Meaning of Life
“Eternity Views Our Life on Earth”
@ H. Schwab
061215 – 030817B
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Following are concluding thoughts to the rational, philosophical, and theological search of my mind and “soul” as presented in the various essays on this website www.schwab-writings.com.
These thoughts are written down late in my life in an ultra-religious view – meaning in a view beyond the human religions of historical origin – but, since written by a human, still anthropomorphic.
What could these conclusions then actually be?
Don’t many of us ask at the end of their lives what the meaning of their life was? But few of us then look beyond the horizon of their own immediate life. We do, however, live in a much greater world, within the existence of our whole universe.
Behind our existence, behind all existence, there must have been an “Existence-Causing, Ultimate Essence”. Hence, prior to anything "existing", this must have been a “spiritual” phenomenon and not “physically” existing. What else can we call it in our human words?
We can rationally approach its understanding only by the fact that it caused existence as we know it and by analyzing such existence as our universe – even though there may be others as well.
This “Ultimate Essence” is certainly beyond human understanding.
(A fish cannot understand the spirit of a bird – a bird cannot understand the spirit of a dog – a dog cannot understand the spirit of a human – a human cannot understand the “spirit” of God).
Was this “Ultimate Spiritual Essence of Existence”, which we here call “Eternity”, or “God”, or whatever else we call it, always alone – absolutely alone – in solitude – in all eternality and emptiness, whatever that was before time and space occurred? … always in solitude, alone?
Did that lead to “creating” something – something “real” – now with the dimensions of time and space – something to watch, to observe, to take an interest in – our universe – possibly others, many others?
What would that mean for our role, purpose, or task within this creation here on Earth?
How can we then – or should we – fulfill our lives – if permitted by fate?
Time and space occurred only when and through the creation of something “existing”, as we know the term – either in our universe or in any other one before or besides us – when something “changed” in “time” – and was “different” in then-originating “space” at a “here” from a “there” – in what became thereby what we call “existence”, a “reality” in time and space. Without those differences, the phenomena of time or space did not exist. Both phenomena, time and space, were once new and became measurable.
We only know existence within time and three-dimensional space. Somewhere, however, existence could offer more or less dimensions than in our universe.
Outside of our universe (or another universe) “time” and “space” don’t exist – and neither before nor after this or another universe.
We know that our universe finds itself in ongoing expansion and evolution – and will ultimately fade away in ever dissipating and weakening radiation. This will happen even to the supermassive black holes.
What does that mean for our understanding of “Eternity”, the Great Spirit, God, Allah?
What does that actually mean for our human thoughts of an “afterlife”, for our “souls” after death, for a “paradise” or a “hell”? Can they really still be expected to exist? How could that be? Or, more likely and rationally indicated, do they not “exist” at all?
Does that put even more emphasis on our purpose, direction, goals, and accomplishments during the remaining time of our actual lives here on Earth?
Our once created universe is, to the extent that we can observe it, relatively small and young when seen against the dimensions of eternity. If the size of our Milky Way galaxy is seen as a mere pinhead within our great universe, then our whole universe has only a 300-meter diameter (if it had expanded from the moment of its creation at the maximum speed possible in this universe, the speed of light – but possibly having expanded less, see the curvature of space under the influence of gravity as demanded by relativity theory, see the "black holes" in our universe) – and is only 4½ months old for us, if 1,000 of our years on Earth are seen as merely a second in the time of the evolution of our universe (but possibly less old on fast-moving parts of the universe, see the core of the relativity theory)!
Why so small and why so young – with emptiness (actually “spacelessness”) and timelessness beyond our universe?
What else would “Eternity” have created – and with what purpose there?
The planet we live on, our dear Earth, is only one tiny planet among billions in our galaxy, which we call the “Milky Way”, which, in turn, is only one of so many millions or billions in our universe!
Are there several universes – now or at different times? Do the same “laws of nature” apply within all galaxies and universes everywhere – and would “natural evolution” then turn out to be similar everywhere? Or is creation possibly quite multifaceted in this universe and, more so, among all the other universes – if there are others?
Now comes the important question: Did the creation of our universe merely occur for the “pleasure of God”, as ancient monks taught us to think – after all their historical pious contemplations – and as I was told at a monastery school which I attended?
Should we, therefore, want to bring joyful “pleasure” to the ultimate “Spiritual Essence of Existence”, the only observer from far beyond our small universe – to “Eternity”, God?
Go and plant a beautiful garden!
Reduce suffering and bring more opportunities in life fairly to all!
Contribute a bit of joy and warmth – at least to the small area of the world around you!
Creation as we know it – and are allowed to participate in – can be wonderful!
We can be deeply grateful to be allowed to exist, to journey on Earth for the short duration of our lives – possibly also to be allowed to leave again!
We, all of us, will have to die. That is the way all life was “created” – to make room for the many later evolving and, possibly, better generations.
Will we still stand in front of God after our “death”?
Scientifically seen, this “still standing in front of God” could be by means of the science-demanded “conservation of information” in our universe – in the remaining and ever expanding radiation after the collapse or fading of our material universe, many billions of years from now – as certainly expected by modern science!
