Flower in the mountainsPhilosophy

INCIPIT

Concerning the Beginning of everything, there are two broad schools of thought – the mystical or religious perspective, which postulates that the Universe and everything in it was either created by a God (or Gods) with various characteristics or that it has always been part of such a Being; then there is the scientific explanation, which brings the conclusion of the great beginning to an explosion that, apparently, came from what some call the “initial singularity” – a concentration of everything that simply was there. There are indeed approaches in between these; for example, some have claimed that “in the beginning, there was chaos” or that “in the beginning there was Nothing”. I used to oscillate between these two answers – it is entertaining for the soul to believe we come from chaos; there is also a case to argue that “Nothing” here is another way of thinking of chaos for we cannot conceive complete absence of something, limiting ourselves to comparative judgments: “Nothing” becomes the absence of something and that something, by default, is a type of order (the most perfect order being the divine one) – thoughts are ordered ideas, even if they are random.

I however reject all these views now: although they approach answering the question of the Beginning differently, they all imply one thing which I, for one, regard as a lie. Indeed, it is a problem which I have with any explanation of things that are obscure, perhaps incomprehensible and almost certainly inevitable in making themselves known to us in one form or another. Namely, in what it is clearly still a mystery, the above answers aim to convey “knowledge” by bringing forth various degrees of certainty. It is this masquerade of opinions as something more than just that through the provision of one of the strongest drugs the human mind and soul has ever taken – certainty – which I find dishonest.

As such, my take on the Beginning is less sophisticated but also less conclusive and therefore, it has no degree of certainty attached to it: I suggest that in answering the question “What was in the Beginning?” or “How did all started?” one ought to answer – “I don’t know”. Of course, this can be followed by “I choose to believe…” as this will qualify the answer to be the opinion of the person who provides it. When this choice is not being made clear and one answers these questions without this qualification, presenting the answer, whichever it may be, as more than a mere opinion, then we unveil one of the greatest tragedies of the human soul: the so-called inability to deal with the unknown.

“I don’t know” appears to me to be more sincere and therefore, closer to the truth – if there can be such a thing as “the truth”. I am comfortable in bringing a concept with an absolutist tend (via the preposition “the”) because doubt is the common thought and feeling that crosses our minds and hearts when we ponder on this topic – it is the pertinent sentiment of the honest, curious person. Naturally however, even if we all doubt whatever answer we embrace, it can, for ourselves only, become the truth. Indeed, I do not believe in objective, universal truths but in subjective and temporary ones: but this is my belief only and not a wider statement.

It is however understandable, although not excusable, why explanations of all sorts seem to cement themselves as common knowledge (and not just in this case, but in general): I said above that the craving for certainty comes from the so-called inability to deal with the unknown; we often read about the fear of the unknown, the anxiety it creates and the number of structures, some conceptual, others more physical, that we’ve built over time to defend ourselves against the unknown – initially, perhaps we did so naively but now we are doing so foolishly: I do not believe this is an innate inability but a profound choice that we continue to make.

It is far more difficult to live with and in doubt but it also far more honest (with ourselves first and foremost). Doubt is the key to engage with the wider existence, the door to knowledge, the way towards enlightenment. A mind and heart that seek certainty, solidifying explanations, turn away from the shaky path of understanding ourselves and the world around us: only a person who is blind to the vastness of existence can claim to know something conclusively or entirely.

There are thousands upon thousands of pages written in many languages by many great minds trying to explain what knowledge is, how we go about knowing something (i.e. the tools we use to gain knowledge) and even how do we know that we know something (i.e. the tools we use to verify knowledge) – philosophy, religion and science have advanced various answers to these queries. I am not sure if I can provide anything of value to this long discussion, yet. I do however want to point out that these queries remain without conclusive answers which, to me, is something to celebrate; I believe that knowledge, whatever one holds it to be, is fluid (although its rate of change may be quite slow and therefore, it may create the illusion of it being limited, fixed or eternal). Furthermore, I believe that knowledge is confined to the individual to some extent which cannot be disregarded: to know that god exists is a personal thing; to know that you breathe oxygen is not.

What I mean by the last two sentences above is this: how things work and our understanding of them changes in time even if, for sustained and considerable periods of time, they seem to work in a certain way that our observations explain to a large enough degree so that we are capable or engaging with them safely and productively – it is, I believe, inevitable for things to change (things here are systems) for they all “evolve” or develop as circumstances demand from them. This position further strengthens why one should embrace doubt: we never know when things change, and we ought to be ready to change our perspectives when they do. Additionally, although we can agree on certain observations about the external world and, to a lesser degree, about the internal world of human beings, the latter can generate believes which are only true within its borders (an example here is the knowledge we gain through imagination – my fantasies, although can have a more common occurrence in their underlying structure, manifest, from time to time, uniquely inside me; this is the case for each individual).  

Placing doubt as the answer for existentialist questions leaves room for change. More importantly however it gives one the courage to continue to seek, it injects meaning into an inherently meaningless life and it honours the freedom of the individual as it puts us all on the same position: to choose our answer for ourselves.

I reject the gift of immortality – I choose the ephemeral pleasures of dirt.

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