Dealing with Nil

A facebook-only friend (we have never met) said this:
"Everything we define as "reality" is filtered through chemical processes tuned over millions of years and evolved explicitly to keep us alive and reproducing. It's entirely possible that we are microbes on the crust of a burning pebble among cosmic events that we cannot influence, destined to evaporate in the unfathomable void of time and space. When faced with someone who glimpses the absurdity of human function in the context of our nihilistic reality, we consider them to be broken, and their illusion of purpose in need of repair. In a sense, depression is a logical response to abject hopelessness, in a species with no real significance.
But me? Me I just like pie"
Funny isn't it? I laughed. It is the humor that hits the right spot - something very serious, devastating to the possibility of any human meaning in life, is stared down with a diversionary joke. The technical word for this is "bathos." Bathos is the use of an abrupt change of style from the transcendent or universal to the commonplace for comic effect.

To some extent our contemporary Western love of the secular is an attempt to live out this juxtaposition. Given that there is no ultimate purpose for anything, there is only pie, only personal preference, only what is meaningful now, a temporary, temporal, twitch of human effort to be something. And not something of any eternal significance. Just because there is no ultimate meaning, we are told, doesn't mean there is no meaning whatsoever. Meaning can be found in life through making meaning, liking pie.

Secularist, Paula Kirby, argues (here) that there is no reason to think that a purposeless universe entails a purposeless life. It is perfectly possible to find purpose in an indifferent universe, devoid of anything transcendent or divine.
It is true that in the absence of a divine plan our lives have no externally determined purpose: an individual is not born for the purpose of becoming a physician or creating a spectacular work of art or digging a well in an arid corner of Africa. But are the sick less cured, the pleasure to the art-lover less intense, or the thirst of parched villagers less slaked, simply because a man sought his own purpose rather than following a diktat from on high? Do we really need a deity to tell us that a life spent curing cancer is more worthwhile than one spent drinking in the gutter?
The problem is that her response is merely to state the apparent meaningfulness life. This in no way shows how it is possible to have a meaningful life if the universe has no ultimate meaning.

The reason, for the Christian, that Paula Kirby, and any other human being, has meaningfulness of life is that Christianity is true. If Christianity were not true, then there would be no ultimate meaning to the universe and no meaning for anyone's life. It is no good saying that one doesn't have to believe in God to derive meaning from life. That's not the point. The point is that the truth of Christianity is the necessary condition for the meaningfulness of life. One might deny this truth, but that doesn't make it any less true.

And that's the meaning of pie.

1 comments:

Stephen Fast said...

Creating ones own meaning in life is the practical definition of existentialism at it's core. In existentialism everything is relative and subjective because it is the individual creating purpose for themselves.
If Christianity was not true the world would be without objective purpose and we would be wallowing in our subjective, individual minds.
Sin would be top in that subjective mind. For according Socrates man given ultimate power will always do evil. With no God we would be given ultimate power because we would have nothing to restrain or withhold that power. Without God there is no such thing as good, not even standard grace because God created that too.
The world, without God, would be an evil place and would ultimately destroy itself. It would cave into self-destruction and be an empty sphere of nothingness, which would be a world without purpose because nothingness is nothingness, not something. Even saying that the human beings purpose in life is to do evil would still be a life without purpose because all evil would lead to is self-destruction and an empty world.
Therefore, to have any purpose at all we need to accept the Truth that God is our purpose for living.