Tag Archives: philosophy

My Agnostic Theories On Death

Humans have a psychological need to explain things we don’t understand. There has never been a society where Agnosticism was the mainstream “religion.” In ancient times, people invented mythological stories to explain weather, stars, plants, the origins of life and what happens after we die. Their brains simply couldn’t accept the honest truth, “We don’t yet understand why these things happen.”

Science has explained what rain, lightening, and stars really are, but we’re still struggling with the concept of death. So most people pick a religious book and accept its answers as flat fact. They defend the hastiness of their decision by saying, “If it brings me peace and doesn’t hurt anyone, then what’s the harm?”

There are three problems with this justification. First, most religious texts are littered with passages that can cause harm. If you accept the book as a whole, you risk letting the bad in with the good unless you cherry pick what you want to believe, but then you’ll spend half your life doing mental gymnastics to reconcile you’re contradictory beliefs.

Shall we start with the Bible? -Exodus 21:7-11, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Exodus 21:20-21- I could go on.

The second problem is that your actions in this life are guided by your purpose. So what you believe about death will sway the course of your entire life. Believing you’ll go to heaven for following a specific set of rules invented by Bronze Age tribesmen will have you chasing your tail while ignoring more important issues. Believing you’ll be reborn in a new body can lull you into a false sense of security and cause you to ignore time-sensitive tasks. Believing sin is caused by space ghosts that can only be exorcised by paying a cult member to hear your confessions can cost you a lot of time, money, and freedom.

The final and most important problem is that truth matters. Living out a fantasy feels good, but the opportunity to experience reality is meaningless if we choose not to live in reality. The only sane way to explain death is to admit you don’t, can’t, and won’t ever understand it.

Ironically, your brain is still hardwired to make sense of the unknown, and you still need some kind of working theory on death to give context to your actions and guide them towards a purpose. So you need some kind of idea/s in your head that you can follow as if they were true while simultaneously doubting them enough to reject and improve them for the rest of your life.

Based on the scientific evidence we have, the simplest and most honest explanation of death is that when you die, your consciousness ceases, and that’s it. There is no soul, afterlife, reincarnation, second chances, fairness, justice, mercy, punishment, or any other kind of consequence or closure.

This isn’t as grim as it may appear on the surface. The brevity of life gives it value and should motivate you to make the most of the present moment for its own sake. It also implies a moral code that is best summed up by Sam Harris, “Consider it; every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”

"Consider it; Every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?" - Sam Harris

You can use this nihilistic atheistic framework as the basis for a meaningful life while still reserving the disclaimer that you could be wrong, or as Lee Child put it, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst." - Lee Child

We can’t prove there’s an afterlife, but we also can’t prove what started the big bang or defined the rules of nature. The universe is an infinitely large, expanding machine that has rearranged itself over the course of billions of years to create planets that excrete sentient beings capable of experiencing reality. It wouldn’t be wrong to say the universe is a sentient machine that creates reality.

The power and genius required to invent our universe is incomprehensible, and the same force that created quantum physics also created life and death. If it went through all this trouble to design us to die, there must be a reason that is as logical as the freezing point of water. I don’t know what that reason is, but I know we’re in good hands; we’re in the best position to hope for the best. If the universe is on our side, almost anything is possible.

Maybe there was only a one-in-infinity chance of your consciousness existing, but on a long enough time scale, “one-in-infinity” is tantamount to “inevitable.” And if your consciousness existed once despite all odds, that sets a precedent it could happen again. It’s entirely up to the will of the universe, which again, already seems to be on your side.

It’s theoretically possible you’ll be reincarnated into whatever you choose, deserve, or need. Half-believing that should motivate you to become the best version of yourself. So would half-believing you’ll simply re-live some version of your current life over and over for the rest of infinity.

But here’s my favorite half-believed working theory about life and death. You are the universe incarnate. Your consciousness is the universe’s consciousness, and the universe never dies. Even when all the stars burn out, the force behind it still exists.

This means you’re basically a character in one of “God’s” dreams, and dying is like “God” waking up from a dream. Maybe you’ll cease to exist as an independent consciousness, but you’ll live on as a memory with as little regret for your loss as you would after waking up in the morning, ending the lifespan of a projection of yourself that existed in last night’s dream.

