Still Examining

Imbolc                                                        Waxing Bridgit Moon

Greg Membres, my Latin tutor, recommended a film, The Examined Life.  You may have seen it already since it was made in 2008, but it’s a powerful introduction to some fundamental philosophical questions like ethics, the meaning of life, political theory.

One truth struck me more powerfully than any other while watching this movie.  I imagined, when I was in high school and then in college, that there was an upward and onward nature to learning, a steady progression in which high school and college pushed me, and a progression that would give me enough momentum to take my life up the mountain, all the way to the top, that somehow learning and life would be a regular unfolding of answers and conclusions.  After, maybe, my sophomore year I began to realize this was a mistaken view, not only mistaken but might have had reality actually inverted.

That is, I was never more certain of the truth than when I was in college and then, later, in seminary.  Life since then has offered a sometime gradual, sometimes sudden degradation of both the things I know for sure and the things I know at all.  An abstract thinker by nature and inclination, I found it logical, desirable to hunt for truth in the abstract systems of philosophy, theology, theoretical approaches to various disciplines.  At one point, in fact, I wanted to study the theoretical foundations of anthropology in graduate school.  Turns out not many graduate schools had much interest.  In either the discipline or me studying it.

As life experience and longer thought has lead me to reconsider many of my core positions, I have abandoned Christianity, the liberal politics of my father, the traditional roles of men and women, boys and girls, the positive assumptions about capitalism with which I was acculturated, the metaphysics of Rene Descartes which still informs our unexamined ontology, a soul, an afterlife, respect for the government, though not for democracy itself.  These are not trivial decisions, nor were any of them made lightly nor suddenly.

On some of the big questions like the meaning of life, I have chosen to abandon my search.  Life is what we are, it is what we do and needs no abstract cover story for its purpose.  This may be too minimalistic for many and I get that, but for me, I find my purpose in life itself, the living of it that includes marriage, family, friends and  actions that press for greater justice, a sustainable future, a climate that will not kill us.

Though I’m not a complete cultural relativist, I’m pretty damn close.  Murder, oppression, suppression, starvation, unchecked disease, poverty, racial and sexual discrimination of any kind are wrong, in my view, universally.  In almost all other matters, I’m more than open to different cultural perspectives and practices, I expect them, celebrate them and would find the world shallower and morally impoverished without them.

Still working on this, noodling it.

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