Or will we remain merely as a bit of memory without the dimensions of time and space – after we possibly leave both of those dimensions when we “pass away” – an “eternal” afterlife then meaning the absence of time? That would provide us with profoundly deep peace and harmony as we depart (and as I am grateful to once have sensed in a “near-death experience”!).
What a most comforting thought that could be for so many of us!
An addition: Is existence a “pleasure” to watch?
Did the “Ultimate Spiritual Essence”, “Eternity”, God, actually create existence, as we know and experience it, merely for “His own pleasure”, as early monks formulated it?
Is the world we live in here on Earth actually something to observe with “pleasure”?
Every living being, humans included, is relentlessly attacked by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and predators (also by humans), and is aging and suffering! That is how nature works!
Is it a pleasure to see a small child suffer from deformation or disease or in an accident?
Is it a pleasure to observe how many people fail in life and suffer?
Is it a pleasure to see an old person suffer from cancer or deep loneliness?
Is it a pleasure to see wolves hunt for graceful deer, lions hunt for beautiful gazelles, and, actually, all animals fear instant death by a predator all the time – while they actually feed themselves on other living beings, at least on plants?
Every living organism on Earth is made to live for only a very, very short time (on a cosmic scale) – then given to aging and death – for many a sad or cruel one!
It is not a “pleasure” to see political dictators or misguided religious leaders let their subjects suffer or kill them most cruelly – in battle, by their secret police, by some religious “inquisition” or “jihadism”, or by not allowing them any rational or medically relieving care – not being stopped in their evil-doing by a transcendental force intervening from “above”.
Are the desperate cries of all the many suffering ones not being heard above??
Different tribes on Earth have always led and do always lead wars against each other – while each side often prays to the same God for its own victory! That is the way it was in European history and is now so intensely seen in the fighting between Sunni and Shia Muslims, between sects of those, or between Muslim “jihadists” and the West.
Historically, European churches, especially when being end-points of pilgrimage trails, show many “votive” tablets indicating deep thanks for favorable divine response to prayers for help.
But where are the many, many reminders that would be needed for urgent prayers not having been heard and tragic consequences then suffered?
Is our religion only one of the winners in life?
Is watching this kind of existence on Earth not similar to watching variously armed gladiators fight for survival – or innocent Christian martyrs being killed – in the ancient Roman Colosseum arena, as Roman emperors actually did watch this for their “pleasure”?
One can be very scared and saddened by this view of the world and of an “Eternity” – of a “Creator” – where no “loving Father” can be found above!
An important additional thought: We experience “evolution”!
More important is the significant difference between the Roman Arena and our actual world!
Our universe was created with the phenomenon of the dynamics of change – showing an “evolution” – not only in astronomical and geological observations but, more importantly, right where we are, here on Earth, in nature as well as in human society – during our observable lives!
Could it be that “Eternity” - God - is watching Earth, not for His “pleasure” but, given the excitement of such “evolution”, is watching or “observing” Earth for His “interest”, whatever that means – to see what is coming out of that evolutionary experiment presenting material, mental, and emotional evolution as in our part of our universe or anywhere else?
Our universe was started at the time of the Big Bang simply with some energy leading to the appearance of a few specific, “material”, subatomic building blocks (see the “string theory”) and a few specific forces (and principles) of nature acting on them following specific “laws of nature” (including quantum mechanical uncertainty).
Most important in the phenomenon of this creation is the fact that these original building blocks could, in time, combine to form ever larger and ever more complex new building blocks – finally gaining self-caused motion – “life” – a mind – emotions, visualizations, science, inventiveness, and language – cultures!
What a universe to observe that is, specifically here on our Earth!
This view would lead to the conclusion that such an evolution is not predetermined in its outcome and that God does not foresee everything in the future – which would render meaningless such watching or observation of material existence and evolution in our or any other universe.
But an assumption of a not-predetermined evolution would make divine intervention in cruel developments that much more desirable.
The absence of divine intervention can be truly the darkest mystery of existence!
Why do tsunamis surprise poor fishing villages on the ocean’s shores? Why did the World Wars start in civilized Europe? Why did Hitler mysteriously escape several assassination attempts – and the Holocaust occur? Why do all the very bad things happen, which later fill history books but are already reported in detail by the newspapers every single day?
God, have mercy upon us!!!
Yes, there is also light, as well as happiness, warmth, and beauty in this world to be grateful for! May they ultimately prevail!
What can we do and what should we do with our lives in this world?
What does evolution actually bring to the world?
We do not know how many universes have already occurred or existed before or alongside ours. If they started and, subsequently, also changed size, form or content, then they had an evolution, too.
We do not know how many evolutions of actually living nature have already occurred on other planets in our own universe. If there are other forms of higher existence on other planets, they must also have formed through an evolution – as those planets formed out of dust, first being very hot, then cooling and, finally, allowing life to form on them over time.
We do not know what such other evolutions have resulted in. Just look at the variety of cultures, languages, or religions and the progress of science and technology that evolved on Earth!
