Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Tricks

In about two hours, my youngest son will be leaving the safety of a U.S. Army base in Germany and deploying to Afghanistan. He will be serving there for the next year, defending U.S. interests by (hopefully) playing a role in bringing stability to that region of the world. Although I have a far different position regarding our presence in Afghanistan than I do about the war we waged on Iraq, that doesn’t reduce my anxiety about my son being placed in harm’s way. The world, it seems, has turned to the U.S. to deal with this mess, but it is far more complicated than just finding and killing bin Laden. However, hunting bin Laden like an animal is at least a mission that has solid justification. That’s all I want to say about this at the moment – I have purposefully avoided thinking about it, but the time is soon to come…

The things that have pressed themselves upon mind recently are still not much more than barely defined abstractions. They are feelings, or thoughts, or perhaps just the bio-electro-chemical firing of synapses… it is either human sentience based on the purely scientific or something more that creates our self-awareness. The coding of thoughts and feelings into words is a process not unlike a picture slowing coming to view while developing; the image is there, but it is not yet fully visible. That image is slowly beginning to reveal itself…

In less than three weeks I will celebrate the 47th anniversary of my birth. About two weeks later, this blog will celebrate its 4th anniversary. Although I am a far less prolific blogger this year than in years past, that does not mean the world has lost its wonder – it does mean I am getting more used to it. This is not necessarily good or bad; in this case, it just is. This "new" life I have stumbled into is not so new anymore, but it is still every bit as profound. I write here about many different and loosely joined topics, but in reality much of this is about discoveries I probably should have made years ago. But I didn’t and if the feedback I get is any indication, I am not alone.

The world is in a rapid state of change – one that will not fully be appreciated until generations have passed – when our culture is under their microscope. We are living through a major paradigm shift such that we are still grappling with huge questions about what it all means and how it affects us. Not unexpectedly, there are good and long overdue changes in attitude, but there are also some decidedly “bad” things that come along with all this “progress.” And it has been like that for at least the last 2,500 years; our time is not the first to experience a period of accelerated change like the one we are in the midst of. Our great grandchildren, their children and their grandchildren will understand it better than we possibly can.

Prior to the turn of the millennium, I lived in blissful unawareness. I was content with the world as it came; I had no real desire to understand it. Or so I thought. In retrospect, much of my discomfort was spawned by confusion and misunderstanding… I didn’t get what we (humanity, life, sentience, cosmos, take you pick) were all about. There had to be a telos, a purpose… some reason other than some happy accident of chemistry. Science has given us so very much, but it could not explain, to my satisfaction, just what the point of all this is. As it turns out, the happy accident was mine, but I had to learn some new tricks.

Which brings me back in a round about way to where I started. These neuro-impulses that have now developed into words are part my telos, that is, I believe my purpose here is simply to understand. As much as I can. I am not a kid anymore – that childhood inquisitiveness has long left me, but my desire to know what we are all about has not faded. Over the years it has manifested in a number of different pursuits, interests, forms and means of education, occupations, vices… and virtues. My wanderlust now embraced, this “old dog” (actually, in dog years I’m not yet seven – middle aged even for a dog) must learn anew what I might have been better equipped to learn in my younger days. But that I did not, and by all I can conclude could not, is in part the frustration I feel expressing what I now want to say. That is, it appears to be as it should be - something else I do not understand.

Perhaps that inquisitiveness never left, it has only grown into something more defined, more disciplined, more… real. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man that if there is not something real about the abstract idea of right and wrong, about beauty, about truth and about goodness, then value is meaningless. Goodness, for instance, cannot just be a matter of opinion. If all that exists is the observable and measurable... the "proven," then how can one judge heroism? Chivalry? Kindness? Compassion? Loyalty? Patriotism? Love? It all becomes stupidity and... weak. Our sentience, our self-awareness and everything else that makes us human becomes nothing but another part of nature – and nature only does, it does not care. There has to be something else…

And there is. What that is and what it becomes is still being discovered, or perhaps as Lewis feared, created.

And what can be created can also be abolished.

1 comment:

colleen said...

I write to synthesize what I'm learning at the time.

I do wish your son all the best and my heart goes out to you as a parent.