From the moment a baby draws its first breath, it is assailed by a series of events, some good some bad, until its death. These events are what constitutes a person's life. For example, we catch a cold, we start a new relationship, our house is burgled, we win an award, the possibilities are endless and we deal with these vicissitudes as and when they occur as best we can. But perhaps the most important question is - are these events random or part of a plan, pure chance or part of a scheme of things? This is the most fundamental question and is at the very root of our existence. The sad fact is we will almost certainly never know the answer.
Every thinking person must at some time have considered whether catching a cold is a punishment for kicking the neighbour's dog or that being elected mayor is a reward for giving money to charity. If this is so, then there is a requirement for an omnipotent being, a god if you prefer. Is it pure chance we are all here or is it the plan of a god, after which we shall be selected for reward or punishment?Although life may appear to be random, there is a human compulsion to force a pattern or design upon events. Things which are beneficial to us do indeed seem like a reward for something we have done, whereas our little disasters can seem like a chastisement. If we create a god, we can devise ways to appease him in order to improve our fortune. This gives us an illusion of some degree of control.
Thinkers throughout history have differed in their interpretation of this brief period of light which we call life.
Wordsworth held that life runs according to a 'Holy plan'. Thomas Hardy believed that the universe is indifferent towards us and unconscious with neither pleasure nor hostility. David Hume, the Scot, suspected that we may not really exist anyway.
Existentialists believe that everything is fundamentally pointless because the world is 'absurd' and anything can happen to anyone.
The advantage of organised religion, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and the like, is that they provide a ready-made explanation of the dilemma of existence. With it comes a moral code to be followed. It's all very convenient but there is no tangible evidence for any of it, it relies on faith which itself runs against rationality.
So how on earth do we live our life for the best? Voltaire said, "Il faut cultiver votre jardin" which means we should simply look after our own back yard. A contemporary English poet said,
"Let us dance through borrowed lifetime,
Not attempt an explanation,
Share our wonder with our fellows,
Partners in unguided touring."
A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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