I’ve been bothered by this question for a long time. What is the meaning of life?
I like Philosophy tube a lot and I watched this video some time back. “The meaning of life!”, as Olly titles it. I’ve understood Olly’s position and I think he has reiterated it in quite a few videos – even though philosophy can ‘destroy things that bring you comfort’, Olly sees philosophy as a tool, a way of seeing life, and he believes that he can still find enjoyment in things like hanging out in a pub with his friends, having sex, etc.
But I totally disagreed with Olly in this video. It made me uncomfortable, unhappy. I don’t know if it is due to my history of depression, but I felt that he totally missed the point. Yes, agreed, philosophy can be a way in which we understand the world and does not have to be so all encompassing that it takes away all joy, but, at the same time, it could be and therefore by having that potential, it has been the cause of immense, insurmountable pain for some people. That pain cannot be argued away by simply saying that philosophy does not have to be that way. It’s a moot point. That pain has already been caused by philosophy’s mere existence.
I don’t know how many people can understand that type of sadness. The sheer intensity, depth, character of it. I feel like I’ve been there, I still am there, I will never totally get out. I remember finding it difficult to say what I truly like/find happiness in when people ask. I’ve had times where I could have so much of those things (i.e. ‘things that make people happy’), and I’ve indulged in them then, so much so that it now disgusts me. I like reading, but I’ve read too much. Shopping, eating, spending money; I now associate these things with almost, sin? How could we use resources so casually without realising that so many people do not have things? (Remembering those times when I would wash my hands and think about how some people would gladly drink the ‘dirtied’ water that I so readily and easily let drain into the sink). How could I live with myself? There’s too much pain, anxiety, sin, black holes, dark spirals in those thoughts. I shall avoid writing about it. At least for now. Strange, but I do miss those times, sometimes. At least I felt alive, I felt something, I thought about things, I was conscious of sin, compared to the lukewarm, banal, thoughtless days of now?
Moving on. Meaninglessness of ‘Christian work’.
I’m lazy to define what ‘Christian work’ is. Just take it as work in a Christian setting. Church/para-church/ministering to other Christians.
Another scary thought that I’ve been having. I like doing Christian work. I think I can sometimes be tough on myself, a perfectionist, never being satisfied with my work (school, work). Christian work is a reprieve from those thoughts; I tell myself that God will judge my work, I need not think too much about what others think (unlike school/work, where I’ll be judged by humans. And since human thoughts are accessible to me, to an extent, I’ll try to understand what others are thinking). I work and find peace in Christian work, knowing that it’s simply, work, without baggage of politics, anxieties of whether or not it’s ‘good enough’, etc.
But. I’ve wrote about bullshit jobs/the economy before. Jobs that should not be done; they don’t actually produce anything, material, meaningful? And I’ve been thinking recently that Christian work is quite like that too. Lots of time is spent talking, fellowshipping. Things that I don’t particularly like? Is that why I’m dissatisfied; perhaps I’m simply in the wrong field of Christian work?
The end of service term is worse. Honestly, I feel quite uncomfortable when people praise my work/thank me when I’ve done work in church. I know it’s good to encourage people, it’s a good thing to give thanks, but it somehow feels wrong to me. I feel like those thanks are ‘self-praise’; the church reaffirming itself. ‘This is what we’ve done this year, we did well. God is pleased with the people we’ve brought down to church this year’. All I can see are the flaws, the gaps that we missed in our service term, what more we could have, should have, done. I feel that my standards from ‘regular work’ are creeping in, those dissatisfied voices which I’ve never heard when I did work in church.
I long for affirmation from who I am actually working for. Have I received it before and therefore if I don’t receive it now, I feel greatly uncomfortable? I know that my life is not right; there is sin that I’m trying to hide, to run away from, sickness within me that seems incurable, but I am unable to articulate. But I’m afraid that even if I received affirmation from Him, how would I know that’s really real? (Ok, actually, no, I don’t really struggle with discernment/knowing what is real or false, I think).
Aside: I had a new revelation about prayer in QT. We usually start off with thanking God for things: ‘a space to gather for fellowship’, ‘that we can pray openly’, ‘brothers and sisters here’. We should not thank God for these things. The opportunities, chances, privileges, are sometimes the precise things which stumble us and prevent our further growth. If we’d never known riches, it may be easier for us to share; c.f. rich people = hard to enter heaven/give up wealth. Instead of babbling with many words, we should start off our prayers by simply praising His name: ‘Our father in heaven, holy is your name’ indeed.
Lastly, Christian politics.
I’ve been thinking about succession in para/churches. Mentorship and stuff. Also about political structures. We’re meant to follow God as our true leader, yet we have people in power? What’s the ideal power/political structure in society? J brought up an interesting argument: pointing back to history and how Israel chose its rulers. Why not have prophets to appoint leaders? And back to thoughts that I’d before: democracies isn’t the ideal political system. Theocracies? (My struggle with trying to understand/see/come to terms with religious radicals like ISIS). Other thoughts from long ago about how it would be nice to live in a country run by and for Christians (America’s past?).
Succession = ? Availability, no, Convenience. Who is there, wanting to serve, most likely to say yes. Rationalising choices: good character, palatable to people, what people want to hear, respectable, gets things done, responsible. Characteristics not necessary to be a leader in God’s eyes. Yes, we prayed (how much)?
Aside: I’ve had the concept of ‘holy ambition‘ after attending an annual general meeting of a para-church 2 years back. Seeing no one wanting to take leadership positions made me angry/sad. I remembered my primary/secondary/junior college days when people would clamour, fight to take on responsibilities (for their graduation certificated/ ‘CVs’). How about in the church? There is little/no glory to serve in church? Is it our whole societal system – (Asian) parents dream ‘great things’ for their children; to become a doctor, lawyer, make lots of money, have lots of kids. How about them dreaming of more meaningful goals: healthy spiritual lives, becoming pastors, missionaries (a la Hannah who gave up Samuel, her firstborn son, to serve in the temple).