So far, we do not know of any learning of one evolution from another more advanced one somewhere else in our universe (as we have international learning here on Earth), to save trouble or time in reaching a “better world” (or, merely, to gain power).
“Eternity” could not “want” to observe the same evolution on various planets over and over again, possibly billions of times!
On Earth, basic life occurred billions of years ago and became ever more complex – through evolution and also through various surprising periods of natural “extinctions” of most forms of life, with new and more advanced ones succeeding. Finally, animals occurred – more advanced ones with every additional extinction – with ever increasing capabilities and with some elegance.
Ultimately, the mind occurred – primitive at first in animals, but with enormous capabilities in “humans” – in intelligence and emotions – leading to sensing “values” in our lives – and leading to “visualization” and language, permitting and supporting sophisticated, organized thought and innovation!
On Earth, evolution brought an unforeseen danger!
As the basic system of evolution, all organisms multiply – too much and beyond the availability of supporting environments – with some minor variations in their offspring. That is the mysterious “trick” of evolution – because those among the newest organisms that were better adapted to the conditions of their lives survived and multiplied more, the others suffered more, were crowded out, faded away.
If one among the various individuals of a new generation of a certain type of organisms or animals is qualified to raise 3 youngsters in each generation (while the other youngsters starve, die of disease, or are eaten by predators) and another only slightly different one is qualified to successfully raise 5 youngsters in each following generation, then, after only 4 generations, the one less gifted “species” could have 81 successors and the new and better gifted one could have 625 successors, thus crowding out the first species and forming a new one – in such a short time.
Mate selection by females based on indications of strength or feeding capability of the males was the other selection criterion – and one that often became (and still can be) quite misleading! Watch out, you maidens!
The human population grows rapidly. Soon and in many parts of the world this growth will exceed favorable survival opportunities. Yet, contraception or other methods of birth control among humans are still most irresponsibly rejected by some religious and political leaders! Wake up! What catastrophe will evolution otherwise have to bring? Who will survive?
What could humans contribute to this world?
Humans became the organisms here on Earth that not only observe and understand, but also forcefully and skillfully intervene in the course of their own life, of history, and of evolution.
Our attempt to act upon the world we observe is meant to change it in our favor.
Can we actually contribute “positively” to evolution?
What does “Eternity” possibly expect from us or would value positively?
What does human history indicate thus far?
With the evolution of the mind, emotions occurred – and, with emotions, “values” of “good” or “bad” – presenting new dimension in the evolution of existence – “ethics” as we call it!
This “ethical” behavior allowed the upbringing of the next generation through sacrifice and guidance by their parents. “Ethical” behavior (meaning “not primarily selfish”) allowed for efficient group action – as to kill larger hunting targets or defend against nasty neighbors – then, later, to implement larger and larger irrigation projects – eventually leading to large communities with their hierarchical structures and “governance” – which then, too often, was of most doubtful value for the whole community (see bad leaders, rogue states, violent or suppressive religions, and similar destructive or violent organizations!).
Does evolution still miss an important step – the formation of benevolent and also efficient government, be it political or religious – for the avoidance of all the suffering that humans bring to each other – in daily life and society – often culminating in cruel suppression or wars?
There are actually various systems or types of “ethics” or of ethical behavior. Most surprisingly, their opposites also exist, in “counter-ethics” (not sufficiently studied by neurology, psychology, philosophy, or theology thus far)!
• There is the above-indicated naturally evolved system of ethics, as having been formed by natural evolution through millions of years – formed by nature and only later, in hindsight, recognized and formulated by leaders or religious priests. This system of ethical behavior and thought provides naturally for the selfless care for offspring, for friendship between a few individuals, and for dedication to family, clan, or local society – all of this providing group coherence to form and solve the tasks of a larger society – but with counter-ethical “rage” and “revenge” disrupting all goodness when provoked.
• There are the ethics of structured society, with emphasis on loyalty and obedience to the leader, courage to do what is asked of you, trustworthiness, discipline, and the value of “honor” – and the reverse in betrayal requiring punishment, shame and “shunning” exclusion, or need for “satisfaction” – all still prevailing in military and other large organizations, also, very importantly, in business enterprises. Most people want to belong to a structured group, feel "at home" there.
• There are forms of religiously defined ethics, first found in the laws of Urukagina, then Jesiah, then more humanely defined by Jesus – as in the “Beatitudes” of the Sermon on the Mount, see the essay on “Biblical Beatitudes” on this website www.schwab-writings.com. These religiously defined ethics were sooner or later directed by priests, leading the definition of ethics back to beliefs in a specifically defined God or Allah (if not to the dominance of those priests), sometimes also including laws governing diet, circumcision, and clothing – all superimposed by demands resulting from the structure of their respective communities and their religious leadership, as in military structures. Their opposite is seen in “guilt”, in sometimes unbelievable cruelty (e.g. the Aztecs, then the Catholic “inquisition”, condemnation of non-believers, which were to be killed with impunity – as is now done in the Muslim world).
• There are the ethics of rational societies with “civic or human rights” – and of “the business world” – since the time of the Romans strictly founded on ever more and changing written “laws” – with the opposite in searching for “loopholes” and in cheating.