Then again, maybe once your consciousness has existed, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. Though, it could be possible that in order to hold onto your consciousness, you have to achieve a level of awareness and completeness to hold yourself together. If you don’t, then your death reverts to “God” waking up from a dream.

In either scenario, when you treat other people kindly or cruelly, you are the universe doing that to itself, and that’s reward and punishment enough in and of itself. Torturing you for eternity would just be God sticking its own hand in a fire.

I’m not saying you should believe this, or that I even believe it. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule out the possibility we were created for a purpose. I do know we were born with an incredible set of mental tools that can be used to define and improve your consciousness, and there would be no point in giving us those tools and the opportunity to use them if we weren’t meant to.

If death is the end, that’s all the more reason to become the best version of yourself while you can, so you can experience your fleeting life to the fullest.

Although the universe may have put you in the best position to hope for an afterlife, that’s no reason to be complacent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using the tools at your disposal to put yourself in the best position to hope for an afterlife by becoming yourself to the fullest extent possible and making the most out of the opportunity you were given. How to do that is another question altogether that you were probably meant to spend rest of your life trying to figure out.

P.S. Never forget to question your answers.

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Agnosticism 
The Meaning of Life

Wise Sloth Video List: Knowledge And Learning

This list comes from my essays on philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Philosophy On Leadership

Picture of a boss sitting on a box labeled "business," which is being pulled by three workers.... and a picture of a leader pulling the box labeled "business" with his workers.

You don’t become a good leader by memorizing a list of management rules. All the lists of advice on leadership ultimately add up to one simple concept: respect people. If you don’t understand that, no amount of advice will help you.

I’ve met a lot of people who worked in leadership roles and thought of themselves as leaders, but in their minds, they were a higher form of life than the people “beneath” them. It doesn’t matter if you’re older, more experienced, educated or hold more credentials than another person. You’re not better than anyone else. Even if you were better than someone else on some level, you’re still equal from the cosmic perspective.

Leaders don’t manage peons. Dictators do that. Leaders should see themselves as being responsible for cultivating the rarest, most valuable entities in the universe. When you look at your role like this, you can’t help but treat your workers with respect. You can’t belittle, harass or threaten people you value so strongly. Instead, you’ll find yourself looking at life from their perspective and treating them with the dignity you expect to be treated with.

When you treat others with kindness and dignity, you’ll find that they’ll value you in return. When they value you for who you are and how you treat them, you won’t need to belittle, harass or threaten them to do what you want. They’ll want to go above and beyond the limit for you, and they’ll be more loyal to you.

Regardless of how nice you are to them, they won’t respect your authority if they see you sitting around all day and taking long breaks. As a leader, your work ethic sets the bar for your organization. This means you have to work harder than everyone else. When they see you working hard and picking up their slack, they won’t have any room to complain when you tell them to do something.

In addition to taking responsibility for your organization’s workload, you also have to take responsibility for being the brain of the operation. As powerful as the supercomputer inside every human being’s head is, people tend to think only as much as their role demands. They could answer the hard questions that need to be answered to make an organization function properly themselves, but that’s not their job. Their job is to do what they’re told. So they’ll rely on you to think for them. This isn’t laziness. This is instinctual. You need to be able to rise to this challenge and make wise decisions quickly. When people realize that they can rely on you to answer all their questions and make wise decisions, they’ll come to rely on you. When they’re able to rely on you, they’ll respect you because you make them feel safe and secure.

Even if you do all of these things correctly, you’ll still find some people will still do the bare minimum that’s expected of them. Part of being responsible for other people is setting limits and being firm. As long as you aren’t abusive about it, people will respect the fact that you won’t let them get away with anything. In fact, when a human being obeys another person, it reinforces in their mind that they should obey that person.

This is why militaries force enlisted troops to salute officers. They tell the troops they’re saluting out of respect, but they’re really saluting to keep them in the habit of obeying without question. Forcing one human being to salute another human being in order to manipulate them into maintaining a servile mindset is unethical (especially if you punish them with a dishonorable discharge for failing to subjugate themselves to their equals), but that doesn’t mean requiring people to follow rules is unethical. Structure makes people feel safe, and they respect anyone with the strength of character to lay down rules and stick to them.

