A Confession, part 9
I had two ways of understanding my problem. I could say that what I had believed had been good reasoning was not good reasoning after all, or I could say that what I had earlier thought was stupid was not so stupid after all. I went over my first line of argument and at first I could see nothing wrong with it. There was no good reason to believe that life was anything more than a dream.
But then I saw it: I had asked one question and answered another one. My question had been: "Why should I live? What real, eternal effect will there be of my short life?" But to find the answer to this question, I had studied life. Life itself could not give the answer to the meaning of life; for the meaning of life must be something bigger than life itself. My question was looking for a meaning that is bigger than time and space. But I looked in time and space for an answer, and the only answer I could come up with was that there was no meaning for life that is not bigger than life.
It was something like what happens when you are doing a problem with numbers and you think you have found an answer from all that is on both sides of the equal sign; but then you find that what you have is not an answer, for you are using the same letters or numbers on both sides. Your work with the numbers and letters may be perfect, but the answer that you come up with says nothing, because it says only that x equals x or that thirteen equals thirteen. That is what had been happening with my reasoning about the meaning of life. The only answers that science could give about life are that life is life, or that zero equals zero.
True science teaches that we must put to the side all that comes only from faith. Having done this, we then must build from the start only on the laws of reason, and on what we can see and touch in this life. So how can science, starting like this, ever give a clear answer to the meaning of life? When science reported, as Schopenhauer did, that life had no meaning and that it was evil, I believed that it was telling the truth. But I was going on my own feelings. The teachings of the Hindus and of Solomon and of Schopenhauer that life is nothing, in itself says nothing. It gives no answer and it says no more than that x equals x. Take away faith, and life cannot have meaning.
Y + 3X + X - 7 = [X (6 + 2X) - 14 + 2Y] . ½
multiply each side by two to get:
2Y + 6X + 2X - 14 = X (6 + 2X) - 14 + 2Y
take 2Y away from each side to get:
6x + 2X - 14 = X (6 + 2X) - 14
add fourteen to each side to get:
6x + 2X = X (6 + 2X)
put 2X into each side to get:
3 + X = (3 + X)
take three away from each side to get:
X = X
take X away from each side to get:
0 = 0
You must bring in something that is bigger than "X".
The only way to answer my question is to bring into the answer something that is bigger than life. Even the worst answers that we receive from faith are better than what we receive from science, because faith turns to what the question is really asking in the first place, and that is for something that is bigger than life… something that will give meaning to life. If we do not bring faith into it, then there can be no answer.
And any way that we word the question, faith always comes into the answer. How am I to live? – I am to live in keeping with the laws of God. What will come of my life? – Eternal pain or eternal happiness. What meaning does life have that death will not destroy? – Heaven; or being joined together with God for all time.
I was forced to see that, added to what reasoning we may have from science, all people have another measure of understanding (if we will use it), and that is the measure of Faith – without this measure of faith they could not live.
People live because they believe that life has some kind of meaning. When they stop believing this, as I had, they stop living. Even I had been happy when I believed that my life had meaning. And that meaning had been my faith, such as it was.
Faith may give many different answers, but what makes them all the same is that they give meaning to life, a meaning that is not destroyed by pain, sickness, or death. The faith I am talking about here is a very simple faith. We must have it before we can even talk about God. It is not a religion (as most people think). Faith is knowing that life has meaning, and as an effect of this, wanting to live. Faith is the strength of life. If a person does not believe there is meaning in life, that person will not live. If a person does not know how short life is, then he or she may believe in life itself, in wealth, or in having many friends. Such is the faith of those who can go through life with a stupid smile on their faces, never thinking of death. But when the time comes that such a person sees how short life itself really is, then that person needs faith in something eternal before he or she can find a real reason to live.
I looked back on my life and I saw that I had left all that I had been taught about eternal things as a child, because, at that time, I was one of those stupid people who had believed in life itself. I did not need an eternal answer as long as I could honestly believe in life. But a time came when I stopped believing in life. After this happened, each time I tried to find hope in life alone, I could not find any reason to live. I was surprised that, with some of the best thinkers in history, all I could come up with was that zero equals zero. But I see now that, without faith, this is the best that anyone can come up with when looking for the meaning of life. What am I? I am a part of all that is eternal. In those few words is the answer to the whole problem.
Am I the first person to ask the question--one so easy that it comes at some time to the mind of every smart child? No. The question has been asked from the time of the first person on earth. And each time, the answer comes only by turning to the eternal and seeing in it the reason for life.
But when we try to study that which is eternal with the reasoning of our little minds we cannot understand it. We have no room for it. It does not "work". We are like children who pull a watch to pieces, take the parts out of it, and make a toy of it. Then we are surprised when the watch does not go.
This war between our minds and the mind of God goes on at all times. Our minds badly need an answer, and we find it only when we let go of our thinking and reach out to the mind of God. But when we find the answer, and our lowly reasoning returns to us, it is so easy to use that same reasoning to laugh at and destroy the faith we have just found. And this leaves us back where we started, with the biggest question in the world and no answer to it.
Faith in God; the belief that we have an eternal soul; believing that God is interested in what we do each day; and our understanding of what is right and what is wrong, all come from this eternal part of us that science can never see. But I had destroyed, or maybe just covered, this part of myself and then tried to make it again, using only my reasoning – something that cannot be done.
I did not understand it in those same words at the time, but I had come to see that for all of our understanding, Schopenhauer, Solomon, and myself were stupid. We saw that life had no meaning, but we did not kill ourselves. How stupid! If we were people of understanding and if we had truly learned that life has no meaning, then we should have done the right thing, and in the name of reason and our own smartness, destroyed it.
A second thing that I had learned was that all of our reasoning will never give a meaning to life. It can only lead us around and around in a circle that always comes up with the same answer… that zero equals zero. Because of this, I could see that there must be something wrong with our reasoning. And the third thing that I was coming to see was that only in the answers that faith gives can we find the truest, deepest understanding of life. Even if these answers had not sat well with my reasoning in the past, I should have heard them out and not made fun of them.
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
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