• Finally, there is the minor form of ethics in helpful speech (called courtesy), as in saying “please”, “thank-you”, or “excuse me” – which, in its offensive opposite, can be quite damaging. “Humor” may be seen as being on the border of “ethics” – with its inversion in “ridiculing” somebody.
• The “philosophy of ethics” attempts to provide a rational understanding of this complex field of human mental engagement. Contradictions are being analyzed as the preference for the greatest good for most people versus absolute ethics valid for each one – or for justification of actions only by their ethical outcome (see the bombing of cities to end wars). So far, however, the need to analyze the variety of ethical systems (see above) or their interaction and, mainly, their respective “counter-ethics” has been neglected!
In practical life, we all can change instantly from behaving according to one system of ethics to another system – for example, when driving home from business, where we try to maximize profit within legal constraints, then getting emotional when irritated in traffic, finally being the benevolent parent during an evening at home – or when young men drifting through life decide to patriotically join the military (in the past, they were put into monasteries to become monks) – or become “radicalized” and find a type-2 ethical home in a jihadist group!
What else do humans contribute to this world?
Primarily, one must mention the progress in the sciences and technology – and their application to practically everything – from kitchen products to skyscraper buildings or rockets to the moon, or computers with the internet. This progress has been leading to or was based on a deeper understanding how our existence functions – from physics, chemistry, and medicine to psychology, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics.
It is fascinating to retroactively “observe” this progress through the study of history – from Thales of Miletus or Pythagoras to the enormous aqueducts of the Romans, later to Galileo’s telescopes and Newton’s beginning of physics, the accelerating 19th century, to progress then driven by the World Wars, to computers and the internet, and our time of accelerating STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). What may occur next?
Is “Eternity” observing Earth with fascination?
A not understandable “gift” by creation occurred in evolution through the appearance of the emotional assessment of “beauty”, first developed in some animals, then in humans – specifically in some of our better societies on Earth, which we call “cultures”. Poetry occurred, as did music – to touch our “souls” – as in the “Ode to Joy” with Schiller’s poetry and Beethoven’s music – offering “joy” as the crowning goal of life on Earth! Read the text in a good translation and listen to the music in a moment of calm! This Ode became Europe's anthem!
There also occurred the even less understandable gift by creation to the highest forms of life, specifically to us humans, in the sensing of “humor”. Laughter can solve many problems, letting us appear more human to each other (but, therefore, laughter is avoided by those who want to project their highest “dignity”, as emperors, dictators, and supreme religious leaders).
In sum: Should we humans be – are we humans – able to reliably follow some system of ethics in order to at least partially generate a somewhat “better” world – with a little less suffering and with some better opportunities fairly for all? The large number of privately funded charitable organizations in America and Europe and their public support gives some hope!
Where will the progress of science and technology driven by financial interests lead us?
Should we not actually and openly strive for more beauty, harmony, and warmth in this world – possibly even for a bit of humor – to spread basic joy?
Is the generation of economic well-being, mainly reduction of suffering and increase of opportunities fairly for all, of a not only economically and technically but, mainly, ethically and aesthetically “better” world the purpose and possible fulfillment of our lives and expected contribution to the evolution of “existence” – as to be observed by Eternity?
What was the contribution to the guidance of mankind by the great religions?
In the search for guidance on its journey through existence on Earth, to possibly accomplish a positive evolution, mankind looked to “God” and searched in religions for guidance. But why have the great religions of mankind failed to provide better guidance – to avoid all the horrors in the world during historical times? Did God not speak (merely letting the experiment of evolution in our universe’s “existence” run its course), or did mankind not listen correctly? Or does the problem lie in mankind not following the benevolent religious rules? Would a return to strict religious fundamentalism resolve all problems, as many Muslims now believe – in a reversal of evolution and in ending the divine experiment of evolution in our universe? Unlikely – and dangerous, too!
It is always easier to criticize other religions but not one’s own, the religion one “believes” in – and that is also the way the followers of other religions feel.
The Hindu religions originally resulted from the deepest searching thoughts of mankind and not from any hallucinatory vision of a religious founder. But they evolved or deteriorated into a variety of sects with a multiplicity of anthropomorphic religious deities or concepts – some appearing as superstitions. This may result in overlooking the depth of original Hindu thinking and searching.
Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam – all three – resulted from “hallucinations” of their founders, as the rational mind would define it – actually reading God’s will – or merely reflecting their own – within their culture at that time.
Buddhism allows the follower to reach the sensation of “enlightenment” from intensive meditation, then leading to the believed state of an ultimate “nirvana” of mind and body. A critical view could overlook the beneficial effect of liberation from materialism and self-centered thought of a Buddhist attitude. This allowed Buddhists to develop a culture of monasteries where monks searched for enlightenment and nirvana – but actually lived on contributions by the working population – while the rulers of their countries continued to fight for expansion of the area of their dominance – now leaving China with the greatest colonial empire on Earth, including some Mongolian territory, all its western Uigur territories, Tibet, and, as now demanded by them, the South China Sea.
