I spent a few hours this weekend paying bills. You know, the usual, where you sit down with your check book and write out checks for all of the bills that have been building up over the last few weeks. The kind that build up not because you can’t afford to pay them, but just because you don’t want to take the time to pay them. I find myself doing that a lot, and have even paid some bills really late because I just didn’t feel like filling out the paper work that is required to fill out in order to pay a simple gas bill. I really hate paying bills, and no matter how many times I pay it, that feeling just doesn’t change.
For me, it feels like my life has very little meaning when it comes down to it, because when I’m sitting there with a handful of utility and credit card bills, one starts to feel that there’s really little purpose in life other than paying bills to people who don’t provide anything for me other than little nuances that one needs to endure in order to live somewhat comfortably. I pay a gas bill because I don’t want to freeze, and sometimes I like to cook food without having to rub two sticks together and hope that millions of years of evolution don’t put me back a couple of thousands years to where I’m still required to provide my own fire. I pay an electricity bill so that I can watch TV, turn on the lights, run the microwave (avoiding that rubbing sticks together thing), fire up my computer to write this blog, and other things that come from Ben Franklin’s kite discovery a couple of centuries ago. I pay my rent bill so I don’t get kicked out on my behind and actually have a place to put my, what George Carlin eloquently referred to as, “stuff”. I pay my car payment so I can avoid having to take the bus to work, and then I get to pay my insurance bill so that I’m legally allowed to drive my car on the road. Add in credit card bills and other little nuanced payments here and there, and honestly, I’m paying a lot of money to maintain a very low level of existence.
But what’s the meaning of it all? I mean, why continue to pay all of this money to entities that don’t care one iota about me in any way just so one can continue to survive? Throughout history, reflective souls have constantly asked the inward-looking questions of “why am I here?” and each generation seems to have one or two philosophers that think they have it all figured out, yet why is it that we still keep having to ask this question? I mean, we can read all sorts of philosophers and think we have it all figured out, but I get the impression that no one has ever really figured it out, because we still have to keep asking the questions. But we don’t seem to come up with any real answers.
I remember a colleague and I once joked in political science that we were challenging the paradigm Americanist belief that all representatives do what they do in order to be re-elected. We posited that perhaps the rationale behind congressional representatives was a little simpler, that maybe they did what they did in office, and to achieve office, because they were interested in dating. In other words: Attracting a potential mate. Sure, those of us in the discipline laughed at us, and we chalked it up as a joke, but if you think about it, there’s probably something there. If you look at it from a basic biological necessity, most people tend to do the things they do in order to perpetuate the species. Men fluff their feathers in hopes of attracting a mate, so why couldn’t it be seen that in the end congressional representatives do everything they do in hopes of perpetuating their species as a biological necessity? Sure, getting elected, or re-elected, may appear to be the end goal, but what if it’s really just a step in a biological direction? I honestly think that scientists aren’t all that interested in examining such issues with sincerity because then it would present all sorts of dilemmas that they don’t want to deal with, especially if the base values of a politician are narrowed down to simple reproductive functions.
Which brings me back to my original question of “why are we here?”. I mean, is that all there is? Are we here specifically just for reproducing, and thus, all of our mannerisms and manifestations mean nothing but achieving survival through offspring? I’d really hate to think that life is as simple as that, and the bigger picture is really nothing more than just the continuation of the species. Wouldn’t that be truly sad to discover that after all of this evolution we’re no different, or better, than a snail slug? What a joke that would be if our achievement of sentience means absolutely nothing but an ability to acknowledge that we really don’t have a purpose in the first place.
All of this discussion makes it really difficult to conclude without at least mentioning the concept of religion because when it comes to this type of conversation, there’s always this tendency to try to find answers through a “higher” meaning. Having been brought up in the methodist sense of spirituality, I often find it interesting that there are people who can so easily surrender to the idea that it’s all just a part of a religious purpose, that there’s no need to think any deeper than that. In a Penrose sort of way, it’s hard not to be able to acknowledge the possibility of something deeper than basic humanity, but at the same time it’s so difficult to accept that we have managed to figure it all out because someone in an earlier age, with less ability to understand the bigger picture, had it all figured out and wrote it down in a book for the rest of us to follow, especially when the book is so damn confusing, is interpreted so many different ways (often leading to war, subjugation and hatred), and no two copies of “the book” are believed to be any more valid than any other. And then the followers of those books do such horrific deeds and offer up such hatred towards other people, all in the name of doing the right thing.
Anyway, I’m starting to ramble now, so I’ll leave it at that for now.