiority, others to kill time; some are distinctively social while others are intentionally anxiety producing. Some are aimed at hurting the opponent and some are aimed at helping others. To think of life as a game is to put it in a certain perspective, in order not to take it too seriously, in order to emphasize the importance of obeying the rules and, perhaps, the centrality of being a “good sport,” enjoying oneself, and, if possible, winning.

If life is a tragedy, then it is a serious and unhappy process, punctuated by pleasures, perhaps, but ultimately an inevitable progression of a tragic plot that can have only one end. To live well in this view means to play one’s tragic role well—to bear it heroically, perhaps making some grand soliloquies along the way. Laughter is too often ignored as an essential ingredient in life, perhaps even as the essential ingredient in the good life. The sixteenth-century Dutch philosopher, Erasmus, called for a celebration of human foolishness and Nietzsche taught that we should not be so serious, but instead enjoy laughter and enthusiasm. Absurdity in a humorous sense is found in a story of ambition and frustration, desire and disappointment. Tragedy and comedy can be combined in irony of the meaning of life. In the movie, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, the old man played by Walter Huston, has lost everything, but he breaks out in uproarious laughter and encourages the others to do the same. It provides the only possible “happy ending” to a story of greed, disappointment, and death. It is hard to deny that all of us could use a little more humor, not so much in our lives (television provides more than enough of that) but about our lives, in the way we see our own faults and weaknesses.

The meaning of life as Art was urged by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as he stated, “Live your life as a work of art.” He did not have a story in mind but more an art like sculpture, in which one lives by creating a shape for oneself, “building character,” developing what we call “style.” The German philosopher Friedrich Von Schelling saw the whole of life as God’s work of art. We are in effect God’s apprentices. The ideal of this view is appropriately to live beautifully or, if that is not possible, to live at least with style, “with class” we might say. From this view, life is to be evaluated as an artwork—as moving, inspiring, well designed, dramatic, or colorful, or as clumsy, uninspired and uninspiring, or easily forgettable. Life as a story, life as art—these are inspiring images, but the virtues of life then become the virtues of literature or sculpture: their shape and timing, their appeal to onlookers. There is also the thrill of living “to the fullest,” taking chances, enjoying challenge and the rush of adrenaline, seeing life as an adventure provides that sense of skill and uncertainty. But for those who see life this way, there may be no other way to live because everything else is boring and tedious. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths—a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistance to life…Even Socrates was tired of it. A common image is the view of life as a learning experience because it is satisfying for its own sake. Some people feel compelled to experience as much as possible, to try everything at least once, just in order to know what it is like. For them, living life to the fullest means doing everything. But notice that the same expression means something very different from other viewpoints: the person who sees life as a mission lives life to the fullest by taking every opportunity to carry out his or her mission and the person who sees life as tragedy takes that phrase to mean to suffer dramatically. A popular metaphor today is that life is a growth experience and that living is a matter of developing your human potential.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAmaBsnSIM (Life Is Good by Jacob Young)

Life viewed as tragedy has a sense of grandeur about it; life viewed as a disease is rather pathetic. Sigmund Freud, for example, said that “the goal of all life is death,” a view that has been around since ancient times. Norman O. Brown wrote that “man is a disease,” and in the early 1980s, a large number of books were published describing the “disease” of modern life, of Western civilization, of capitalism, and so on. But to be “sick” presupposes some sense of what it is to be well, and the all-important question for anyone who uses this metaphor is: what would count as a healthy life? Immortality? A life of antlike social productivity? A life of unblemished happiness? From a Christian perspective, there is truth within the disease metaphor as we are born into this world in sin. In spite of our natural life being a “disease” of sorts, we can have Joy through Jesus Christ, to live our lives in love that was first given to us from God that we have the ability to return love to God and for God to others as ourselves.

Because we live in a society in which business plays such a major role, it is natural that we should sometimes think of life as business. To think of life this way is to think of the years of our lives as so much capital, which we invest in various enterprises—a career, a particular school, marriage, and children—to get a certain return. What it is that is returned is never all that clear. The actual money a person earns in life and the estate he or she accumulates as a test of success. A moment’s reflection, however is measured by what one has at the end, there is a very real question about how this, rather than the activity of living itself, is the meaning of life. We are born into this world with nothing and we shall leave this world with nothing. In 1 Timothy 6:9, we read, “Those who are eager to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into numerous thoughtless and hurtful cravings that plunge people into destruction and ruin.”

