reasons

After reading When Breath Becomes Air, it caused many moments of self-reflection, recognition, and realization. The most profound of these moments was certainly the correlation that Dr. Kalanithi feels between the morality of humans and the principality of science – and the deep and undeniable connection between the two. My own experiences with realizing what morality is and how we as humans can approach understanding truthfully moral ways has heightened my awareness of the breadth, complexity, and utter incomprehension we have of the meaning and value of life. I don’t say this morbidly, because if you know me you know I am quite the optimist (insert cheesy smile), but I do say it with sincerity. There is such a truly bold connection between humans as spirits and souls that feel love, mercy, pain, and an array of emotional qualities, and the humans that are comprised of varying physiologies of biological and chemical pathways and processes. We are such a complex and deeply intertwined species, that pure science and pure metaphysics do not explain us. They require themselves and a few other important things for a full, robust and accurate description of what it means to be alive.

Deriving from my own experiences as a student, Christian,  and human (surprise!), I have found many truths and many troubling thoughts. Philosophy is something I have grown to love and hate at the same time, which I have commonly found is not unique just to me but to others who study philosophy as well. You may ask, what even is philosophy, and you may laugh at students that say philosophy is their major, but I encourage you to exercise some tact when approaching those who enjoy philosophy. But first, to answer your question in my own, rudimentary knowledge of the subject, I would say that philosophy is truly a search for meaning. Meaning of life, meaning of people, meaning of actions, of religion, of science, of thoughts, of generally anything that is worth searching for. And my own experiences with this quest have been… circuitous. Oscillating between why does this matter? and how could this not matter? has left me in a comfortable, but strange, place with philosophy. Almost at peace, so to say. I have found innumerable truths reading though the great minds of thought, peering into their own opinions on the most important matters of life: happiness, virtue, God, and learning to name a few. I have experienced these inquiries from mathematicians, career-philosophers (ha ha at that term), atheists, scientists, Christians, and teachers. What I have found is a universal truth: that we are humans, and that we take our experiences and we develop our own values, our own morals, our own ethics, our own vocabularies, our own meanings, and we are all developed differently but still the same. For me, this has allowed me to see Christianity in a newfound strength (insert: Go read Rene Descartes’s Meditations). It has allowed me to see the necessity with which there needs to be God. God is the true foundation for which all life, thought, and meaning is derived. He is the unifying alikeness that all humans possess, and He is the only thing that can complete science in its discrepancies and shortcomings. Maybe philosophy has the opposite effect for others, but for me it has challenged my thoughts in unseen ways (sometimes scary ways), but has allowed me to truly integrate every piece of my being – my desire to live a good life, my love and faith in Jesus Christ, and my infatuation with science. I don’t credit philosophy with helping me understand more about myself. I do credit philosophy with teaching me how to think, how to speak, and how to formulate my own ideas and opinions. I see the connections in my life, the concrete existence of a God that no, cannot be empirically proven, but can be proven by merely examining humans and experience. I have seen different parts of my life woven into a fabric that just makes sense. In a way, I felt it has set me apart more than before I had studied my own self and values so extensively (as a by-product of philosophy) and has made me difficultly different than other people in this way (hopefully other students can agree with me on this). Ultimately, I have realized the importance of dependency. The importance of friendship; the importance of conversation; the importance of sharing your life with others; the importance of NEVER thinking you are above others and cannot learn from them; the importance of bringing together all parts of your life and finding where you are genuinely the most happy.

This has been me incessantly rambling about how happy I am to have learned something about my life. The truth is, there are many, MANY, many things I do not know. In these are where my trust and faith in God prevails. I know not what my life holds, but I do know who has been entrusted with my future. And I do know that He has placed meaning, importance, and value in every life on this earth. I see these not just through a lens of spirituality but also a lens of philosophy. Until I am made fully aware of these things, I will keep striving to understand more about what God wants for me, how He wants me to live, and the ways in which I can more fully be His humbled, faithful, and loving daughter. I can pray we can do this together. (I also HIGHLY, highly encourage you to read When Breath Becomes Air… It is beautiful.)

 

a good man?

I have most recently been delighted to having found the plethora of truly amazing work of 20th century intellectual, C. S. Lewis. His writings have probed me to question my relationship and perspective on Christianity as a whole and to step back from “innate” ideology and form my own opinions and ideals about what Christianity means to me and what it should mean to the world. Here is an excerpt from a book I am reading and my thoughts on it. Enjoy 🙂

“If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a differences to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal and as a result your man would die. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live forever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only be being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind working of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organizations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be “good” or “bad” simply in so far as if it helps or hinders that kind of “happiness”.

Now there are quite a lot of tings which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education that they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the Materialist would simple ask about a proposed action, “Will it increase the happiness of the majority?”. The Christian might have to say, “Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.” And all the time, one great difference would run through their whole policy. To the Materialist things like nation, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison creatures for a day.

The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the universe. Consequently, with the best will the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.”

-“Man or Rabbit?” in God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis

My thoughts (as outlined in my journal aka just directly on the direct pages of the book I am reading):

So what are the major differences in two individuals, separated by belief, but both wanting to lead a “good” life, help others, succeed, and eventually reflect on their life with satisfaction in suit? Indeed, as Lewis implies, it is their intention; say, their point of perspective on the world. It cannot be denied that both men seek fulfillment and both men want the utmost welfare for others (if they are both seeking truly “good”). Then, why is there such a broad gap between the two? Oh, it has to be derived from their mode of intention. The Christian man knows good because he has the knowledge of what good is (that is, Jesus). But the non-Christian (the Materialist in this example) man is seeking for good. Blindly, one can assume. Like the Jesus analogy, some may argue that the non-Christian man views a superior, historical figure as being “good” and models his own life after that man. There is no argument though, that the man he views and models his life after was also essentially searching for the best form of good (I believe this because I believe God to be the only form of truth. Arguers could always give their opinion on why a certain person is viewed to be good and just). It appears to me that this man has built his life, his entire demise on the fallacy of true happiness. He is resting on a rocky bed, waiting for it to crumble. However, in contrast, the Christian man believes in factual (no, not mythical) truth that Jesus was the only true existing form of good and only off of Him can we build our life, our opinions, and our views. See, we are not searching for what good means to us. We are searching for modern ways to express that good in our lives. So, in theory, the two men are simply at different points in their lives. One searching for good and trying to find ways to satisfy the crowd, and one who has found good, searching for ways to satisfy the Master. They both want good and that cannot be questioned (and it is not being questioned). However, the one is like a doctor performing surgery before he has received the proper training and knowledge of the expertise: he is trying to fix the problem before he understands it himself.