Friday, September 23, 2011

What Are We Here For?

What are we here for anyway?

That is one of the “Great Questions” I remember being asked to consider in several of my high school and college classes.

Well, then, just what ARE we here for?

There are many places to go in search of the answer. Of course philosophers believe they know the answer, some concluding that we are here to serve others, some that we are here to serve ourselves. The more cynical suggest that we have no known purpose at all, which leaves us, I guess to divide – or blend – our time between helping others and helping ourselves.

Theologians mostly assume that we are here for some good purpose, but differ about exactly what that might be. Some say it is to “glorify God.” Others say that it is to serve our fellow beings. Still others believe we are to be the caretakers of the earth. And the holistic theologian says, “Of course, all of the above, and more.”

Materialists (including hedonists of all kinds) are sure we are here to consume; that all the resources of the world are here for our pleasure and that we should get and enjoy as much as our strength, abilities, and good fortune allows us to. Not all hedonists are heathen; this philosophy was expressed by none other than Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man ever on earth. It is heard – in slightly veiled language that attempts to put a religious face on Epicureanism – from many pulpits and from TV preachers and evangelists.

All of these grand and worthy thoughts have come to me on this day in which I have probably not satisfied the goals or purposes for which any of those discussed above would say I was put here. I have spent this day solving problems.

In a general sense, problem solving is, perhaps, the overriding reason for man’s existence. Perhaps! Absent that little incident with the apple, we would all be hedonists of some sort – good hedonists, mind you – pursuing the sweet pleasures intended to fill our days with contentment. But the apple is a fact of human history and the “curse” pronounced upon our race for eating it was that we would “solve problems” (killing thorns and thistles) with the sweat of our brow. We’ve been doing it ever since.

But my gripe this day concerns the kind of problems I’ve been working on. If it were only inventing “weed killers” to which I had to devote my time, I might be in a better mood. At least I’d be doing honest work that could benefit more than myself. But instead I spent my day getting “weed killers,” sold to me by others, to do what they were advertized to do. Let me explain.

The software I bought to transfer data from one hard disk to another (called cloning), first would not install. After some online consultation, that hurdle was cleared. . . Well, you don’t want to hear it all, but after three or four more “chats” with someone in India that problem seems to be solved. Then there were the anomalies on the credit card bill that had to be deciphered. After that the screw-up of the newspaper subscription occupied an hour or so. And so it goes from day to day. I’m not earning my bread by fighting thorns and thistles, I’m spending my hours fixing the things that some other “gardener” has messed up – weeding out the thorns and thistles he or she has left behind.

Does any of this “glorify God,” assist my neighbor, fill me with hedonistic pleasures, add a dollar to the economy? Probably not. But it keeps me occupied. And it keeps me longing for that Eden-to-come that we’ve been promised. I wonder what work we’ll be doing there.

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