We can have this vision of Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain only to have it fall back again and look at life as just one repetition after another, ultimately adding up to nothing. We spend half our lives in school, working hard to get into the career we dreamed of, and then when the time comes around to just enjoy life, we find that we are too old to enjoy it. Camus thought that Sisyphus’s life was meaningful, despite the absurdity of his task, because he reacted to his frustration with a kind of defiance. The view of life as desire is often coupled with the Sisyphus myth of life as constant frustration. The Greek allegory in this case is Tantalus (from whose name we get the word tantalizing), who was condemned by the gods to be tied just out of reach of a bunch of grapes; he spent all eternity reaching for the fruit, but he never managed to get any. Our desires are ultimately irrational and pointless.

The answer that Arthur Schopenhauer proposes is detachment through either aesthetic contemplation or ascetic self-denial. Stoicism teaches that most of our passions are irrational and are best ignored through the detached wisdom of reason. The modern version of this story is Faust, who lived for his desires; when one was satisfied, another immediately replaced it. The image of life is that of continuous wanting, one thing after another, with no end in sight and it becomes the focus of life. This is a life of desire after desire, in which nothing is ever ultimately satisfying. It is desire, as well as the satisfaction of desire, that gives life meaning. Not to desire, on the other hand, is to be already dead. The opposite view of life as desire is life as not desiring, the overcoming of desire. Freud called this the “constancy principle” in his early psychoanalytic works, the “nirvana principle” later on. In his view, the goal of life is to attain as restful a state as possible, without tension or desire. The word nirvana comes from Buddhism and means “extinguish” in Sanskrit; the goal of Buddhism is to loosen the hold of our desires and reach a state of tranquility in which nothing bothers us. In Western philosophy, the sense of peace is sometimes promoted as the goal of philosophical activity or contemplation (unperturbed learning and thinking). We find in Romans 5:1-5, “Since then, we have been pronounced righteous through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we also obtain through faith entrance to this grace in which we stand firm, and rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not this alone, but we glory in afflictions as well; for we know that affliction produces patience, and patience develops in a tried character, and character begets hope, such hope as does not disappoint; for God’s love is poured out into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

There is the concept of seeing life as a mission, that is, to live by an example. Christianity has often taught that life is a mission, the mission being to get others into a whole new identity in Christ. Altruism is acting for the benefit of others, even if there is no benefit whatsoever to oneself. Some people see themselves as being here on earth to help others less fortunate than they are. This is a view that contains a definite sense of mission, as well as quite clear-cut views of success and failure and of what ought to be done. For some people, life as altruism is a one-way enterprise; they help others in order to give their own lives meaning, but they expect nothing in return. Life as honor is a concept that has changed over time, but for the Greeks in Homer’s Iliad, for instance, life was essentially a matter of living up to the expectations of your community, of proving yourself in battle, and of not disgracing yourself in any way. We have a sense of duty, and many people would say that, whatever else, the meaning of life is doing your duty—to God, country, family, friends, and employer.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pimVLk15iqQ (What If I Give All by Ray Boltz)

It has been obvious to many people that the most important thing in their lives, and what give their lives meaning, is human relationship. The proof of this is found with the popularity of such websites of online networks such as Myspace and Facebook. Thus, people say that what really counts in life is friendship or the most important thing in life is love. Indeed, much of our language about “relationships” presents us with this unflattering picture of two lonely souls trying to “get through” to one another, trying to “communicate” or “break down the barriers.” But then, on the other hand, there is a much more inspiring picture of all of us already connected. In this view, it is the distance between us, not intimacy, that is the aberration. The meaning of our lives is our network of relations with other people; ideally, the meaning of life is love. 1 John 2:15-17 indicates, “Neither love the world nor the things in the world. Whoever loves the world has not the Father’s love in his heart, because everything in the world, the passions of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the proud display of life have their origin not from the Father but from the world. And the world with its lust passes away but he who does the will of God remains for ever.” In Luke 10:25-28 we read, “Now a certain teacher of the Law got up to put Him to a thorough test. He asked, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus asked him, ‘what is written in the law? How do you read it?’ The teacher of the Law answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole strength and your whole mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus told him, ‘you have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3ORbjT8UO4 (Let Us Love by Needtobreathe)

Philosophy

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I recently finished a philosophy course and my goal for the next few journal entries is to carefully dissect the concepts of philosophy and integrate them into the Christian faith. There is a strong possibility that I may repeat certain ideas in different entries, but that is only to emphasize the points that I am making. This first entry gives a general overview of what philosophy is about and includes excerpts from the book, The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins.

