cultural myths and misery

S.K. Harrison skh23ca at
Fri Dec 14 17:39:58 EST 2001

> From: John Schinnerer <eco_living at>

> > * Why is there something rather than nothing?
> > * What is the point of life?
> > * What is the good life?
> > * What is beauty?
> > 
> > they deal with the big questions upon which
> > probably everyone dwells for longer or
> > shorter periods at some point in their life,
> > and which can inform some major life choices.
> And I ask - "Who chose these questions?  Who
> has taught me (us, you) that they are 'big'?
> What are the implicits in these questions and
> what are consequences of those implicits?  What
> if these are the 'wrong' questions?  What
> others might I ask?"

I don't know who, in origin, chose these

I discovered their bigness for myself, by living
through an assortment of roles to date. I
discovered their philosophical heritage only
after the fact.

I would guess that they've evolved for the past
few millenia out of many people's deliberations,
because, as I have observed already, they
summarize issues that give no final answer and to
which many of us return. I dare consider them a
function of the similarities shared by our
otherwise unique human physiologies.

Regarding wrongness, I did not intend to limit
the questions that can be asked within philosophy
by providing only those few as examples. If
anything, a philosophical individual takes the
entire world as hir inquiry. So your questions
themselves can be considered philosophy. I
resonate especially with the last one, "What
other questions might I ask?"

> Perhaps there *is* nothing, rather than
> something.  How would we know? Quantum
> physicists are reaching 'explanations' already
> reached by ancient 'philosophies'.

I'll paraphrase Daniel Dennett in reponse to your
assertion-question. We can't know if there is
nothing, rather than something, nor can we know
that mushrooms could not be intergalactic
spaceships spying on us. In other words, you
appear to have made a meaningless set of
digitized black marks. I have no reason to
question whether or no I taste my sandwich or
take a leak or smell herbs or gaze at a rainbow.

I'd love to know to which quantum mechanical
explanations you are referring in this

> Perhaps "life" has no "point," and does not
> need one imposed on it; perhaps it even "works"
> better that way. Bill Moyers (in the taped
> conversation series he did with Joseph
> Campbell) asks Campbell what he sees the
> collective mythologies of the world's cultures
> telling us in answer to the so-called timeless
> question of "the meaning of life."
> Campbell replies that he thinks what is
> important and worthwhile is not "the meaning of
> life" but rather "the experience of living."
> This was, and still is, one of the most
> profound insights I've received in my life thus
> far.

We've got another furious agreement. I don't
believe life has a point either; but the question
has been coined and each may dwell upon it as
s'he will. I can, however, rephrase without the
'is', because more productive questions may be

* How can I live fully? or 
* What do I want to do with my life? or 
* What do I need to do during my life to die with
inner grace?

(Please note that I do not intend these few
rephrasings as exhaustive of the alternatives.)

Nonetheless, I will turn your statement back upon
itself. You resonate with Campbell's dismissal of
the meaning of life and his substitution of it
with the experience of life. Seems to me,
however, that 'meaning of life' addresses a more
general matter from which has resulted your
personal valuation of the nonverbal(?) experience
of life. In other words, you've solved for
yourself the meaning of life, but you haven't
affected the potential value to be got by others
from asking about it.

> What if all life is the good life?
> What if beauty just is?

You appear to be phrasing statements as
questions. Each person needs to resolve for
hirself questions of "the good life" or "beauty".

For some, goodness and beauty involves pillaging
the land for megabucks. I write that not as an
apologia of their behaviour, but as an
observation, to show that you have resolved only
your personal preferences, not any broad matters
which are underpinned by these most abstract,
hence ubiquitous questions of valuation and

> So when I refer to 'head games,' I mean living
> in the past or future or somewhere other than
> here and now, present moment. I don't see it
> as 'bad' or 'wrong', I just see it as a choice
> that I am less inclined to make than I used to
> be.

I get the impression that you'd rather abandon
language and allow sensory impressions to take
singular hold in your life.


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