Monday, August 6, 2012

Blue Skies, Romney's Taxes, and Why Does the World Exist?

Read the NYTIMES review here
That's the sort of question a kid's going to ask, and it's easy enough to explain: the wavelength of blue light is the same size as air particulates, which deflects blue light in every direction.

You may have to tone that down a bit for a kid. 

But don't send the kid to read the review of Why Does the World Exist: An Existential Detective Story in the New York Times. You'll never stop be confronted with questions for which there are no answers. 

On the other hand, I love this sort of stuff—all those unanswerable questions like, Does Romney really believe he pays a fair share of taxes compared to Joe Average?

From the review: 
Ludwig Wittgenstein described a feeling of awe that led him to use phrases like “How extraordinary that anything should exist,” but he decided it was better not to say such things. Martin Heidegger decided the other way, and made the Question of Being the foundation for his entire philosophy, becoming, as George Steiner described him, “the great master of astonishment, the man whose amazement before the blank fact that we are instead of not being, has put a radiant obstacle in the path of the obvious.”
I'm a religious sort, or better said, I'm a spiritual sort, because declarations of religious beliefs generally turn off a sophisticated audience since religions are based on faith, and faith is personal, whether you have it or not, whether you think faith is subjective nonsense in a scientific-objective world. Of course, I think to be spiritual, you need to suppose (have faith) there is a god, an omniscient, omnipotent being, a Creator of Existence, to relate this to the theme of the book review. 

That said, it is ego-centrism of the rankest sort to think that small-g-or-big-God created the universe for us, we fractious little, short-lived humanoids on this third planet from a relatively small star in one-of-billions of galaxies.

And, as my scientific-objective-evidence friends will say, it is ego-centrism only that leads me to have faith in God, a search for meaning in my existence, a reason why the collection of atoms constructing this biochemical-engine is Me. 

A Roman Catholic priest with whom my family has a friendship once relayed something to me, no doubt not an entirely original thought, but thereby making it near more universally true: We gain faith by acting in faith.

This applies everywhere, obviously. It's not religious entirely, although it appears so on the face of it. It is, as Mr. Kierkegaard offered, existential. 

We apparently are. At least our senses tells us we are real, and so for our own sanity and safety, we must act as if we are real.

We apparently have feelings, needs, desires—assorted, common, and distinctive. Whether those desires are a product of biochemistry (atheism) or generated by a soul and free will granted by Our Creator (most of the rest of us), we may as well act as if those feelings, needs, desires, are real (as long as we harm no others in the process) because they are real enough that we will negate our existence otherwise. And that applies to atheists and believers, both.

And so here we are, at a place where that thought process leaves me empty, still searching for the answer to the question of Why? 


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