In his Meditations, Rene Descartes declared, “It is now some years since I detected how many were the false beliefs that I had believed to be true since my earliest youth. And since that time, I have been convinced that I must once and for all seriously try to rid myself of all the opinions which I had formerly accepted, and begin to build anew, if I wanted to establish any firm and permanent structure for my beliefs.” Socrates once said that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates based his philosophy on the need to “know yourself” and on living the “examined life,” even though the height of wisdom, according to Socrates, was to know how thoroughly ignorant we are. He was condemned to death, refused all opportunities to escape or have his sentence repealed, and accepted the cruel and unfair verdict with complete dignity and several brilliant speeches, dying as well as living for the ideas he defended.

We read in Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Wisdom is a practical and down to earth lifelong quest. It teaches us how to live by combining understanding with discipline with a healthy dose of good common sense that has never been common. How do you become a wise person? You must first begin to listen. Wisdom is freely available to those who will stop talking and start paying attention to God and His Word, to parents, to wise counselors. Anybody can become wise according to the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is not reserved for the intellectual elite, however, becoming wise requires self-discipline to study and humbly seek wisdom at every opportunity.

Wilhelm Frierich Hegel and his students felt confident, even cheerful. Why? Because they had a philosophy. They had a vision of themselves and the future that allowed them to face the loss of their jobs, even the destruction of their society and the considerable chaos that would follow. Their ideas inspired them and made even the most threatening circumstances meaningful. The word “dull” seemed to summarize the world; others spoke of “crisis” and “despair.” One said that life was “absurd” and another that it was “meaningless.” When asked why, they answered that gasoline was expensive, that most of them weren’t getting the job interviews they really wanted, and that television programs were bad. If so many of us can get so melodramatic about computers, television, and the Internet, how would we react to a real change in our lives? In the book of Job 28, in the midst of one of his most beautiful speeches, Job included a self-contained poem on wisdom. It uses the analogy of mining precious metals to make the point that wisdom cannot be found by any amount of search. God alone knows where it dwells. In the rest of the poem, Job admitted some things were beyond his understanding, and then lapsed into a reminiscence of what life was like before his time of trials.

Ideas give life meaning. Our minds need ideas the way our bodies need food. We are starved for visions, hungry for understanding. We are caught up in the routines of life; distracted occasionally by those activities we call “recreation” and “entertainment.” What we as a nation have lost is the joy of thinking, the challenge of understanding, and the inspirations as well as the consolations of philosophy. We recite ideas that are two hundred, in some cases two thousand, years old without any attempt to understand them, without any awareness that many men and women have lived and died for them, or to work them into our vision of the world. But these ideas are philosophy. Philosophy is simply thinking hard about life, about what we have learned, about our place in the world. Philosophy is, literally, the love of wisdom. But thousands of students, not trained in hard thinking but starved for ideas and understanding, will retreat to the easier alternatives—pop philosophies of self-help, exotic religious practices, extreme politics…if the hard thinking of philosophy does not address the big questions, then perhaps these easier alternatives will. The difference between philosophy and the popular alternatives is ultimately one of quality—the quality of ideas, the thoroughness of understanding. Because we all live by our ideas anyway, the choice becomes not whether to do philosophy or not do philosophy, but whether to accept a cheap and unchallenging substitute or to try the real thing.

