Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Little Candle & the Meaning of Life

Magritte: Le Principe du Plaisir
Every thinking person will at some point in their life find him or herself asking "What is it all about?" 

Many of us meet types of people who believe they have an answer. But as it is said: "Listen to those who seek answers and beware those who claim to have them." (I guess I should mention here that I do not claim to have found the answer, I'm merely divulging interesting finds in my own exploration of the matter...:-)

Often those who have answers found them in religious texts. I, and more and more of humanity with me, seem to agree that this is not a fruitful place to find answers about the world. The ancient texts, written in a more violent, misogynistic and scientifically ignorant time is, both in broad strokes and in details misplaced in our time. It makes perfect sense in texts written long ago that slavery, stoning and "scientific facts" such as "the bat is a bird" are presented as true, and proper knowledge. They describe an understanding of the world prevalent at the time of writing. But in today's society we know so much more. As a result black people and women are considered sentient enough to vote and govern their own futures. Owning another person is thought morally despicable. Executions are abolished in all civilized countries but where they do happen they are, to be humane and are no longer considered suitable punishment for children who disobey their parents or those who gather sticks on the sabbath. The bat, even though it can fly is no longer classified as a bird but as a a mammal and birds are now understood to be avian dinosaurs. 
It is time to face the music: If the world does not fit the book, it is the book that is wrong.

We find ourselves in a universe, on a planet not created by anyone. We are not dictated by a creator for what to do. We are, as Sartre said; "doomed to be free." We must find our own way in the world. We must choose what is right and wrong and there is no one, but ourselves, that can tell us what is right in any definitive way.

the Quest for Meaning

I find it strange that those of a religious bent can find meaning in believing that we are here to fulfill a god's plan. A christian, for instance is happy in their belief that we are created by god and that he knows what our purpose is. We are all just players in this directors play, merely following his predetermined script for us. They have accepted this and apparently finds solace in that. They also seem to think that those who cant find solace in this needs to alter themselves, since the divine plan is infallible. I can't fathom the attitude of: "if the world doesn't fit the book - the world is wrong." I believe they have gotten it all wrong.

Julian Baggini raises an interesting point about this "solution" to the quandary of meaning.
Frankensteins monster was a person who knew his creator and his creators purpose for him, but knowing his creator and his purpose for him, did that make him content and satisfied?  
If I, like in the novel Never Let Me Go, was the cloned creation, grown, payed for, and owned by some rich person, I don't think the knowledge of
me being purposely born/created as spare parts for my “creator" would give me peace. Living out the purpose of someone else is not meaningful to me. Whether that being is a rich dude or a god. 
To all those children who dies from cancer just to fulfill some obscure plan of god is nothing but wrong and repulsive. It is exactly like the spare part clones from Never Let Me Go

From a story by Alexander Hemon we learn in great detail what the human consequences are for such strange delusions. (He describes in harrowing poetic ways the death of his daughter from cancer.)
One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world. We learned no lessons worth learning; we acquired no experience that could benefit anyone. And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no place better for her than at home with her family. Without Isabel, Teri and I were left with oceans of love we could no longer dispense; we found ourselves with an excess of time that we used to devote to her; we had to live in a void that could be filled only by Isabel. Her indelible absence is now an organ in our bodies, whose sole function is a continuous secretion of sorrow.
From The Aquarium, by Alexander Hemon, (The saddest story I have ever read.)

Living my life so that I will gain benefits after death is not meaningful to me. The meaning of life is to be found in life, by yourself. It is to do something that makes your life feel worth living. It is what gets you out of bed in the morning. 
When advice is given about life, in schools, self help books and seminars this is where they need to direct us: What do you really want to do? If money, fame, family expectations were no object, what would you do? If prestige was not your aim, what would you do, just for you? All things set aside what turns you on? What makes you feel good? Let this be your guiding light.
This is the most important question. Once you know that, everything else will fall into place. There will be money to be made when you truly master what you love. There is enough people out there, no matter how obscure your area of enthusiasm is, there are others out there that care for the same. Money and prestige will come if you don't make them your goal.

My compass

When I began following the flickering of my pilot light in the direction of the Carnival people often asked when I would get a real job, and fair enough, what I do for a living begs that question. Making people laugh at you by contorting and falling over has little dignity and, you would think, not such a great earning potential. But even when I left home and the regular gigs of my fathers magic show and became a street performer, doing shows just made me happy. It made me wake up in the morning with a desire to improve, explore and develop. Now that the shows I perform in take London, Sydney and Paris by storm people don't ask when I'm going to get a real job anymore, now they ask: so you must make a decent living from this. And I answer that I do, now - but I feel like I'm being paid back for money I didn't make when I traveled around Scandinavia in a Fiat Uno doing streetshows and sleeping in parks.

At no point on this journey did I feel like I was missing out. Because I was doing what I loved. If I had given up after spending a week sleeping in the car waiting for a sunny day so I could do a show to make enough money for petrol to get to the next town or festival, those that questioned my choices would have been right; you cant make money or a good life from being a clown. But since I never gave up, since that never felt like an option, and I stuck it out through the hard times, I find myself comfortably able to enjoy my life, support my family in my own house. 

When I write about it here it seems like I was some intrepid explorer daring to follow the fire in his heart venturing out onto the white pages at the back of the atlas into the unknown. But the truth is it wasn't hard and it didn't feel like a sacrifice because I was having too much fun. If anything it felt like I had found a loop hole in life that would completely bypass the rat race. (Ironically I think you could make a decent living beating the rat race by staging rat races. If pubs in Far North Queensland can make money racing cane toads, there is a living to be made from rat races...) 

The Little Candle

Happiness comes from choosing wisely. It comes from finding the little flame on the little candle in your heart that flickers when you find something that interests you. It is the fire that burns in your enthusiasm. It is the little candle in the dark world of chaos. 
But to discover the little light in this brightly lit and flashing world is not always easy. It is simple and complicated at the same time. 
As a child the little candle is in all but rare cases far to dim to see. The world is so bright that its modest little shine is drowned out. But it is there. Often it takes solitude of some sort to see it, sometimes meeting someone who's candle has become a torch makes you notice your own. The discovery of your own passion is the most important discovery a person can make. When you have found your tiny candle it will illuminate your compass and guide you through the dark. The world is filled with maps but you need your own compass to navigate them and light to see them both.

The journey through life is not about getting to the end. We are all inevitably stepping closer and closer to the end, to death eternal, so the important thing is to remember to dance.

Our parents created us, no doubt for reasons of their own, with hopes for our future, but their hopes and expectations are not enough to give us purpose and meaning.

In the end we, each and every one of us, must walk our Way alone. We must find our own way. It is not enough to have walked through life following others. Our challenge is to find what that makes every day a dance into the arms of death, that will be our rebellion. It will be our revolt against a universe which does not tell us what to do. When death comes knocking and the end is imminent we want to be able to look back and know that you gave everything your best shot.

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