Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Something Beyond the Ebb & Flow of Everyday Life?

I have never liked the phrases “the meaning of life” and “the purpose of existence.” They assume that meaning and purpose come from outside our lives and existence. In other words, they are synonyms for transcendence. At best these phrases can be used to indicate something about a person’s life. Are they satisfied with their life? Are they happy? Happy people do not speculate about the meaning and purpose of their lives.

Discussions of the “meaning of life” inevitably turn to transcendence. Is there an intrinsic need for transcendence? Does the desire for something more prove anything? In the pre-Christian Greek mythos the difference between gods and human beings was that the gods were immortal. In fact the humanity of the gods was one of the criticisms of the Greek gods by Platonism and other philosophical systems. The gods were too human. Humanity and everyday life were counterarguments by Christianity’s precursors in favor of something philosophically respectable, i.e., something beyond earthly life. Transcendence and the desire for transcendence are hardly universal.

Whence transcendence and the desire for it? It is clear from the historical evidence that the desire for and belief in transcendence exist in history. There was a time when they did not exist and played no part in religious life. Then they came into existence. There will come a time when transcendence will be nothing more than a difficult to understand historical curiosity. The history of transcendence is yet to be written. Considered in this way the desire for transcendence is a dim reminder of Christianity’s heyday.

Humanity put its best into God to wallow in sin before His glory. The greater God was made out to be, the more corrupt and sinful humanity became. All of humanity’s goodness was projected outward into God. The source of happiness, value, and meaning lay outside oneself in God. Then God died. Has humanity since reappropriated its goodness back into itself? The meaning and value of our lives are no longer given to us as a gift of Grace. We must learn to create meaning and value for ourselves, even if it means changing our lives about and living in an unorthodox fashion.

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