But it Matters Right Now!

The Internet is full of happy white male atheists who would love to tell you about their happiness. They like explaining that God and an afterlife are not necessary for frolicking in the field. They have heard of the existentialists, of course; some of them (though fewer of them) have even read the material, but they don’t take it too seriously. Life is good at my computer with my steaming cup of coffee, and it’s worth living because I say so.

Does life matter? Does it have meaning? Yes, because it matters and has meaning right now!

It seems like a somewhat subjective question, so it is impossible to show that these people are wrong. But the best I can argue, based on the brevity and simplicity of their answers, is that these people have either just not thought about it enough, aren’t capable of grasping it, or have jobs, bills and kids that keep them too busy to think about it deeply enough.

The best I can say is that I’ve held all the same thoughts and feelings that these people have had. I’ve felt motivated, happy, charged with meaning; I’ve been in a state of mind that could easily produce answers such as these. However, I have also been horrifically depressed and stricken with existential terror, as if every nerve ending were aflame, and in that state of mind I would not give those answers. Having experienced both, I judge that the latter was a higher state of mind than the former. The latter contains the former. It came from thinking about it and reflecting deeply, with every ounce of my psyche. The former state of mind does not contain the latter, and it does not require any focus, reflection, experience or intelligence; it can be attained in one’s sleep, in childhood, in mere hypnagogia.

I have experienced and felt what they’ve said. But they have not experienced and felt what I’ve said.

If you are performing a song for an audience, and it is made known that the audience’s memories will be erased after the song, you will probably lose some motivation. If your sound guy says “it matters right now,” you will probably not think it matters too much, because your mind will be focused 3 minutes ahead… at which point none of what you did will matter. Yet when those three minutes are stretched into decades, somehow this is changed–partly because it’s easy to imagine three minutes from now, in a way that it is not easy to imagine eons from now.

I feel happy right now, but I admit that this is partly because I have learned to dismiss and ignore certain things. I also entertain the idea that there may be positive metaphysical truths that I am unaware of.

If God doesn’t exist, and he’s completely useless in providing meaning in people’s lives, why did people invent him? Why do people still cling to belief, when there are plenty of evidence-based paths available that lead to unbelief?

People obviously cling to these beliefs because they are psychologically helpful.

Atheists are compelled to disbelieve in religion, so it is no surprise that there are essays about how life (on the whole) is meaningful and optimistic, just as it is no surprise that Christians write essays about how such and such science is compatible with Christianity. People are compelled to come to their root conclusions for deep and fundamental reasons, and thereafter they must take whatever steps are necessary to make those conclusions comfortable.

~

Dan Ariely showed in his experiment with Lego-building that participants become demotivated when the meaningless of their efforts is exposed. Both groups knew that the Lego figures they built would be disassembled, but only one group saw this happening. Both groups performed a pointless task: the loss of motivation was entirely based on how apparent the pointlessness was.

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3 Responses to “But it Matters Right Now!”

  1. I stumbled upon this blog during some internet reading on various things. I plan on following it and leaving an occasional comment.
    The operative word being “plan”.

  2. This blog is a bit of a dying star, since it began a few years before my loss of belief, continued throughout it, and now has continued a couple years beyond it. I may be running out of things to say about this–most of the things worth commenting on may be in the archives.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate that. I assure you there will be at least a few more interesting slices of text put up here, and if all goes well, a link to a small book in PDF format.

    • A PDF sounds good. Maybe a little something to throw in my back pocket on a Summer’s day. I have enjoyed the way you think and most importantly your willingness to share. I am currently a theist with one foot in the “this just doesn’t pass the smell test” arena. Needless to say I struggle mightily on a daily basis with what is truth and what is obfuscation. I continue on!

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