Christians find salvation in the vision of Christ’s resurrection from the grave and ascension into heaven – witnessed by a mere few followers – and propagated by St. Paul after his vision. In this approach, some Christians see their faith in those miracles as a way to reach paradise, simply through “faith”. The most important contribution of the young Jesus of Nazareth, however, the preaching during his short life is put in second place – his most humane teaching of a life of “Christian love” and service to one’s fellow men – in personal modesty, through merciful help, as a peacemaker, and in attempting to have a “clean heart” (see the essay on the biblical “Beatitudes” on the website www.schwab-writings.com).
Christians had their own period of not always peaceful missionary activity in Germany and Europe’s East, of crusades, and colonization in the Americas. Worse than that were the periods of the Inquisition and burning of all infidels and “witches”. Now, the Pope still prohibits all forms of contraception, leading to great suffering in the poorest countries where his commands are obeyed – while failing to inhibit vast political misuse of power and corruption, especially in Catholic countries.
Muhammad experienced from time to time (over a dozen years), while ascetically contemplating in a remote cave, the vision of an angel as a messenger from God with revelations to communicate to his followers. These individual visions were without a specific structure, each pronounced in a multitude of individual verses – which followers may take out of context and pursue single-mindedly, sometimes not to the best of the world (see the designation of “apostates”, which then have to be killed, as also the followers of other Muslim sects simply declared as “infidels”.
It can easily be overlooked that Muhammad’s first great accomplishment was the restructuring and management of the town later called Medina. Several family clans fought there violently, the rich abused the poor, and women held a degraded rank in society. He made all citizens equal (as in our modern democracies), restrained their abuses (harems had to be limited to only four wives), and, most importantly, granted previously degraded women some important rights – as in inheritance ownership and the right to divorce. Later in his life, however, large-scale conquest and warfare changed Muhammad’s visions and personality in an increasingly dangerous way – see some of the most cruel verses contained in the last visions he had during his life (when following the actually valid Nöldeke-sequence of the Surahs, not their sequence in the Qur’an) -- see the essay “Can Islam Shine Again?” on the website www.schwab-writings.com !
Islam still needs a reformation and adaptation to the actual conditions in the modern world.
By now, Islam is the center of all horrible violence in our days, from the Taliban to Al Qaeda and DAESH/ISIL. What is so basically wrong with Islam and the Qur’an, their holy book, that this can occur – unopposed by most of the Muslim clergy? Why can Islam not direct all youthful, idealistic activism into a more benevolent direction, as the Peace Corps once did?
None of the three greatest religious founders actually wrote a book of practical guidance for the following religious or political governance of the world – which, most likely, would have to be adapted to local cultural and human conditions and adapted from time to time to evolving civilization. At best, Moses’ 10 Commandments, Jesus’ “Benedictions” of the Sermon in the Mount, and Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon could be seen in this context.
Mankind has not found a valid source for guidance in its journey through the evolution of existence in our universe here on Earth.
Should we not primarily attempt to contribute positively to evolution – to let it appear more interesting – if not enjoyable – for the Great Viewer, “Eternity”, to observe from above?
Does it make sense to seek – we actually must seek – an understanding of the ultimate “Creative Essence of Existence”, from which our universe and existence came, whatever name we give it, “Eternity”, “God”, or “Allah”. Hopefully, this could provide us with better guidance or direction (if not meaning) for our own lives in the course of natural and cultural evolution as we experience it and to which we could contribute.
A positive view of existence:
Existence is not all problematic, destructive, and full of suffering.
Let us be grateful that, during the journey of our life, we can participate in this endeavor of “existence” here on Earth – where, besides all very sad suffering, there also is some evolutionary progress of human thought and behavior, also with joy and warmth to experience or share, and beauty to see!
May a new period of evolution in mental progress occur, bringing continuation of a positive “evolution” of existence here on Earth! May this bring relief to mankind and to all of suffering nature!
Europe has the “Ode to Joy” as its “anthem” – an expression of hope!
In an overall view covering millions of years, natural evolution was quite positive and so was the evolution of the human mind and society.
Does that permit us to perceive “Eternity”, “the Great Spirit”, in a positive light – as it has created the preconditions for this evolution and lets it, hopefully, progress further, while “observing” it benignly?
Can some transcendental guidance, support, and, occasionally, some intervention be hoped for? … also in our times? …Please!!!… in halting some of the worst dictators, in preventing some of the worst bombings, and in clearing the minds of the ISIL and other jihadists!
The diminishing acceptance of religion in the lives of modern people in our time presents a problem of lacking orientation, specifically to the young generation still seeking an approach to life – when no other rational or philosophical direction is visible. Addictive drugs then destroy lives. Tempting political or religious movements offer a new home, at worst as jihadists in the destructive ISIL Kalifat (or caliphate). A life for modern art (including music and dance) is a weak substitute (with limited life-supporting earning power) – as is a life for some sport, being useful only during the younger years.
Some modern religions appeared during the last hundred years (and before), but mostly for the financial benefit or for the glory of their leaders. A positively guiding, rational, widely accepted philosophy is still missing!
