It has been a while since I last posted any writings from my former college roommate, David G. As much as I would like to blame this dearth on the chaos in our household with our move, but the blame lies with me. I was so ticked off and disgusted by what he wrote in his last chapter, that I couldn’t read any more of what he had to say.
Given the fact that I now live in a foreign country, do not have a job, and do have a good deal of time on my hands, I swallowed my bile and read through the rest of the material that David sent me. Now that I have the whole story (or most of it), I now know what I need to do.
It is my plan to take his scribblings and accomplish one of his wishes. In this way, I hope to settle my debt with him (wherever he is) and maybe even do some good. Because of my new plan, I will not be posting all of David’s Chapter 03, but just the start. Plus, I don’t know how much words I can put on WordPress in one post.
Here’s my disclaimer regarding David: As I have written before about David’s style of writing, he wrote in somewhat haphazardly and often left parts of the manuscript incomplete or with notes to himself on how to possibly improve his choice of words. I will try to recreate this mode of his by using brackets and the bold font [Like this]. I have also attempted to correct some of his spelling errors, but not all.
If you want to play catch-up with what David has penned before, you can jump to Chapter 00, Chapter 01, and Chapter 02.
Form Your Troika – Chapter 03
Still with me?
Thanks for hanging around after reading my thoughts in the last chapter. Good on ya’, mate, as the Aussies say.
I wouldn’t hold it against you either, and, in fact, I would even understand it, if you had actually thrown this book into a crucible.
So if I find no answers in the Big Four of Western organized religion, what is my answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?”
With apologies to Douglas Adams and all the other great philosophers that have pondered this question, my answer is relatively simple.
Life has no meaning.
Continuing on from that premise, if life has no meaning, then what is its purpose? Again, my answer is simple.
The purpose of life is to live.
The purpose of life is to live it and to experience all that life has to offer. There is no need for an all-seeing, jealous, vengeful, kind, merciful, or absent-minded deity or deities in this philosophy. This belief system does not prescribe a set of rules denoting what foods can and cannot be eaten, the proper way to sacrifice a ewe, the role (or lack thereof) of women in society, or what is permissible and forbidden on a Saturday or Sunday.
“Wait!” I hear the old religious side of me cry out. “If all laws are based on moral underpinnings, what does the lack of religion do to society and its foundations?”
My answer, once again, is simple, but uses more words.
I reject the premise of the question and assert that the laws of any society do not need religion to serve as its base. I would actually contend that an organized faith as a foundation inflicts more damage than good. For those who wish to live in a land where religion truly is the law, I would suggest moving to Iran, Pakistan, or (if you have a handy time machine) Spain during the time of the Inquisition (which no one expected me to use as an example) and see how life treats you then.
I believe that it is entirely possible to form and run a society without the crutch of an organized religion. Because, casting a reference back to my previous chapter, who wants a society run by scared children?
If I ran a society, what would its guiding principles be? The first one (“The purpose of life is to live”) I’ve already mentioned. Others I would include are…
…The Emerson Principle (Hence the less government we have the better); [a government should have few laws]
…The Analects Principle (Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself); [treat others they way you want to be treated]
…The Yul Brynner Principle (So shall it be written, so shall it be done); [laws should be followed as written, not interpreted broadly]
…The Lord Palmerston Principle (Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests) [self-explanatory or not?]
[Expand on Principles here and what implications they would have on society]
How would such a set of principles be put into practice?
Don’t ask me…I’m just the idea man.
In college, a hall-mate of mine (Lamar would be his name) and I came up with our own theory of Reality. Trapped in our dorm as we were during a typical Wisconsin snowstorm, we decided to muse on the true notion of things. Of course, when discussing such profound ideas, it helps to be three sheets to the wind. Lamar was partial to wine coolers while sake was my poison of choice. After some fits and starts we concluded that all we perceive as Reality is actually the product of the imagination of a frustrated playwright living in Brussels, Belgium. This unnamed author is extremely prolific and writes the major and minor plot points of people’s lives. Lamar and I came to a stumbling block in our grand unifying theory when we tried to describe why the events of a person’s life sometimes go haywire. Lamar was a writer himself and said that authors do not insert bizarre or whimsical events in a character’s life without proper motivation.
That’s when we stumbled across Her. We surmised that the reason why a person’s life took a turn from the expected story arc was because the playwright has a mischievous girlfriend who would re-write the text when he wasn’t looking.
We soon developed an inside joke that when things did not go as planned in our lives, we would say, “That woman in Belgium is laughing her head off.”
Brushing Brussels aside, I am not of the school of thought that believes things happen for a reason. I am not a proponent of the saying “If something was meant to be, it will happen”. The figures of Clotho, Atropos, and [who is the third Fate?] are only mythical beings. Events happen because of known actions, actors, and choices. Not only does this Universe not care about you, it doesn’t know you exist. The main force guiding a person’s fate is that person. A person makes their own choices and then makes more choices based on the consequences of those earlier actions. Other people make choices that affect your life, but ultimately you [and I] are solely responsible for your [and my] choices.