The desire to lead a philosophical life springs from the darkness in which the individual finds himself, from his sense of forlornness when he stares without love into the void, from his self-forgetfulness when he feels that he is being consumed by the busy-ness of the world, when he suddenly wakes up in terror and asks himself: What am I, what am I failing to do, what should I do? That self-forgetfulness has been aggravated by the machine age. With its time clocks, its jobs, whether absorbing or purely mechanical, which less and less fulfill man as man, it may even lead man to feel that he is part of the machine, interchangeably shunted in here and there, and when left free, to feel that he is nothing and can do nothing with himself. And just as he begins to recover himself, the colossus of this world draws him back again into the all-consuming machinery of empty labor and empty leisure. But man as such inclines to self-forgetfulness. He must snatch himself out of it if he is not to lose himself to the world, to habits, to thoughtless banalities, to the beaten track.

Philosophy is reflection. It is stepping back, listening to yourself and other people (including the great philosophers), and trying to understand and evaluate what it is that you hear, and what it is that you believe. Articulation—spelling out our ideas in words and sentences—is the primary process of philosophy. Arguments serve the purpose of testing our views; they are to philosophy what practice games are to sports—ways of seeing just how well you are prepared, how skilled you are, and, in philosophy, just how convincing your views really are. It is by doing philosophy, articulating and arguing your views, instead of just reading about other people’s philosophy books, that you make your own views genuinely your own, that is, by working with them, stating them publicly, defending them, and committing yourself to them. That is how the philosophies of the past become important to us and how our own half-baked, inarticulate, often borrowed, and typically undigested ideas start to become something more. Philosophy, through reflection and by means of articulation and argument, allows us to analyze and critically examine our ideas, and to synthesize our vision of ourselves and the world, to put the pieces together in a single, unified, defensible vision. Such a synthesis is the ultimate aim of philosophical reflection, and scattered ideas and arguments are no more philosophy than a handful of unconnected words are a poem.

Philosophy is the attempt to state clearly, and as convincingly and interestingly as possible, your own views. That is doing philosophy, not just reading about how someone else has done it. To do philosophy, to state what you believe, using the great philosophers and the great ideas of the past as inspiration, as a guide to ways of putting together your own views, and to provoke the present alternatives that you may not have thought of on your own. To force you to think through your ideas, connect them, confront alternative views, and understand what you prefer and why you prefer it. This kind of integrative critical thinking—putting it all together—is essential to what you will be doing all through your life; keeping your priorities straight, knowing who you are and what you believe. Our ideas are inevitably more complex than we originally think they are. It is the effort to appreciate the differences between one’s own views and other’s views, to be able to argue with someone who disagrees and resolve the difficulties that they may throw in your path. Indeed, a belief that can’t be tied in with a great many other beliefs and that can’t withstand criticism may not be worth believing at all. Socrates used to say that his truest friends were also his best critics. Indeed, we would distrust a friend who was never critical and never argued. Criticism does not necessarily mean negative remarks about someone or something; it means carefully examining a statement, testing it out, seeing if in fact the arguments for it are good ones. It is important to find out what is wrong with them so that they can be corrected or strengthened. “No one knows anything for certain,” a familiar response might be to hold up your hand, stick out your thumb, and say, “here is a thumb: I know that for certain.”

In the book, War and Peace, a Freemason pointed out to Pierre the following: “The highest wisdom and truth is like the purest dew, which we try to hold within us. Can I hold in an impure vessel that pure dew and judge of its purity? Only by the inner purification of myself can I bring that dew contained within me to some degree of purity. The highest wisdom is founded not on reason only, not on those worldly sciences, of physics, history, chemistry, etc., into which knowledge of the intellect is divided. The highest wisdom is one. The highest wisdom knows but one science—the science of the whole, the science that explains the whole creation and the place of man in it. To instill this science into one’s soul, it is needful to purify and renew one’s inner man, and so, before one can know, one must believe and be made perfect. And for the attainment of these aims there has been put into our souls the light of God, called the conscience. Look with the spiritual eye into thy inner man, and ask of thyself whether thou art content with thyself. What hast thou attained with the guidance of the intellect alone? What art thou? You are young, you are wealthy, you are cultured, sir. What have you made of all the blessings vouchsafed you? Are you satisfied with yourself and your life? Thou hatest it; then change it, purify thyself, and as thou art purified, thou wilt come to know wisdom. Look at your life, sir. How have you been spending it? In riotous orgies and debauchery, taking everything from society and giving nothing in return. You have received wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor?”