Actual observation of mental, political, and physical evolution on Earth:
The actual observation of evolutionary progress on Earth does not correspond to the mental progress of human society. As in a wave pattern, positive periods of rational progress fade into periods of emotional and political instability, too often into violence and wars.
Following is an observation how recent evolution progressed on Earth after the appearance of science and technology, higher values, ethics, many religions, aesthetics, and humor? Specifically, why was evolution to a “better” world so slow, too often cruelly interrupted and endangered by counter-movements or, in human society, by destructive wars? Could better guidance for mankind and, mainly, better governance on Earth have helped? Conditions on Earth are still rather negative for too many people, as ignorance and poverty combined with personality weakness and political corruption continues and always new wars occur. What is wrong with evolution? Does the divine experiment with evolution work well? Did the world get better and become “more pleasurable to observe” by Eternity?
Or must another “extinction” on Earth be preferred by “Eternity”?
To better understand mental or ethical evolution, one could analyze the evolution up to our time of China after Confucius, of ancient Mesopotamia after Urukagina, or of the Middle East after Muhammad.
In the West, original Christian ethics led to ending the cruelties of Roman arenas, as in the Colosseum (after Christian martyrs were the last to be killed there for the glory or “pleasure” of emperors and Roman gods)! But the following period of peace within the Roman Empire was short. Very soon, “religious” wars began – at first, and after some hesitation, only defensively against the attacking enemies of the Christians – supposedly for the “pleasure” of “God”.
Later, however, wars were conducted between Christian subgroups. The formulation and imposition of a common “Creed” for all Christians under Emperor Constantine in 325 CE at Nicea failed. The last and especially cruel intra-Christian war in Europe was of 30-year duration in Germany, ending with another plague around 1650 AD.
During all those Christian centuries, mighty rulers and nations felt free to conduct wars against each other for territorial expansion or material benefit. Especially cruel were the First World War and the actions of the ensuing political dictators, leading to the Second World War and all the ideological movements (from Hitler to Stalin to Mao Tse Tung to Pol Pot and more!) – when many millions of people were tortured and killed – also by the most cruel bombing of civilian areas in times of political conflict in Europe – culminating in the firestorm bombing of Dresden and, more so, the atomic bombings in Japan.
Now, it is the Muslim world that leads the cruelest fighting and killing, all in the name of the same “Allah” as seen by their different religious sects – today mainly between the Sunni and Shia and between subsections of those. Why is their holy book, the Qur’an, so inadequate in clearly guiding Muslims along a benevolent path – as was at times the Bible in guiding Christians?! (See the essay “Can Islam Shine Again” on this website www.schwab-writings.com, citing mainly the four most violent verses in the Qur’an perpetuating Muslim violence – if not overcome one day by a reformation of that faith ending the Quranically justified violence – which should be demanded by the world before Islam is accepted as a common religion in our midst).
Equally dangerously, new dictators replace democracy in a growing number of countries – a general in Egypt, Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, Assad and his brother in Syria, the Ayatollah in Iran, the increasingly dictatorial president Xi of China, Duterte in the Philippines, and, worst, Kim Jong-un in North Korea. What a threat to humanity is that in the age of atomic bombs, VX-poison, and other mass destruction weapons!
In a higher view of mental evolution on Earth, one can observe how a wave of new philosophies or religions appeared from about 600 BC to the time of Jesus and, more than 600 years later, to the origin of Islam. See the origin and progress in religious/philosophical thought in ancient India, by Confucianism and Taoism in China, Buddhism in India and China, also by the development of the Scriptures of the Jewish Old Testament, and, finally, the rational philosophies of Greece after 450 BC, with rationality being revived in our time.
In central Europe, mental development occurred in the “Scholastic” era of dialectical analysis of thought and scriptures, then the “Renaissance” of broad innovation and intellectual research and the “Enlightenment” with emphasis on rationality. In political organization, democracy (already ancient in rural areas of the world) came into important public existence (first in Switzerland in 1291 AD – then in the United States in 1776).
Almost as if in a contrasting response to rationality, various movements with emphasis on emotions, mainly fundamentalist religions, and the formulation or implementation of emotional “values” (some “romantic”) occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In more recent times, some eras of mental evolution with actually greater impact on human life than the above-mentioned historic ones have occurred, though they remained as yet unnamed. Possibly as a consequence of the Renaissance, more rational observation of nature and technical development began in the West (as already initiated by the Greeks, with Thales of Miletus). With the help of Galileo and his telescope, modern astronomy opened the world of deep space. Newton opened the mind to a view of the world in terms of physics. Consequently, technology progressed and steam power was invented – lifting some burdens from mankind, but also starting the concept of unemployment, as among the weavers, and leading to rationality in economic thought and policy. Transportation changed to railroads, the automobile, and airplanes. The world became smaller – and more interconnected. Human well-being improved – and so did the desire for even more! Medical knowledge and the development of improved medications progressed especially well!
Politically, the improvement of ships and navigation led to the development of trade connections between the West and the Far East, to the discovery of America, then the control of most of the world by means of European “colonies”.
