For a lot of people, living in mystery is very uncomfortable. Otherwise, religions with their structures — and claims to have all of the answers — wouldn’t be as popular as they are. People seem eager to embrace an explanation, a way to make some sense of their purpose. For many, an imperfect or implausible master plan is better than nothing at all.
Now, one can get cute and go down the Wittgenstein rabbit hole and just say there’s no answer to the meaning of life because the question itself is meaningless (as an illusory construct of language). That may in fact be accurate, but we humans seem unable to resist trying to find an answer.
Would it make you more content to know that there likely is a purpose, but we just don’t know what it is yet and may never know? Would that be enough, or do you need all of the details, rules, and back story?
Marianne Weidlein (a lifecoach blogger I came across randomly) writes:
Many people are no longer finding true support in the beliefs of traditional religion. When their prayers repeatedly go unanswered as requested, they simply can’t accept that the source of life “thinks” it better for them to do without and to suffer. Rather than assuming they are controlled by a mysterious force they don’t understand, and that does not always answer their requests, they are looking for something to believe in that gives them a feeling of security. This is one reason why Eastern religions have become increasingly more popular since the 60s. They offer less dogma and fewer, if any, rules, and many emphasize peace and freedom. For this reason, “spirituality” is becoming more popular than “religion”.
So Weidlein touches on some much-discussed reasons why Eastern religions started to become more popular in the West. People yearned for meaning, for a connection with a higher power, but weren’t necessarily ready to buy into a rigid structure and dogma.
Now, religion and spirituality as evolutionarily useful tools have been written about to death, so I’m not touching that right now. My focus is on the one question: Does not knowing the meaning of life take anything away from living life?
Weidlein goes on to add:
Frogs croak with the coming rain. Prehistoric man saw this, and assuming that the frog’s croaking brought the rain, thought he could do it too. So he dressed like a frog and croaked. …do we look for our security by believing in a higher power, doing our own versions of “croaking when we want rain,” or do we find that within? And if we are to seek for it within, then how do we achieve it?
Great question. What do you think?