There is a season for learning and a season to realize you know enough.
I recently came across Jordan Peterson and swiftly realized that for me at least it was another day, another guru.
I seem to have reached a period of deep contentment and I really have no need of any more grand theories of everything. Nor do I wish to be told how to run my life.
There is a whole long list of things I don’t need. And things I don’t need to know. There is much that I would like to know but in my already long life, I have come to realize that I will never know such things. Perhaps because they are unknowable.
So contentment is walking along a sunlit beach on the scruffy coast of East Kent. Contentment is not giving a damn what you look like or what you possess. Listening to psalms or to the divine music of a 16th Century catholic priest.
Contentment is doing simple things, in simple ways. Bumbling along growing “stuff” in a garden.
Hearing the unearthly squeal of buzzards overhead, watching a cormorant dive or a seal pop its head above the water.
The honest truth is that deep down I have never much cared for anything except such simplicity, such quiet and profound moments of peace as are to be found minding one’s own business and trundling along life’s path.
I was gently accused of nihilism in my last post but I am guilty of the desire not to destroy or to negate but simply to ignore.
There is not much I am fussed about, that is all. I don’t care what the busy fools in parliament are saying and I certainly don’t care about anyone or anything one might find discussed in the Financial Times.
Strange to relate I am more interested in catching glimpses of the ineffable than filling my mind with another’s thoughts or worrying about the state of the nation.
To every thing there is a season.
I’ve been trying to keep up with your writing these days and have found the effort both rewarding and, I must admit, a bit perplexing. You have much to say that is worth reading and your words are often insightful and profound, but your most recent offerings, even with your acknowledgements of a reasonable degree of cynicism and some portion of difficulty in coming to terms with yourself and the world, seem not to mesh exactly with the notable expressions of benefit you receive from your current place in life. Everyone’s life has periods of positivity and negativity in some fashion, but as an impartial observer and willing consumer of your written expressions here, I’m left wondering if you recognize how truly insightful and provocative your words are coming across the world-wide web.
In November of 2018 you wrote a particularly interesting entry entitled, “How to Be Human in an Indifferent Universe,” and while I do not necessarily agree with your conclusions that everything is simply “A Glorious Accident,” without at least the possibility of having some ineffable component and potential purpose to it all, you made some very fine points that beg repeating:
In that post you rightly point out that you and the rest of us cannot be said to be “wrong” exactly in our choices, but rather
“…that I could have done it better, could have lived better. Still can. Wrong in the sense that I could have lived a life in which I could have taken more and better direction. But it is never too late.”
This is a fundamental element in the participation we must have in life, to recognize that our previous poor choices not only can be redeemed, but also may have been necessary in order to come to that conclusion in the first place.
“At heart I believe the problem lies in the fact that we are born into a universe which, if not cruel, is nevertheless indifferent, not only to our individual fate but to that of our species; and to that of every species and to our planet as a whole.”
It seems unlikely to me that one can reasonably expect “the Universe” to be anything but indifferent to the outcome of our individual experience of existence, or to the rise or fall of the fortunes of any living species anywhere within it. It’s up to us as the cognitive sentient species to give meaning and purpose to our individual lives and to contribute in whatever way we think is appropriate to the world-at-large, because if the Universe had some specific agenda, there would likely not be much chance for ourselves or any other species to set one for ourselves.
“We are born with minds which may, if some are to be believed, to be the most complex thing in the known universe but which are also profoundly unfit for purpose. Unless that purpose is mere “survival”. The pursuance of the objectives of Richard Dawkin’s “selfish gene”. As a tool to ascertain meaning, purpose the brain is almost useless in its current form. It is a car over-revving in neutral. A bicycle turned upside down with its wheel spinning – no purchase on the road. Nowhere to go, no traction.”
This insight is enormously important in the big picture of our nature as humans. Our brains are not especially useful in determining a “purpose,” nor are they the only means at our disposal as sentient creatures for determining what truly matters in life, but consciousness itself, that richly textured subjective experience and profoundly affective awareness of being alive, requires us to accept that we are temporal physical beings, and that existing as a physical being within the physical universe itself is the only way to manifest a living, breathing, and profoundly aware energy which is as fundamental to existence as gravity and electromagnetism. We are still only a fledgling species trying our best to figure it all out, but it is a journey not a destination.
“Our predicament, if you like, is that it is difficult to accept we are accidental. That conscious awareness is an illusion. An illusion in the sense that we “matter”, that we are somehow different from the rest of the metaphorical pebbles on the beach. For millennia, for ever, we have told ourselves comforting but misleading stories. We are the center of the universe, we were created by a god to sit at the pinnacle and thereafter at his right hand.”
There are many different ways to approach our understanding of human nature and to explore the mysteries and contradictions of life in a physical universe, and I acknowledge openly that it is challenging in so many ways to experience our existence in the temporal world if we assume from the start that it’s all for nothing and we are just “metaphorical pebbles,” but the stories you refer to include some of the most insightful and cogent arguments for continuing our explorations and to look for the indications of a connection to the ineffable and inexplicable sense of being alive as humans, and the many mythologies and stories of gods are not meant to be taken literally, but rather, to point to those mysteries and contradictions as a starting point in coming to terms with the true nature and ultimate answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.
I apologize in advance for the long response and hope you appreciate that I admire your work here well enough to spend some time talking back to you.
Kind regards….John H.
Thank you for your very kind comments which are much appreciated. I have answered (I hope!) in much greater detail in the comments section of “Another Day, Another Guru”.
with kind regards