The world became still smaller with the invention of telegraphy, the radio and television.
Warfare became more dangerous with modern weapons!
This led to the formation of, first, the League of Nations, then the United Nations and the European Union.
Now, after the horrors of World War II, a still newer phase of human evolution has occurred (also not yet named) with the rapid expansion of the sciences and technology in all areas. Space exploration led to limited space travel, though, mainly, to the development of excellent telescopes. This development allowed the discovery and viewing of billions of galaxies all the way to the limit of our universe at about 13 billion light-years distance – and the expectation of myriad life-supporting planets out there. Molecular biology explained the origin and functioning of life and let medical knowledge progress, especially after the finding of antibiotic materials (first “penicillin”). Of special interest was the discovery of genetics, not only explaining much of biological evolution, but also possibly allowing mankind to influence and control its own evolution – where dangers of abuse are already being seen! Artificial intelligence looms on the horizon.
In technology, the transistor, digital technology, and the Internet appeared, with steadily increasing computing power and instantaneous connection (free of cost) for all! Thousands of “apps” have appeared to alleviate every need and for everybody to use. No youngster (or old person) wants to be seen or live without an iPhone or iPad!
Has the world become one great network or unit?
But will a new phase of rationality and progress again be followed by a relapse into a phase of highly emotional imbalance – as the World Wars followed the 19th century?
We actually do live in exciting times of evolution on Earth – possibly also interesting to “observe” from above! But has it actually become a better world, one more pleasant to “observe”, be it by us or by “Eternity” from above?
This mental development of mankind in rationality led to the question whether one could still accept old beliefs in an almost anthropomorphic “God” and resulting divine guidance. The binding and guiding forces of earlier human society resulting from traditional religions faded, and church membership declined in this new era of scientific rationality (poorly substituted by communism in China – now maintained only in order to retain national unity and the power of the ruling class, as in Vietnam and other dictatorial states).
Consequently, reliance on “old” values and rules faded, too. With decreasing guidance for the young, consumption of addictive drugs increased (now almost a tragic epidemic – with many victims). Some searching young people joined extremist (and violent) movements (lately the Muslim jihad), where they found a new “home” and meaning for their lives.
Thus, the lack of guidance for our young generation (and Muslim violence throughout the Islamic world) may have become the counter-movement to the great era of advances in science and rationality during the 70 years following the last World War.
Actually, each historical phase of mental progress has had its negative counteraction. The scholastic period was followed by religious wars. The rationality of the Renaissance was countered by subsequent religious wars of great cruelty. The Enlightenment led to emotional counter-movements – Rousseau, then the Rosicrucians, the widely famous Freemasons, and, finally, the Napoleonic wars, enthusiastically supported by the French population – as Germans supported Hitler, the Russians now Putin, and the Turks Erdogan.
The phase of modern rationality of the 19th century was followed by the two emotionally supported World Wars, then the ideologies of Communism and National Socialism, with their horrible dictators and crimes against humanity.
The newest phase of the all-invasive sciences and the Internet brought mental clarity to previously underdeveloped areas of the world – but some political and religious leaders then feared losing control. North Korea, Zimbabwe, and, most destructively so far, Syria’s ISIS are attempting to bring the totality of their leadership or the controlled following of Allah under their personal control by means of politically restrictive systems, presented as a “blessing” to their nations – but also as a violent burden (if not atomic danger) to the world – as demonstrated by the current wave of millions of refugees – and millions more would come if they could escape.
Besides those mental developments in the course of evolution on Earth, there now occur some dangerous side effects of our evolution. There are the developments of global warming, ocean acidification, the never-ending and rapid population increase in some parts of our Earth, the epidemic use of addictive mind-numbing drugs, and the appearance of continually adapting cure-resistant diseases!
The reduction of global warming and ocean acidification would require international cooperation (see the failure of cooperation among fishing communities leading to the depletion of fish stock – resolved only by the Environmental Defense Fund’s [EDF’s] concept of regional community formation among fishermen). Unfortunately, such EDF-sponsored cooperation cannot be fully expected on the present international level (of the UN) – yet.
Population increase requires contraception as a countermeasure – still opposed by important political forces, the Pope, and Muslim religious leaders on the basis of misinterpreted religious principles – as if God had wanted a catastrophe on Earth by way of overpopulation.
Such an increase in population is partially based on increasing life expectancy, also requiring a solution for the increasing problem of caring for the elderly.
Does an extreme and unbalanced population expansion mainly in the underdeveloped areas of the world lead to a form of down-breeding for mankind? What could that lead to?
The epidemic of addictive drugs was approached by fighting the production of drug – merely increasing their price, leading to artificial substitutes and supporting criminal suppliers. The attempt to reduce consumption through education has not shown success either. New ideas are urgently needed!
The appearance of ever new treatment-resistant diseases is, possibly, the greatest challenge to the sciences, and to international cooperation!
What are our individual “goals” in our existence?
What is our individual task or goal in this world?
