We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means. Why bad stuff happens. Whether or not a malevolent deity has it in for us. It’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. To accept the total randomness of life is a pretty tough piece of gristle to chew.
Like you, I’ve put a good bit of thought into how come my life has fallen apart not once, but a several times. I know I’m not perfect, but come on! It’s not like I ripped off everyone’s retirement money or slaughtered thousands of people because I think they are ethnically inferior. Whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.
I was already pondering this stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I studied it in college and kept exploring it through the decades since. One day, I woke up to the truth. Not big T truth, but my own little truth. All was revealed. An epiphany, the dawning of light.
I know nothing!
Wow. Suddenly random happenstance is as meaningful as anything. What a relief to realize I don’t need an explanation for life. It just happens. I spent a lifetime walking in a circle, but now I am comfortable having neither expertise nor authority. Just like when I was 12. I’ve been considering founding a church. I could enlist a lot of followers . My church would require no beliefs, contributions of time or money, or even attendance. No rules to follow, nothing to live up to, no possibility of failure. It would ideally suit the modern lifestyle, don’t you think?
Faith and Proof
Faith is not proof; it’s opinion in fancy clothing.
You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith believing in God or declaring yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no proof and for which you can never have proof. If believing in a loving God makes your world feel rational, that’s good. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the path to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.
As for me, I don’t know; I stand firmly behind my refusal to take a stand.
Accepting you know nothing is a big step, so the next issue to tackle is how can you can cash in on your new understanding. What’s the point in knowing the meaning of life unless you can awe people with your brilliance? But no one is going to be dazzled unless you know the right words.
Learn Big Words
Big words (4 or more syllables) if used in an appropriate setting, can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds indicating their admiration for you. This will help you get lucky. Employing big words enhances your likelihood of getting a management position. You might write important books. Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.
Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.
Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:
Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry.
I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything. Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and technology. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)
On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.
Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:
Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.
In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.
Enjoy Being a Fount of Wisdom
You now have everything you need to explain everything. You are a fount of wisdom. You can prove all kind of things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.
There are people who will attack you using faith. Because faith is based on itself, it is hard to dispute. Not to worry. The only one who is ever fully convinced by faith is the one who holds it. Nor does it matter how many people believe or disbelieve it. More believers won’t transform faith into fact. If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things. Like, say we all believe in magic or time travel … and so it works. Cool.
Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve clarified everything for you. If not, feel free to have your people call my people. We’ll talk.