The Simpsons on Philosophy and Christianity

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What astonished me was reading The Simpson’s and Philosophy, and learned that even one of the most popular television shows sheds light on the ways of life when we pay close attention and analyze the episodes. It is true that because the Simpson’s are meant for entertainment purposes, the writers put the extreme views in the characters. Here is a corresponding excerpt from the book:

“Though familiar to most, the commonplace quality of The Simpson’s’ characters and setting may lead some to conclude that the show has little to offer educationally speaking. People may question whether important truths could issue from such a pedestrian context. Of course, if truths cannot be ordinary, then The Simpson’s might not offer much. However, it seems that oftentimes it is the ordinary truths that elude us. In Being and Time (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), German philosopher Martin Heidegger demonstrates that what is the most immediate is not always the best understood. Heidegger reveals that we are often the most confused about what is closest to us, including who and how we are. Though it exaggerates things in order to achieve its satirous effect, The Simpson’s isn’t far off the mark in its rendering of contemporary life. Arguably, the effect of satire cannot be accomplished without such accuracy. People must recognize what is being satirized in order for the effect to be achieved.”

In the book, The Simpson’s and Philosophy, the authors compare all of the main characters to different philosophers as well as different ways of viewing life through the various episodes that the Simpson’s have produced. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who has any interest in philosophy whatsoever, as well as to all of the Simpson’s fans. The following is another excerpt taken from the book that describes a materialistic person to the extreme:

“Mr. Burns has three problems that stand in the way of his happiness which are an integral part of understanding his psyche. First, he is a creature of gross excess. Everything about him is big: his house, his fortune, his power (and abuse of that power), and his ambition. As Springfield’s richest man, he is “free to wallow in his own crapulence,” as Mr. Burns gleefully admits. Although there is a rich tradition in philosophy that condemns such excess and advocates a life of moderation, surely the reader does not need the philosophic canon to see that none of Mr. Burns’s excesses bring him much happiness. Despite being surrounded by people, he is alone. Despite his vast wealth, he wants ever more. Second, because he sees everything in abstract terms, because he sees everything as a symbol of something else, he attaches unnecessary importance to everything around him and does not enjoy things for what they are. In “Team Homer,” winning a worthless bowling trophy is much more important to him than the sweet, albeit momentary, pleasure of a group of jocular friends enjoying a game, bonding as a team, and drinking Duff Beer. Instead, winning the trophy becomes a singular achievement, and the problem with this approach is that when everything matters, nothing gets a chance to really matter. Mr. Burns sees everything in a symbolic fashion. He sees everything in an important symbolic way. As such, everything has the same level of importance, and so in the end everything bores him. But this problem is common. We are all guilty, to a greater or lesser extent, of attaching ridiculous importance to the events in our own lives. It is often amazing to become aware of the unimportant things about which we become angry or glad, and equally amazing to recognize the truly important things to which we are indifferent. But Burns’s problems are parasitic upon a third, more fundamental problem. This problem is the symbolism that he attaches to everything; the result is that the original thing that is symbolized ceases to exist, at least in any pleasurable way. Unfortunately for Mr. Burns, it is the original thing that he truly needs for happiness. In an affluent modern society, man has more ‘things’ than ever. We are encouraged to mentally alienate ourselves from reality. We are being taught to see things as symbols and are being trained to use them for effect, and never for themselves. It is Mr. Burns’s exclusive use of symbolism that, in the end, fails him in his quest for happiness. There is a widely held conception of happiness that explains happiness has two components. The first is the occurrence of a certain set of emotions experienced during, following, or in anticipation of a markedly favorable set of circumstances. The second is dispositional; in order to be happy it is necessary that one like, or be satisfied with, those parts of one’s total life pattern and circumstances that one thinks are important, without which one would be substantially different. But of course we all know that Mr. Burns wishes that his life were substantially different. He is permanently in search of a new life for himself, whether it be as an athlete, a governor, an innocent child, or whatever. Whenever Burns has an idea to improve his life, it is always to become something; or, more accurately, to become a certain type of thing. Nothing is enjoyable or funny or desirable to him unless it can be seen as standing for or representing something else, something bigger and more important. The speculation that Mr. Burns’s representationalism is the product of Satan’s attempt to cut him off from his humanity.”

