It is an essential characteristic of us humans that we seem to never stop in our quest for truth. Survey any age, any culture, at any time, and there is one thing that you are bound to find: people asking and seeking answers to some of the most fundamental questions of life. Some of us more than others. Yet all to some extent. There is always an element in all of us that is hungry for answers. We cannot settle down to merely being utilitarian; that is, to merely fulfilling our role in society, going to work, paying the bills, and calling it good.
Why is this so? There are many layers to the answer. Here is one that has recently stuck in my mind: we all long for a more true and total embrace of reality. We cannot merely live in the world. We need to see things in a way that brings them all together into one unifying whole. We deal with a huge array of experiences in life, and we want to be able to fully embrace it all – to live in it in a meaningful way. But we can’t embrace it until it all makes sense somehow. And yet, in order for things to have meaning they must have unity, they must come together to one, cohesive story. This is the great drive of the philosophers and thinkers of history – a quest to find a unifying principle that brings all of life together.
We are all given a certain worldview, a story by which we filter all that we see. The trouble is that as we grow and think and experience life, we start to see holes in our worldview. We start to see that, despite the fact that our worldview does a great job at answering some questions, it leaves some others blank. I think that most of us find this unsettling. So we ask questions, we look for answers, we try to expand our worldviews.
One example of this is the challenge faced by the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. They thought that they had It finally arrived at this unifying principle – human reason. The famous words of Rene Descarte may still ring in our ears, “I think, therefore I am”. What he’s saying is that this was the foundational rock bottom principle on which rested his whole perspective of reality. Desecrate had high hopes for his theory.
But alas, it failed. Reason and logic are indeed great powers of humanity. They do indeed have a fundamental role in our ability to see life. But there was a problem. The scientific and mathematical perspective of reason explains much of the mechanical aspects of the world. But that is it’s limitation. It breaks all of reality down to a machine, a mechanism, a collection of different parts. Instead of bringing everything together, it separates it. Instead of giving meaning to reality it renders reality ultimately meaningless.
But do we really need to get all the answers? Can’t we just embrace the fact that we will never know everything, and thus, humble ourselves with not ever knowing anything? Isn’t this whole quest kind of pointless? Why not just leave the blank spaces on some of the questions and focus on the things we enjoy and love?
This is the course that many people today seem to take. And it seems to work well for them. Up until a certain point that is – the point at which the question that they have chosen to leave blank suddenly fills their life through a certain challenge or situation. Suddenly that which fills their whole experience is that for which they have no answer. Suddenly nothing seems to make sense anymore. Doubt, discouragement, fear start to arise and we begin to realize we cannot outrun reality.
And so we question and we search. True joy and peace is possible only when one has a worldview that will enable them to totally embrace all of reality. It is like a key that finally fits into the lock and opens the door. It is like a lens that finally comes into focus and helps us see things as they are.