A Confession, part 5
"But it could be that I have missed something," I said to myself many times. "It could be that there is something I need to understand, and when I see it, all will fit together." I looked for the answer in books, not from a shallow interest as one who has nothing better to do, but I looked as a man who is drowning looks for a life rope. And I found nothing.
I turned to science. From my years of education, and from my many smart friends, I was able to hear all that science had to say. I had long believed, because of the serious and confident air of the scientists, that science had the answers to everything. If I had not been able to find the answers there before, I had believed that it was only because I had not worded the questions well, or because I had not listened closely to the answers. But what I learned when I was most hungry for answers, is that science has nothing at all to give to the hunt for the meaning of life. Science only agrees with what I had by this time learned on my own, and that is, that the one thing we know more than anything else, is that we cannot know the meaning of life.
The question I was asking was the easiest of questions. The question is there in the heart of the most foolish child as well as in the heart of the smartest adult. It is the question that must be answered before we can even start to live. The question is: "What will come of what I am doing today or of what I will do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?" Or to put it another way, "Why should I live? Why want or do anything?" Or it could be asked like this, "Is there any meaning in my life that death will not destroy?"
When I turned to science, I found there are two opposite sides to it, and both of them do not answer the important questions of life. One side has clear answers, but asks the wrong questions; the other side asks the right questions, but does not give clear answers. The side with the clear answers leads to numbers and sums. It is what we call "hard" science. The side with the right questions leads to philosophy. It is what we call "soft" science.
Hard science had told me that everything is getting better and better, and in time we will know everything. It is difficult to believe now that there was a time when I was happy with this answer. But it was at a time when I was becoming stronger and smarter myself, so it was easy to believe such a lie. But now that I am becoming older and weaker, with my teeth and hair falling out, I see that the law of progress is a counterfeit. When you look closer at it, it says nothing about what is better or what is worse, what is forward or what is backward. The hard sciences can tell us things about the laws of light, about the joining of chemicals, about how animals grow, and about numbers and measures. But when I ask, "Why do I live?" it says, "When you understand all of the atoms in all of space, then you will understand why you live on the earth."
If one turns to the soft sciences, one finds surprisingly little to think about there either. It is filled with arguments between one scientist and another. And most scientists will say things at times that go against what they themselves said at other times. The soft sciences say that all people have important rules to live by. These rules are there in the religion, government, art, and science of the world. They too believe that these rules become better and better with time.
It is the job of the soft scientist to study these rules and to teach people to follow the best ones. But the soft scientists each start from their own understanding of what is most important, and they each come to different ends. They study a small group of people in a small measure of time and try to say things from those studies that will be true for all people at all times. They do this without understanding the whole picture, for they have no answer to where life came from or where life is going.
I must say that there was a time when I believed the argument of the soft sciences too; but it was because I had my own rules, and I wanted to believe that, by playing their game, I could tell the world what was right and what was wrong by my rules. But in the face of death, the soft sciences have no answers that bring real meaning to life. When I turn to philosophy, the softest of the soft sciences, and I ask, "Why am I here?" philosophy not only gives no answer, but philosophy itself asks the same question. The best it can do is to ask the question clearly. And its most honest answer is just to say, "I do not know."
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
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