In life, there’s always the question of meaning. In little or large ways we can ask what our actions, choices, thoughts or attitudes might mean in relation to others or in a more absolute sense. Circling in this way towards ultimate questions about the reality of human existence and how best to live it – the concern of philosophers, religions, cultures, therapists and, often, of children.
I’ve touched upon this at times here, as it seems so important, but more often than not such essentially contentious and arguably unanswerable questions tend to give way to the more pressing concerns of modern life (see Notes One).
But, even practically speaking, it can be seen that every word, thought, feeling, gesture, assumption causes countless ripples in the world around us; affecting those to whom it’s directed and those who witness it, becoming a message carried into their lives, those around them, and the systems we’re all sustaining through our everyday habits or choices.
Maybe that’s what religion has sought to regulate over the years: how we act within our lives, the ideas we hold most firmly in our minds, and the collective realities that all effectively serves to create. And maybe in the modern day it’s simply true that belief is now a personal matter, freed from the constrictions of social obligation and seeking greater alignment with our knowledge of the material world.
Surely our thoughts and actions do carry meaning though. There’s a truth in everything; whether it’s personal or historical, intentional or possibly somewhat accidental. Ideas have shaped the lives of people through all the ages of humanity, becoming the systems that have guided civilisations for better or for worse.
Within that slightly overwhelming sense of reality as slow thought, where everything holds or once held meaning and intention, what if there is no carpet? No place to hide all those things we’d rather not acknowledge or deal with? What if everything we do finds a home somewhere, just as every discarded item from our lifetime likely still exists – each moment, day, year, decade adding to this reservoir of our choices and impacts?
Is it possible to live long term if we’re so careless of consequences? It’s a question as applicable to the environment as it is to technology: it may seem as if actions have no cost to us, but surely they hit home somewhere creating personal or systemic problems that have to be lived through by others (Notes Two). Can we really do as we please and take no responsibility for the fallout?
Belief might be personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful and a significant social reality. How we see things – ourselves, our worth, the value of human life, our place in the world, the meaning of all we do – must inevitably influence how we act and the extent we care about those realities (Notes Three). At the end of the day, I tend to think that it matters if it matters. And maybe it all does?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Spirituality since the 80s
Note 1: Spirit as the invisible
Note 1: The human spirit
Note 1: What is real?
Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 2: Ways of living & those who suffer
Note 2: Empathy in a world that happily destroys
Note 2: Living in luxury, on what grounds?
Note 3: Responsibility in shaping this reality
Note 3: Complexity of life