The hello world piece that I wrote last week described my intentions for this website. These specific intentions derive from my current, nascent and evolving philosophy. Communicating aspects of the present state of that world-view and philosophy to you will provide useful context for future pieces, and so this is where I'd like to go next. Before detailing a rational basis for my views, I'll begin by expressing the gist through sharing one of my poems entitled 'Demeaning Meaning & a Tentative Pragmatic Resolution'.
I'll first briefly provide the backstory to the poem.
I started writing poetry around the time I began dating as a teenager. At this time, I found that romance could stir within me emotions usually left unmoved by my more rational endeavors. Unused to dealing with such feelings, I looked towards some role models and the history of romantic relationships and, in doing so, stumbled upon poetry as a cathartic outlet through which I could funnel these energies. The poetry I wrote back then wasn't exactly Shakespearean, so whether the ladies I was dating at the time appreciated the quixotic poetry I wrote to them is another matter ;). Nonetheless, I began to use poetry to channel potent feelings out of myself and onto paper.
When I got to university, there were, in addition to the phenomena mentioned in the previous paragraph ;), other matters for which I found poetry to be a useful tool. One of these matters was my confrontation with the existential question: why are we here? As I learned more and embraced literature, science and the historical arc of human thought, many of the pillars supporting my previous views seemed to be systematically demolished. I went from the certainty contained in beliefs I held yet had not rigorously thought through, to the skepticism in the classic existential crisis of wondering why anything means anything. From there, I gradually moved towards a tentative pragmatic view that has, at least for now, resolved my concerns. I then later wrote the poem below as an attempt to express and gain clarity on these existential crises and processes.
The poem provides a snapshot of a part of my thinking. It leaves much unsaid which I hope to say going forward. At present, I'll just note the following: it is my opinion that in a world where the answers are not provided to us, the onus on us is even greater to jointly work to produce them.
Demeaning Meaning & a Tentative Pragmatic Resolution
Your life is full of worth and deep meaning.
Be good, you will one day witness the truth.
Have faith and trust; ignore the reasoning.
Resist what tempts, you must preserve your youth.
You must not do what is unethical,
Or else you will in hell forever chill.
Believe; it is not theoretical.
Your fate is preordained accept his will.
Humans cannot hope to fathom the plan.
You should take now this book: it is your source.
We are impure, guilt from the sin of man.
Each thing happens for a reason of course.
All shall be clear in time but not quite yet,
We have structure much like this short sonnet.
Oh look is this a feminine ending and a deviation from the iambic pentameter that was rigidly enforced like the disciplined behavior created by expectations from a previous age. I call b.s. Who are you to tell me what’s meaningful? You're just another human like me. You're a species of animal, different in degree not kind. You're a skeleton with a largely replaceable set of organs. Who do you think you are? Your thoughts are just an emergent property of neurons firing. You're a collection of chemical and biological reactions. Frankly, you are little more than a complex arrangement of atoms. How do you know everything happens for a reason? What are the reasons? Who decides on the reasons? Please do enlighten me on the reasons for child leukemia and genocide. What kind of grand plan is this? Why do billions of people have mutually incompatible beliefs? What gives you the confidence that you're right and that billions of people are wrong? On what basis is this inherent meaning justified? As Jack Nicholson would say, you can’t handle the truth. Let's face it. We live on a barren rock hurtling through space. We are just the byproduct of an evolutionary process that created increasingly sophisticated organisms over time. Morality and most of what we know are just constructs. In all likelihood, the only thing we reincarnate as is dirt. Welcome to the underpinning of whatever we refer to as the truth: nihilism. The world is as void of inherent meaning and has about as much structure as this stream of consciousness.
Ok, let me step back.
That might not be the most constructive frame.
First a comment on approach. Logic and being rational can be loaded terms, yet I’ll deploy practical reasoning for considering the alternatives and determining what might be an approximately optimal strategy.
What do I know? The answer is not a lot. I’m operating with vastly incomplete information, if completeness even makes sense in this context. I have some knowledge yet much of it could be false and more of it is probably understood at an insufficient level of detail to factor in the actual nuance of the situation. I do know that I appear to be here and am experiencing life right now. Additionally, there seems to be a spectrum from experiences that suck to those that are more fulfilling. I know that I want to be on the far positive end of the spectrum. If I’m here I may as well try to maximize how awesome it is to be here.
What might be an effective way to do this? An effective approach appears to be to create some form of meaning for myself, even if I know it’s not inherent. And even if I know morality is a construct, I'll utilize its frameworks as a more productive way to live. Then, since the world is not static, I’ll take action and do what I can to progress it with my ideas. In doing so, I’ll forge a destiny because I can make one up and then act.
Given insufficient time to further refine this line of thinking, I’ll adopt this as my current working hypothesis. Essentially, I’ll develop my own meaning and lead my life in whatever way I think might be effective, much like I conjectured might be the case with this segment of the piece and writing it through the lens of practical reasoning.