I grant you that it is a far scarier world to live in knowing that the Universe, Fate, God, or the Force is not looking after you if you grant me that it is a more adult and empowering existence to know that you are in [almost] total control.
While I believe in the meaningless of life, I do believe that life has its purpose, which is to live it. If I can say that I believe in a higher power, it would be Nature. More specifically, it is the power of Life to perpetuate itself. The laws of physics and the theory of natural selection (to name but a few) are the best tools I have seen to demonstrate how Reality works.
You can try and equate my concept of Nature with your concept of God if you must. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself through the night.
Nature, and by extension, Life, has its rhythms and cycles. Nature does not break its routine lightly so when it does, I have learned to stop and observe. In a similar fashion, when the routine of my individual life is altered, I place my faith in the following Lesson:
Listen to serendipity
When I was in the seventh grade, I was part of a carpool that took me to middle school. My school was close enough that I could ride my bicycle, but my parents felt it was safer for me to go by car because of the busy roads I would have to cross.
On one particular Tuesday, I did not go with the carpool. Our arts teacher had decided to put on a play and I wanted to audition for it. As the tryouts would be after school, I would have to miss the carpool. I rode my bike to school managing to avoid all the obstacles and predators my parents fretted about.
At school, I found out I had written down the wrong date for the audition. It was Thursday, not Tuesday.
Riding back from school, I was berating myself for not being able to comprehend my abbreviations. Is it my fault that “T” can stand for both Tuesday and Thursday? Once I create my society, I will mandate that all days of the week have different first letters.
Sorry, I’m really going to need a road map if I keep taking these conversational side roads. Swerving back on to the main road…
As I made the turn on to my own street, it was as if I could hear myself calling for help to cure me of my absent-mindedness. However, I wondered, why would the voice in my head be female?
It dawned on me that I was actually hearing someone call for help.
I stopped my bicycle and began calling back. The voice continued to call for help as I homed in on it. I finally came to a wooden gate leading into a backyard. I had passed by this house many times before and seen the couple that lived there every once in a while. I think I even recalled that their last name was something like Farber or Feldspar. I slowly opened the gate and espied a long, narrow concrete walkway with a thin vegetable garden planted by a brick wall. Sprawled on her back on the walkway [is there a synonym for walkway?] was an older woman. As I was in seventh grade, “older” was a relative term for me and she could have been anywhere from twenty-five to sixty-five (although I found out later she was fifty).
“Uh…hello?” I called from the gate.
The woman turned her head and exclaimed, “Oh, thank goodness!”
“Are you okay?” I asked apparently thinking that was absolutely normal for a woman to be on her back staring up at the clouds while in a gardening outfit.
“No,” she replied. “I slipped and I think my hip is broken. Can you help me, please?”
I entered the backyard and approached the fallen woman.
My mind was furiously trying to figure out how I could help her. Do I set the leg? What can I use for splints? Do I move her? Do I leave her?
She interrupted my internal triage by asking, “Could you be a dear and phone the fire department?”
This was the days before 9-1-1 was ubiquitous so I walked into her kitchen and next to the phone was a sticker with all the emergency phone numbers. I called the fire department and did my best to explain the situation of a woman in need.
“What is your address?” the person on the other end of the line asked.
“It’s about ten houses down from where I live,” I explained (not so) helpfully.
“Can you ask the woman what her address is?” the dispatcher asked.
For a person with a possibly broken hip and who had a sore throat from calling for help, she was more than patient with me than one would have expected. After I hung up with the fire department, she asked if I could call her husband.
I phoned his office and a gruff voice answered.
“Is this Mr. Farmer?” I asked (after I had received the correct surname from the injured woman).
“Yes. Who’s this?” he asked back, probably curious why such a young squeaky voice would be calling him.
“My name is David and I’m calling from your home. Your wife asked me to call you. She had an accident. She’s okay. I called the fire department and they’re coming. Your wife asked if you could come home.”
“I’ll be right there,” he said quickly before hanging up.
I went back to Mrs. Farmer and we chatted while we waited for the emergency crew to arrive. She told me that she had been calling out for about an hour and was starting to become tired. I explained to her that it was just dumb luck that I happened to be on my bicycle. Had I been in my carpool, I never would have heard her.
When the fire truck and paramedics arrived, I made my way out of the backyard, hopped back on my trusty two-wheeled steed, and left without either of us saying good-bye.
I returned home and my parents asked how my audition went. I told them of my mistake and so they pressed me on where I had been since I was home so late. I nonchalantly related to them my adventures in Mrs. Farmer’s backyard as if saving damsels in distress was just the kind of everyday occurrence that we guys do.
David goes on to list two other instances of serendipity guiding his life, but I’ll hold on those for another posting.
Read Full Post »