A long time ago I heard a comment that froze me to the marrow. It came from a neighbour after the deaths of family members in a car accident. She said – we have had so many good times together that now we must pay for them. The implication was that there was some celestial bank book of happiness and misery. Have too much of one and you were bound to have a dollop of the other in some mystical accounts balancing act.
Well, whether you think that way is up to you. However, there may be a grain of truth in this pessimism. And it is this. If life is to enjoyable and fun and fulfilling then we need to love someone. When the time of parting comes – a fact made inevitable by our biology – then the result is loss and bereavement. From that stark viewpoint there is an natural reckoning. Yet, surely, there must be more? For if we are more than molecules and human life more than a pre-programmed struggle to survive then there is a higher plane; a place where personality and creativity and love have a very real existence, a place where these humanities lie beyond the mortality of the material world and a place we might call by a very ancient name – Heaven.
Personal meaninglessness – the feeling life has nothing worthwhile to offer – it is… as a separation from the moral resources necessary to live a full and satisfying existences (Anthony Giddens; 1991)
If the modern world is anything, it is about increasing control. From the depths of our own genetics to the simple changing of our TV channels, we like to have control. Control then make us feel powerful and hard-wired into our DNA. Yet it does not make us any happier? For we too easily worry about our controlling choices; are putting enough away for a pension, is our travel plans changing the climate or is vote condoning the right political policies. And so with control and choice goes anxiety. The fear of what we are becoming as a result of being ‘self-made’.
This is why as in previous ages, there remains a need for some external source of what is right – an ultimate moral source – a font of wisdom as to how to make our life choices. And that is what religious people attribute to the will of God and his purpose for us. For them, life contains purposeful decisions which in turn bestows on it meaning.