The Ultimate Response
by The Liber8r
With careful reservation, we agree with the beginning of Shankar's article The Ultimate Question. The purpose of life is to continuously mull over the meaning of life. However, there are some points of Mr. Shankar's that need to be clarified and/or ignored.
Mr. Shankar struck a chord in me when he proclaimed that, "The whole purpose of life is to keep pondering over the purpose of life." My heart and my brain both indicate that this is true. The key word in that sentence is "keep." It indicates that the process is an endless one, which means the answer is never really attained.
The answer becomes a way instead of a neat sounding, cure-all solution. Eastern philosophers describe this practice as following ones path. Simply put, this path is the road to self-improvement. The truth is, it is easier said than done because there is always room for improvement.
That's why when Mr. Shankar reports finding the answer is for naught, I believe that he does not fully grasp the dynamic nature of life. Mr. Shankar's outlook is static, set frozen in time. It is far from being realistic. A dynamic, ever changing view -- although complicated at first -- is a much better model for discovery.
Maybe resorting to an over-simplified worldview was the reason behind Kant's and Spinoza's "insanity." Could it be that the people of their time did not understand them? An uneducated critique of these pioneers would suggest insanity. Could they have been ahead of their time? Would they be understood in our modern era?
We certainly cannot answer the first two questions and we doubt that anyone could answer them with any certainty. As for the last question, we firmly believe the answer is no.
Most people do feel superior to those from older societies. Maybe they choose to ignore the numerous, meaningless talkshows that dominate television today. Audience members can be seen screaming barely intelligible phrases in the name of time honored wisdom. It's laughably sad especially because their wisdom spans a mere 18-50 years. Let's not forget that watching people injure themselves is becoming our latest national fixation with the birth of home videos. Not only do we hope to see something really gruesome, but then we laugh after it happens. The whole premise scares the Hell out of me.
Our educational "superiority" is based on the availability of education today. We are more educated today compared to any civilization in any era. However, education today tends to be extremely focused. Modern education tends to specialize us, to a fault. Look at all of the specialty, two-year programs that are being filled at colleges today. New specialty schools are popping up to fill the demands of those seeking careers in automechanics, electronics, computer aided design, ...
Don't misunderstand us and be led to think that people in those fields are unintelligent; that's not our point and it isn't true! Our goal is to expose the current trend of education, and quite possibly the trend of our civilization as a whole including our collective mindset.
Let's take a look at our most valued educational institutions, universities. Are they succumbing to the pressures of our modern, over-specialized society? Sure universities require liberal arts courses but many of those courses are not taken seriously by both students and teachers. Only a handful of my own liberal arts courses were rigorous. This phenomenon certainly goes beyond my own personal experiences.
Education in the past was much different. Those who went to college long ago became philosophers by todays standards. The true title Doctor still indicates this fact; Ph.D. stands for doctor of philosophy. Of course doctors of past and present become highly specialized. However, the baccalaureate (4 yr.) degree of past was by far more broad than the same degree today.
What is the reason for this lack of desire for educational breadth? One may argue that universities are caving in from societal demands. One may also argue that universities fall victim to big businesses. Both are true, no doubt.
More people are forced to enter universities for financial reasons. Our job market demands it. More lower caliber students are a part of higher education. The "tail" may therefore wag the educational "dog."
Big businesses claim they require more people who know how to "think." The theory is, they push educational institutions to their limits in order to generate better thinkers. In practice, big corporations reward their CEO's with huge raises and bonuses, leaving the fieldworkers to survive on less.
What's our point?
A multi-faceted problem in our own country seems to defy us. We have a lack of interest in the political process. Hence, we have a political system that is degenerating beyond repair. Now we seem to be dealing with a lack of interest in the educational process. Hence, we are left with a crumbling educational system. The irony is that The United States is the current giant many countries look up to. They should take a closer look at us and find the prevalent negativism and bloated self-worth.
Mr. Shankar and everyone else better re-examine the very nature of meaning and life. There is more riding on this one, all-encompassing point than meets the eye. Only then will we realize why we bother to do anything at all. No, we are not proclaiming the end of civilization like some typical group of reactionaries or babbling psychics. The intended thought is that our collective mindset will certainly degenerate before it improves, by current trends. How we manage this event personally and collectively has a lot to do with how we approach The Ultimate Question.
Does thinking about the meaning of life take up too much time? What else is there? The meaning of life is everywhere, in all things and in all people. Have fun experiencing it.
"If You Care Less,
That's Exactly What You'll Get."
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