How does one orient themselves in the world? This is one of the great questions of our time.
If you’re born into a western country, like myself, you’re all the more likely to have been raised, even if nominally religious, from a secular worldview. This is to say that data and evidence trumps all else, that rationale and science are the new gods. You’re likely to look back at our religious ancestors with contempt, viewing them as “superstitious, uneducated fools” or something of the sort.
This, in my estimation, is low resolution thinking – too simple of an opinion. For we must ask, what have we replaced these value systems and beliefs with? What does one say to the man whose family has died in a horrible accident, and two months later is laid off from his job? Why must he go on? Or, if we take a step into an even darker realm, why must he not take his vengeance on the world? I’d love to know the answer.
However, all one must do is look around to see nihilism, in all of its most grotesque forms, knocking on the door. Nihilism for many is the direct alternative to a concise belief system. Not a very good trade off if you ask me. Tradition has its place, and certainly has its worth. Nihilism fails to have many positives at all.
Another question to ponder, is – are we arrogant enough to think that we, the individual, have all of the information and wisdom required to correctly orient ourselves in the world? That we are so much more enlightened and clever than our forebears by proxy of being born into a time where we have all this information at our finger tips? Or, are we merely memes of our culture, following whatever common cultural theme seems to take the steering wheel at any given time? It doesn’t take much thinking to see how badly this idea can go. Ask the Germans and the Russians.
This can go very wrong, very quickly. Take away the foundations that structure our value systems and culture at our peril. For, what’s to say that what comes along in its place isn’t something so malevolent that we can’t even conceptualise it yet?
We in the west should be looking very deeply at the ancient wisdom with a careful eye, trying to siphon out the carefully constructed value systems and narratives that have been passed down for millennia. Yet, it seems to me as if science in most peoples eyes has the answers to all of our questions. Or, even worse, as if ones on subjective morality and values are superior to all of the wisdom passed down for generations. What do we as a society do when the person who fights their way to the top, assuming some position of power, then punches down his or her own versions of morality or values if we do not have a mutually agreed upon framework? This is more than dangerous.
These ideas, again, are too simple. Science is wed to proving what is “real” or not, based on the scientific method. Yet we must ask, what do we mean by “real”? Most refer to matter, or things we can understand with as little doubt as possible, when contemplating what is real or not. Yet, it would be hard to argue that ideas aren’t real, that thoughts and values aren’t real. How do you measure love, for example? And if you can’t measure it, does it make it any less real than a tree or a loaf of bread? I think not. I would argue love is even more real.
I mean, you may use some reductionist concept such as neural chemistry to explain away the feeling one gets when they look at their newborn or when they experience that heart warming first love. However, I don’t buy it. Does this not again merely highlight how vapid the modern conceptualisation of the world is? That some choose to reduce the world into matter, chemistry and things.
Love is one of most beautiful, uniting emotions that we humans experience. Yet its not merely that. Love is also an ideal, a concept to be embodied. Love thy neighbour, love thy enemy. These are not trivial concepts to be baulked at and dismissed. These are uniting principles that have glued our societies together, and if we choose to carelessly toss them away, could be forever gone and replaced with something much worse.
The idea that the average man has the divine in him is profound, almost unfathomably so. This has taken the proletariat, the common person, and given him the same worth as a king. No longer can a king just behead a man for fun, or because he has slighted him in some trivial way. Where did this come from? Certain books. Certain values and beliefs that have been integrated into the fabric of our cultures and societies.
I do not know where mankind is headed, nor do I have the answers to many of my own questions. What I do know is we have a meaning crisis. And to dispense with systems that have held meaning for people for thousands of years without deeply thinking about the downstream consequences is foolish, or worse, potentially completely negligent toward the well-being of our future generations. We must think better.
If you have an opinion on this topic, please feel free to comment below. Oh, and please share, like and subscribe if you don’t hate animals.
Until next time.
M L Wood ❤