There actually is not a single goal for our lives (as some religions present), but three different goals to balance. There also is a rising on three levels of goals as we are able to progress in our lives. This results in the following matrix ranking human goals and values in three dimensions and on three levels:
Relating to self
Relating to community
Special gift of life
Caring Service & Charity
Building a Better Society
Art, Nature, Life
Security and Dignity
Positive Significance in Society, Action Potential
Survival, Shelter, Procreation
Family and Clan
Our goals as relating to ourselves: Nature expects that each living organism develop its potential as best it can – first in the often demanding fight for survival, food, shelter, and procreation. Opportunities must be pursued wisely! With success in life, there is the natural desire to establish some reserves, providing freedom, also “wealth” – which may be a shallow goal in itself. At the highest, there is ongoing mental search, education, exploration and personality formation, also in higher skills.
Our goals as relating to our community: Humans, as other animals living in packs or family units (as wolves), are expected to care for their immediate family or clan. Beyond that, they try to reach significance in that group, possibly leadership and power … which can relate to vanity. At best, there is the striving for caring service, charity, and building of a better society.
Our goals relating to the special gifts of life in sensing aesthetics and joy: Basic decorations, rising to often shallow “entertainment”, and reaching “culture” and emotional fulfillment at its best.
In the dimension of our personal lives, suffering and dysfunction too often prevail over beneficial progress or joyful existence – often extending to a sad ending for ourselves – equally or even more burdening when reaching a loved one. Therefore, our greatest effort must go into the reduction of suffering – and to increasing opportunity fairly for all – where the suffering’s own capability and, mainly, their own responsibility and effort must be strengthened – rather than only temporary hand-outs be provided.
It is inadequate to concentrate on the problems and sadness in this world. We must instead concentrate on the positive and beautiful. Only then can we do more to augment the positive in existence! Then, the positive and beautiful will come more to the fore – in our own lives and for the benefit of all.
May that be our call for a fulfilled life!
What does “Eternity” expect to observe when viewing our life on Earth?
How can we understand and please “Eternity”, God? What can we contribute to creation? What is the meaning of our lives?
The evolution of existence as it was created and subsequently occurred has brought much ongoing violence, destruction, and cruelty.
In the long run, however, a fascinating evolution toward greater complexity appeared, finally leading to the human mind, emotions, language, ethical values, and culture – augmented by the sensation of beauty of nature, art, joy and emotional warmth – even some humor.
Could, or should, that indicate the direction expected by Eternity to be taken by us, the now living on Earth?
Historic leaders have seldom left guiding directions for human society. Moses’ 10 Commandments and Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon indicated practical rules for decently living together in close society. Neither contained guidance for education, for caring service or charity beyond taxation, or any contribution to culture, nor the importance of emotional joy or warmth.
Jesus may have left idealistic guidance in the selection of the eight “Beatitudes” included in the Sermon on the Mount as reported by Matthew (specifically in four of them open to proactive application) – but not including any practical guidance to society.
In our time, however, society’s priorities are in practical well-being and security – the internal and external one.
As guiding values (besides well-being and security), education, charity, and culture rank highest in our society – with the need for self-control becoming more important as in countering the epidemic expansion of drug abuse.
The need for social balance of society remains – but often only in the background -- with the need to move the reduction of corruption or monetary influence on politics into the foreground.
Here is the conclusion of this writing:
Beginning with always the greatest admiration of and reverence for “Eternity”, God, Jahweh, Allah or the “Essence of Creation”, which will always remain mysterious to us:
Most importantly, arriving at the ultimate mystery and question of existence and our lives, we cannot actually understand the spiritual essence, “Eternity”, that brought forth the creation of real existence as in our universe – with all of its cruelty and suffering and with all of its beauty and joy. We do not experience how our prayers or cries for help are heard or being responded to. Yet, from the depth of our hearts and minds we long to resonate with this Spiritual Essence, to provide a positive contribution to its creation, to please “Eternity.
If we cannot see divine intervention and cannot all accept unequivocal, historic divine guidance, what do we see and accept as our human mission here on Earth?
We should be less destructive among ourselves or in nature and contribute actively to a better world on Earth – each one of us where we are!
On the level of our human society:
Find solutions to the major problems of Global Warming, overpopulation,
drug addiction, and incurable diseases!
Improve the quality of all political or religious governance everywhere on Earth
Improve our personal and society’s security and economy
in the soundness of all parts and of a balanced structure of human society,
with reasonable income opportunities and some freedom for all!
In our personal lives:
We must develop our potential as all organisms in nature must
– as humans, through learning and striving as best we can
– as we long to perceive and wisely pursue all opportunities in our lives
We must, as social beings, provide caring service to our families, clans, or mankind
– and also to nature!
– We must attempt to reduce suffering and increase opportunity fairly for all
by direct help where needed
better, by strengthening the own effort of the suffering ones.
We can develop culture
– by enjoying beauty in the arts and warmth in human contact
Most importantly, may there be, and may we share, more joy and emotional warmth in our lives! … and, maybe, a little bit of humor, too?
Let us start working for a better world right now!
And beware – we may be watched!
… see the beginning of this essay!
“aaa-A-Writings/c-pt/Meaning of Life-EternityLife- 03-08-17”