[Note: Today is the five year anniversary of my brother's death. In the photo above, I am pictured at the top left, he is pictured on the bottom right, and our youngest brother is pictured on the bottom left. Requiescat in pace, Jeremy.]
As difficult as it may be for us to admit to ourselves- though perhaps not quite so difficult for us to understand-, our greatest happiness is almost always rooted in our greatest suffering. In order to grow strong enough for this realization, however, we must first adopt a kind of faith in the interconnectivity of all things, and in the meaning that is represented by that very interconnectivity. This may be the very foundation of human spirituality: the belief that even in the midst of horrific tragedy, there must be some purpose to it all. Because what would remain of life without this hope?
How could we go on at all if not for the faith that behind and beyond this paltry world of death, decay, and destruction, there was a meaningful story being told? Without this faith, do we not run the danger, like Nietzsche's madman, of staring into the abyss in despair? After all, what is nihilism but this? It is the recognition of a story devoid of meaning, ending in nothingness...
But there is meaning...
When it comes to metaphysical questions, there are many arguments pro and con. And yet the most persuasive argument of all may be the simplest: If there is no meaning in the world, why exactly do we look for meaning at all? Because if it is true that we are merely machines made of meat, then the need for meaning seems paradoxically needless (indeed, any need at all seems paradoxically needless). The machine does not require a meaning; it does as it is capable of doing- and that is all.
Does the hammer care what it creates? And does the computer long for a reason for what we do with it? No, because the machine has no mind, and no soul. For although some may argue that the machine may one day be made more mind-like, and more soul-like, that is not the same thing at all: A man is not merely mind-like, and a soul is not simply soul-like; a mind is fully mind, and a soul is fully soul. Something unspeakable has been lost when we reduce mind to mind-likeness and soul to soul-likeness.
But if there is a mind/soul thing that exists, that wills and wants, and longs for meaning, then there must be a meaning behind that longing- else, what is it for? Why evolve it at all? Evolutionists, of course, might argue that living beings have evolved a meaning-seeking instinct for no other reason than because it has proven useful. And yet usefulness implies accuracy of representation; it implies that the world has been understood effectively. For in what way could a concept that fails to represent reality truthfully be useful?
Surely any unfaithful representation of reality would entail some decrease in survivability! If a creature imagines that the world is not what it is- that it has meaning where there is no meaning, or that it has no meaning where there is meaning-, then that creature runs the risk of falling prey to a more cynical and realistic organism, which views reality more accurately, and is therefore capable of navigating reality more effectively. And so it is hard to imagine that there is no meaning in the world. After all, we see it everywhere, and in everything; we are designed to see it everywhere, and in everything...
We are meaning-seeking creatures; something within us requires purpose. What that something is, who can say? Divinity must be, by its very definition, beyond conceptualization, hence the argument that God is always a "god of the gap," a shorthand for all that we do not know, for all that we cannot grasp. And so perhaps, in the end, every god is a "god of the gap..."
But that does not make that gap any less real.
There is meaning in suffering; there is meaning in pain, and in way, and in death. It is a kind of faith, and a necessary faith at all; without this faith, we would all go mad. Furthermore, we would no longer be human at all. Because if humanity were to finally abandoned purpose- and not only its own purpose, but even the very concept of purpose-, what would be left of the human being?
Luckily for all of us, there is meaning, whether we know it or not. The story goes on; the story is endless. For behind and beyond this endless procession of birth and death, there is a power sufficient to sustain it. Perhaps that power is God, or perhaps it is only a gap- but what does that matter?
"The way that can be known is not the eternal Way;
the name that can be named is not the eternal Name."
~ Dao De Jing ~
~ Joshua van Asakinda