At 36 years of age, I have come to a concrete realization that this world I live in is completely absurd.
It is similar to a lucid dream, where the dreamer becomes aware of the improbability and often outright impossibility of his surroundings and thus realizes he is dreaming while inside of the dream.
I have had the good fortune to travel the world, learn languages and delve deeply into the mindsets of other cultures. These fortunes enabled me to escape from the fishbowl of a small environment and see the enclosure from the outside, as well as compare it to all the other enclosures I have been recently exploring through language study and travel. Through these studies I found such a sense of freedom and excitement that I have never been able to stop or quell my desire for more information, more learning. I found freedom from established traditions, mindsets, beliefs and biases. I found great excitement for the unknown, the new, the exotic, the blasphemous, the feared and the heretical.
Recently however, time, money and obligations have limited my actual travel but in its place have come books, magazines and a need to devour more knowledge. A great discovery I’ve recently made is Lapham’s Quarterly. This publication pulls the golden nuggets out of history and complies them in a neat publication according to a central theme. I have decided to pay much less attention to the daily noise of the news, the gossips and the outright stupid splashed along the T.V. screens. Instead I have turned my focus to books, mostly historical nonfiction, and anything similar to Lapham’s Quarterly that really adds to my knowledge and gives me a greater understanding of this world I currently occupy.
Through these studies, travels and continual quest for more knowledge and in order to simply make sense of my surroundings, I’ve come to the conclusion that this world I live in is absurd. Now that I’ve given my introduction let me put down some examples from the silly to that which has changed the course of the world.
1. High Heels
– Once cannot venture outside without seeing multitudes of women wearing the most ridiculous form of footwear that while being extremely uncomfortable, also causes grotesque foot problems such as bunions. The high heel was designed in 17th century Persia as a riding shoe so that the rider could stand up in the stirrups and maintain balance while shooting his arrows.
After I learned this I can no longer look at women in high heels the same way. I do not find them as an attractive addition but rather as an absurdity akin to one wearing over sized clown shoes.
2. The suit and tie
We men did not escape this evolutionary comedy of the fashion trend either. The origin of the tie is that it was essentially a bib worn to protect the shirt from stains. The bib has just gotten smaller. The suit on the other hand came out of military uniform fashion. The military is regimented, disciplined and serious. The businessman being formal in all his dealings must give an air of seriousness and formality and thus what a better fit than the military uniform without the military trappings? So here we are, men running to our office to sit in our cubicles typing away in a modified military uniform and small bib.
Once you know the origins of why things are the way they are life becomes completely bizarre.
I have recently been reading books on WWI and II as well as checking the facts on many historical wars through Wikipedia. The conclusion I’ve come to is that war is absurd. What is even more absurd is how quickly a leader can convince the people about the “just” reasons for the war.
World War I is the most raw example of this. In brief, a rather significant regional assassination happens and then due to country alliances we end up with millions dead. It is as if monkeys wrote the framework of this play and gorillas carried it out. We do not retain the right to consider ourselves separate from the animals. The absurdity of the reasoning behind the war combined with the very real consequences are simply incomprehensible.
As for the absurdity of reasoning for war, this has happened very recently in my country. The slogan is “defending freedom.” Now whenever war or soldiers are mentioned this is what a good portion of the population mindlessly blurts out. Need to start a war? Just have the leaders say we are “defending freedom.” This slogan has had some wear and tear but still has at least another decade of durability before it is worn out.
My conclusion is that humanity is still very primitive and that this period in our evolution will be looked upon millennia from now as just branching off from the animals. For any reason, any reason what so ever millions and millions can still be convinced that extinguishing the life of another is the appropriate solution for whatever ideology, belief or passing issue of the day holds sway.
It is as though we are not fully conscious. For if we were fully conscious then the fibers of creation should tear apart while everyone screams in writhing agony for the atrocity, the unnatural, the unthinkable that has occurred.
4. Religion – Christianity
I hold no qualms with the overall spirituality and trying to connect ourselves with that which is unknown yet pervades everything including our own existence. I also am inclined to give a bit of a pass to those that need religion, a set framework to tell them exactly what to do since the majority of adults are unable to discover a spiritual side on their own. Most adults no longer advance mentally/intellectually and thus how could anyone expect them to make progress with that which cannot be seen, experienced directly or understood?
