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Meaning of Life? Again? What George Lucas has to say

When a frustrated young woman asked the most brilliant man in the world why we’re alive, Einstein responded in five poignant lines.

This question — at the heart of which is a concern with the meaning of life — has since been answered by many other great minds:

For David Foster Wallace, it was about going through life fully conscious;

for Carl Sagan, about our significant insignificance in the cosmos;

for Annie Dillard, about learning to live with impermanence ?;

for Richard Feynman, about finding the open channel;

for Anaïs Nin, about living and relating to others “as if they might not be there tomorrow”;

for Henry Miller, about the mesmerism of the unknown; and

for Leo Tolstoy, about finding knowledge to guide our lives.

But one of the most profound answers comes from legendary Star Wars director George Lucas.

In The Meaning of Life: Reflections in Words and Pictures on Why We Are Here (public library) — that remarkable 1991 anthology that gave us timeless meditations on existence from a number of luminaries — Lucas uses an autobiographical anecdote as the springboard for a larger meditation on the meaning of life and our best chance for reaching its fullest potential:

When I was eighteen I was in an automobile accident and went through a near-death experience. I was actually taken away from the scene, presumed dead, and it wasn’t until I reached the hospital that the doctors revived my heartbeat and brought me back to life.

This is the kind of experience that molds people’s beliefs. But I have found that most of my conclusions have evolved from observing life since that time.

If I’ve come to know anything, it’s that these questions are as unknowable for us as they would be for a tree or for an ant.

Like John Updike, who argued that “the mystery of being is a permanent mystery”, and like John Cage, who believed that “the world, the real is not an object [but] a process,”

Lucas considers the just-is nature of life:

Scholars who have studied myth and religion for many years and have connected all of the theories spawned over the ages about life and consciousness and who have taken away the superficial trappings, have come up with the same sensibility.

They call it different things. They try to personify it and deal with it in different ways.

But everybody seems to dress down the fact that life cannot be explained. The only reason for life is life. There is no why. We are.

Life is beyond reason. One might think of life as a large organism, and we are but a small symbiotic part of it.

Lucas arrives at a conclusion rather similar to Alan Watts’s ideas about the interconnectedness of all life and writes:

It is possible that on a spiritual level we are all connected in a way that continues beyond the comings and goings of various life forms.

My best guess is that we share a collective spirit or life force or consciousness that encompasses and goes beyond individual life forms. There’s a part of us that connects to other humans, connects to other animals, connects to plants, connects to the planet, connects to the universe.

I don’t think we can understand it through any kind of verbal, written or intellectual means. But I do believe that we all know this, even if it is on a level beyond our normal conscious thoughts.

If we have a meaningful place in this process, it is to try to fit into a healthy, symbiotic relationship with other life force.

Everybody, ultimately, is trying to reach a harmony with the other parts of the life force.

And in trying to figure out what life is all about, we ultimately come down to expressions of compassion and love, helping the rest of the life force, caring about others without any conditions or expectations, without expecting to get anything in return. This is expressed in every religion, by every prophet.

The Meaning of Life is superb in its entirety. Sample it further with answers from Carl Sagan, John Cage, Annie Dillard, Stephen Jay Gould, Arthur C. Clarke, and Charles Bukowski.

How have you been “existing”? (Jan. 25, 2010)

            The main philosophy of the last century was called “Existentialism” that Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) disseminated after WWII with the cooperation of Simone de Beauvoir who published “The second sex”.  What differentiated Sartre’s existentialism from Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger is that Christianity is no longer a crutch to lean on for processing the concept to its final outcome.

            In that philosophy, man and woman have no innate “nature” to fall back on.  They just have to create themselves, their “natures” (their “essence”).  The feeling of alienation is that mankind was created without his will and yet, he is condemned to be free for taking responsibility of his actions knowing that there are no eternal values or norms for guidance and directions.  The individual has to create his set of values and his nature from actions among choices, even default choices.

            That Sartre’s existentialism allied to Marxist movement (Sartre never accepted to be a member of a political party) is part of this century struggle for enjoying the freedom that we never asked for; but “man is condemned to be free” in taking responsibility of his actions simply because he is created to be conscious of his existence and his death: mankind is not “in itself” but “for itself” and an individual relies on his existence to be whatever he might otherwise be “his nature”.

            For example, Stephen Hawkins, this crippled astrophysicist, grabbed the question of his interest (nature) “How the universe was created”.  That Hawkins offered the Big bang theory is irrelevant to the universe or to everyday man is important philosophically.  What is most important is that Hawkins must have enjoyed “the meaning of his life”.  The Big Bang proposition may be accompanied by all kinds of mathematical formulas it does not make it more believable than a childish storytelling in Bibles that are so funny to kids.  For example, why just one Big Bang? Is it because God must be one and only one?  Anyway, how many of us seriously engaged on his journey for discovering the meaning of his life existence?

            Current nuclear physicists are fundamentally pre-Socratic in their quest for the elemental matters; they want to be able to offer a satisfactory explanation of “what is matter?” This problem is thus a vital part of their “life’s philosophy”, the “essence” or an answer to the question “what is my nature”?

            Existentialism was the source of modern style in writings called the “absurd”.  For example, when you show the lack of coherence or meaning in life, then the reader or audience is forced to cultivate his “own meaning” of the story.