Mr. Burns clearly represents everybody’s natural sin-filled life. Time after time, we get caught up always looking out for ourselves and not anyone else. Is there any wonder why we too can be surrounded by others and yet feel alone? Whether you believe this or not, God has made us to be together. The book of Acts describes the first Church where everyone’s need was met by one another. When I talk about need, I mean the bare necessities of life, which are clothing, food, shelter, and education. Everything else would go under the want category. In America, we take everything for granted; we get to choose the size of our house, the type of transportation, the latest fashion designs, electronics, and tremendous amounts of different types of groceries. When we take everything for granted, we miss out on what really is important in our lives. I have gotten private comments that inform me that I have a tendency to be “too religious” in my entries. I believe that the main problem of having people giving that type of opinion is the culture we live in, which I will be discussing more about in the near future. For right now, let me finish this Simpson’s journal entry with one final excerpt from the book and my response:

“The culture we live in today, especially the media, portrays Christians as people having “blind faith.” Ned Flanders from The Simpson’s is an excellent example of being a Christian to the extreme. Ned seems to be what philosophers call a divine command theorist, since he thinks that morality is a simple function of God’s divine command; to him, “morally right” means simply “commanded by God,” and “morally wrong” means simply “forbidden by God.” Consequently, Ned consults with Reverend Lovejoy or prays directly to God Himself to resolve the moral dilemmas he faces. Thus, Ned apparently believes he can find solutions to his moral problems not by thinking for himself, but by consulting the appropriate divine command. His faith is as blind as it is complete, and he floats through life on a moral cruise control, with his ethical dilemmas effectively pre-resolved.”

I can only pray that I will have the kind of faith Ned Flanders’ has. God has given us many gifts, and among those are His Spirit, His Words, and our brains. God has given our brains to think and make choices on our own, that is what free will is all about. The Reverends, Pastors, and just about any elder from the Church are there to help people grow stronger in faith. Every dilemma we face, have already been faced, and the only way we will feel alone in our struggles is if we choose to be alone. The Bible was written and the Spirit given to guide us on this journey of life. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ had gone through everything imaginable, so that when we go through hard times, He is there to carry us through. There are also people of the Church to reassure us that in the darkest times in life, there is the light of love to keep us going.

Philosophy, Truth, Friendship

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Over the past month, I have been studying philosophy, and to my surprise, I have grown stronger in the Christian faith.  The whole idea in philosophy is to question everything in search of truth in order to gain wisdom and understanding.  In secular philosophy, the concept of there being a “god,” let alone the one true God, of the Holy Trinity, is preposterous at best.  Since philosophy is a form of science, Alan Lightman describes, “science aims for an impersonal and objective truth, but the search for that truth is a human activity.”  The problem with this view on science is that the very essence of truth is not impersonal or objective, but rather, the complete opposite.  In John 8:31-32, we read, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  What is this teaching that makes disciples?  2 John 6 explains this, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”  I can understand the reader picturing a 1970’s scene with everyone walking around with flowers and having rainbows everywhere.  That is not the case I am making at all. 

Time and time again, I see the advice being giving to someone who is having a hard time that “one needs to look out for oneself and disregard everyone else.”  Aristotle emphasized the importance of friendship due to his beliefs that without friends we cannot exercise virtue and that without friends we cannot lead full, flourishing lives.  The following are statements made by Albert Einstein from the book Ideas And Opinions that correctly contradicts such advice:

 “I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves—this ethical basis I call the ideal of an unattractive place. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time, have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.  Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed to me empty.  The trite objects of human efforts—possessions, outward success, luxury, have always seemed to me disgraceful…  The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self…  The individual, if left alone from birth, would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive.  The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human community, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.” A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed toward promoting the good of his fellows…  Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution that we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges that are characteristic of the human species.  In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution that he adopts from society through communication, and through many other types of influences.  It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society.  Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization that predominate in society.  It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes:  human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate…  The best in man can only flourish when he loses himself in a community.  Hence the moral danger of the person who has lost touch with his own people and is regarded as a foreigner by the people of his acceptance.  Only too often a contemptible and joyless egoism has resulted from such circumstances…  For human community life cannot long endure on a basis of crude force, brutality, terror, and hate.  Only understanding for our neighbors, justice in our dealings, and willingness to help our fellow men can give human society permanence and assure security for the individual.”