To get straight to the point here, after all my travels, experiences, studies, meditations, reflections and so on, I can definitively say that Jesus was just a man. I have extricated myself thoroughly from the fairy tale, the bedtime story that we use to sooth our fears about that which we do not know but which we pretend to hold every answer (unless it is a mystery of course *inside joke for those raised Catholic*).
To stand up against 2000 years of history which has reshaped the world, billions of believers and an institution which has outlasted governments and call it nonsense is frightfully empowering as well as bewildering. This belief, that a simple peasant is the son of the unknown which in our feeble minds we call God. This God, the soothing blanket which keeps us warm and secure against that unknown void, that veil behind which nobody has seen yet everyone must go is a creation of our own imagination. It is my opinion that we cannot even conceive of the true nature of the Great Spirit, الرحمن, יהו or whatever we have decided to call the unknown.
I have been connecting the dots for some time now and the tapestry is complete. Now, explaining exactly how I’ve arrived at this point would fill up a book which one day I may write but one can find clues in my previous posts from the past. But let us just say that a good many things in the Bible have turned out to be fabrications, metaphors, or just plain wrong. The world was not created in 7 days, humanity didn’t start with Adam and Eve, Jesus had brothers and was married and many of the miraculous acts happened in other cults/pagan beliefs long before Jesus.
If Christianity were a corporation it would have gone out of business a long time ago. Anyone who puts their money and belief in a corporation that has been so wrong so often throughout history would be an investment opportunity for the slow witted.
So why do so many people believe? The reasons are as varied as the stars but I would say the main reasons are tradition, security and the need to believe there is something more than the disappointment that is often found here in this existence.
The ship guiding my belief out of Christianity set sail a very long time ago and has visited many ports. I recently read a book which seems to me as my final bill of lading summing up what I already knew and putting it in a well researched, organized intellectual format. That book is called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan.
Jesus was just a man and I feel as though I’m in a dream when I see so many clinging to this fabricated story even though we have more universities and more learning than at any other time in the history of the world.
The old religions die hard.
Most people at this point will either have stopped reading or want to know what my own opinion on creation/reality may be. People are so eager to know the opinions of those they disagree with not so they may consider the idea but rather to have the opportunity to defend their beliefs. One cannot readily do this until they know the beliefs of the other.
In any case, here is my belief.
I have no idea where I am, what I am or where this environment came from. All I know is that I have thoughts. These thoughts come and go and I do my best to control them.
This “I don’t know” is a very thought out, deep, reflected upon statement. It is just as probable to me that we are in a computer program designed by a highly advanced civilization as it is that this universe is some advanced biology student’s creation and we sit upon a shelf in a small jar surrounded by millions of other universes in small jars. The reader of this post may scoff but I have not said that I know we are in a small jar, I’ve said the opposite with a very clear “I don’t know.” The jar example is one possibility out of infinite possibilities the majority of which I believe I cannot even comprehend.
The book that really got me thinking about this was “Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story ” by Jim Holt. He interviewed the brightest minds as well as researched the major philosophers in trying to discover the answer. Obviously the book never comes to the supreme truth and Jim’s own opinion is hidden in an unrelated paragraph in just one sentence in the middle of the book that most people might miss.
I enjoyed reading all of the theories but one of my major takeaways was the realization that I cannot comprehend these theories the way the men who created them can. Any one of them would take me years of study and even then I know I do not have the raw intellectual fire power to get there.
So all I can do is continue to explore and be completely fascinated as well as a little terrified at not having the answer. All I know are what my senses, studies and inquiries have gathered. Here we are, talking monkeys on a biological rock flying through space where only a fraction of us are trying to figure out what is going on while a good majority are quite certain they know the secrets of the universe, the divine and everything in between already.
This dream began with my birth and will end with my death. The longer the dream persists the more bizarre it becomes. The best I can do is to be nice to my fellow dreamers, help those having a nightmare and try as hard as I can to fly.