            Things have changed.  The world can be felt as reduced to a Town Square; instant audio-visual communications around the world is discouraging people to move out and investigate “his universe”.  The Renaissance man had to travel on horses for long distances to educate his curiosity and talents.

            Arne Naess disseminated the eco-philosophy which stated that western paradigm line of thinking is taking the wrong direction for a sustainable earth: Man is not in the upper chain of evolution and he has no right to destroy the other living creatures for his perceived universe.

            The new wave of occultism, New Age, alternative lifestyle, mysticism, spiritualism, healing, astrology, clairvoyance, and telepathy are consequences of collecting mass “coincidental” happenings among the billion of people and which are relayed instantly on the Internet.  These coincidences can be explained rationally, especially if we believe in the power of the subconscious for erratic behaviors.

            The worst part is that millions are still brandishing old Books or Bibles claiming every word for “truth”; as if we are in the Dark Ages.  Sciences and technologies have done serious empirical attempts to answering most of the dialectical problems in philosophy such as how the universe was started, how knowledge developed and progressed.  What is outside the realm of sciences is in the domain of faith which should not be confounded with religious philosophical belief systems.

            The “meaning of life” is not a solution: it is the trip, the journey to answering a single definite bothering question, a question that interest you mostly among hundreds of other pretty much non answerable questions.  This trip means working toward a resolution to the question “What is my nature?”  It is hard work, relentless, and tricky journey but nothing has meaning if we don’t feel the obstacles and hardships.

What is the Meaning of Life?   

In a previous essay “Ideology: Not such a bad Concept before Ruling” I dealt with the notions of ideologies, philosophies, and religions: their purposes and structures. I ended the essay with the following paragraph:

“In many moments in life we ask “what is the meaning of and purpose in life?”   How about we start from the obvious?  We are a bunch of jumbled passions that we all share and that drive our life; we ache by reflection to re-order our passions and sort out the strongest passions that mean most to us. We want to be discriminated as an individual, not on physical traits but as thinking reflecting persons that have distinct set of strong passions that we manage to prioritize and focus; we finally think that we know who we are and what passions drove our life. We want to be at peace with our soul and spirit.”

When we claim that we are in an introspection phase then we are explicitly finding time to sort out the driving passions that were predictive of our life path.  We all have the same passions at various degrees of power and interest that no outside processes can change or transform unless we consciously act on them to redirect our focus.  Introspections are highly useful conscious periods in our life to comprehend the strongest of our passions and set priority for future activities.  Basically, we are adopting a philosophy to life that is compatible with our strongest passions.  That is what we constantly do: we are addicted to constructing models because we are spiritual designers.  We want to categorize our passions intellectually, by our volition and labor of reflection.

Most religions have to erect an ideology and sometimes slightly update it to face changes; the sacerdotal castes main job is to pressure you to accept their set values and morals as the best that characterize you.  In fact, religions do not want you to exercise introspection and learn your own characteristics; they want to “save you that hassle” and show you the proper way; they want you to be the man among all same men with preferred set of passions instead of realizing your individuality.  Only those following the preferred “type” are selected in heaven as on earth; the black sheep of strong individuality are not recognized in heaven because only the mediocre, the humble, the naïve, the simple minded can be saved.

 

That was a good starting lead to answering the meaning of life.  I have a question: if you were to chose between knowing the “truth” or safeguarding and preserving your conscious then what would you decide?   I know that you will try to circumvent this basic query by returning a question with another one such as “Isn’t conscious linked to truth searching?” or “Isn’t knowledge an illusion?”

If even scientific facts should be recognized as statistical facts because uncontrolled observations have the tendency to show up occasionally and need to be categorized, understood, and then modeled.  If justice is fundamentally a consensus agreement among the jury then why do we cling so staunchly to truth or “absolute fact”?  If “truth” is not reachable, if we know that any predictive model can be altered by surprised “chance” observations, if it is proven at every moment in our life that uncertainty is king and it loves to convince you at the most critical events, then why fight for truth and spread disorder for an illusion?  Our scientific and rational mind is fighting the good fight and is persistent in its endeavor because it refuses impositions of religious abstract notions that have no foundations or convincing premises. Our scientific mind is not fighting “faith” but fighting the sacerdotal castes’ value systems and ideologies.

What about conscious? We can define conscious by its consequences on our nerves, its wrenching battle through sleepless nights, and through nightmares.  Conscious is the constant fighting between imposed religious set values and your strong valid passions that define your individuality.  We are battling to preserve our rightful individuality in a manner that would not shock the community as “crazy behaviors”.  Most of the time we define conscious as how the community expect us to act and decide because religious belief system is enduring and hard to conciliate with.

 

You always have a choice: truth or conscious; and this dichotomy is not to vanish any time soon and you will have to select differently at many moments. This critical choice is our daily battle and our constant struggle to find meaning to our life.

 

By God, I hope that the set values imposed on me is the correct one.  I would hate after death to face up a reality that is not compatible with what I cowardly submitted to.  I would hate to be condemned for laziness in the mind or condemned for not acting according to my own labor of reflection. Justice is ultimately an individual case and what the community believed is totally irrelevant and redundant for supporting clemency.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
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