Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life Must Have Meaning

The other day I was reading about how Stephen Hawking, the eminent British physicist, referred to the concept of Heaven as a "fairy story."  One could understand why a scientist who has lived for so long with profound physical disabilities questions the existence of God and the notion of life after death.  What I question, however, is Hawking's follow-up statement to the effect that human beings should fulfill their potential by making good use of their lives.  To what end?  If life has no purpose, and no meaning independent of the here and now, who's to determine what any of us "should" do?  Indeed, it is my experience that people who don't believe in life after death generally become increasingly self-absorbed, heedless of the consequences of their actions to others, and much less likely to exhibit true charity.  They tend not to take on the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood -- they profess concern about the state of the world that the current population will leave to succeeding generations, but it's apparent to me that they don't really care about the future beyond their own demise.  As long as they get theirs in their lifetimes -- they seem to think -- and leave no progeny, why should they care about the prospect of economic/societal collapse and the civilized world's being sacked by the barbarians at the gates (or, worse, by the ones in our midst)?  The fact that these people see wispy bogeymen like "climate change" as bigger existential threats than the bankrupting of the federal treasury, or the possibility of some terror group's obtaining and detonating a nuclear weapon, speaks volumes about how basically whacked they are.

On the other hand, it's a little ironic that I write about life's needing to have purpose, given how little meaning I feel my life has at this paraje.  The truth is that my family members -- wife, kids, grandkids, mother -- are my life's purpose, and I bear significant burdens for them that aren't always apparent.  (Heck, just living with my mal de debarquement dizziness is sometimes more burden than I think I can tolerate.)  The reward is that occasionally I get to spend time with my loved ones in beautiful places, such as last weekend at "our" cabin in Colorado -- see the photo above of my grandson Mason on the road outside the cabin, taken on Saturday, May 14.