At any rate, everyone knows they’re supposed to follow rules even when they try to break them. You don’t have to get philosophical about how to discipline people. You don’t have to yell or give big speeches. All you have to do is tell rule breakers what they did wrong, how you expect them to correct the problem, and in worst-case scenarios, what will happen if they continue to neglect their responsibilities. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred they’ll correct the problem simply because they know they’re supposed to. If they don’t, then you give them a few warnings and eventually let them go. You don’t have to raise your voice or tear them down to do that. You can do it as calmly as Buddha. When other people see you discipline others firmly and with dignity, they’ll respect your authority not out of fear but because you’ve demonstrated that you deserve to be respected.

There’s more to leadership than just this, but ultimately the only way to learn the little details of how to be a good leader is by being a leader. Every minute of leadership experience you get under your belt improves your skills. Like learning any other skill, it’s good to start off small and work your way up. Doing something like managing an amateur sports team or teaching an informal night class is a good way to build your leadership skills before managing a large number of people who do big important things that have severe consequences.

 

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Leadership and Authority
My Tweets About Self-Help

Demonizing Pleasure Is A Failed Experiment

For some reason, humans have been holding onto this philosophy that pleasure is inherently evil and asceticism is a benchmark of maturity. I could be wrong about this, but I blame the Abrahamic religions for creating and maintaining this trend. I’m just not sure why they decided to wage war on pleasure. Maybe the tribal leaders who wrote those mythologies knew that miserable people were easier to control or maybe they were just as bad at making up morals as they were at making up science.

It’s so ingrained in our culture, it’s law. In the Middle East, women are forced to cover their heads and bodies to hide how pleasurable God made them. In the West, women are forced to cover their breasts and waists to hide how pleasurable God made them. Men have the freedom show off their hair and chests in every country, but if anyone sees their penis, they’ll go to jail quicker than a murderer.

We’re not just afraid of actual genitals. Porn magazines have to be sold wrapped in plastic with a black cover over them, and children aren’t allowed to see anyone other than themselves naked until they’re about eighteen years old. Since everyone can watch prime-time network television, nipples and groins are dogmatically censored as if they were cursed objects that will burn your eyes out if you look at them.

Our phobia of pleasure is so pervasive it extends into the workplace. Men and women have segregated toilets, and the geniuses in human resources set limits on how much flesh customers and workers can expose. Workers have to wear boring uniforms, and any individual who has bought enough credentials to deem themselves worthy to pick their own clothes still has to wear bland professional clothing. Nothing sums up the absurdity of professionalism more than the necktie. It’s uncomfortable and unnecessary, and it’s ironically similar to a noose, but it’s an industry standard.  We shouldn’t be going out of our way to be uncomfortable. We should be wearing pajamas to work.

Another way culture reflects its demonization of pleasure is through strict drug laws. Granted, drugs are self-destructive, which makes them irresponsible, but sending drug users to jail for hurting themselves is like shooting someone in the head to stop them from shooting themselves in the foot. That’s not justice. That’s a vendetta, and it just goes to show how committed humanity is to demonizing pleasure and glorifying suffering that we punish people for feeling euphoria by locking them in a cage with rapists, murders and abusive, unaccountable guards and forbid them from ever looking at pornography.

The ultimate symbol of culture’s rejection of pleasure is the standard we set for politicians and news anchors. They’re supposed to be the ideal human beings…yet they’re expected to act like robots. Watch any news report on any politician and you’ll see a human robot reporting on a human robot. You couldn’t even get hired as a news anchor or politician if the public found out you had too much fun in your past. That’s how serious our fear of pleasure is.

Asceticism is the standard we’ve set for maturity, but asceticism does more damage than it does good. For as long as humans have been demonizing pleasure humans have been needlessly suffering. Asceticism has failed humanity every time it has been tried. It’s still failing today, and it’s going to fail everyone who tries it in the future. Denying yourself pleasure is inherently painful. Demonizing pleasure effectively glorifies pain. Even if that’s not your intention that’s the obvious, inevitable result. The only time pleasure would ever become a problem is when it causes anyone pain, but by denying ourselves pleasure we condemn ourselves to a life of pleasure-less pain, which defeats the purpose of life, and it defeats the purpose of trying to be virtuous.

Denying yourself the freedom to feel pleasure or express yourself is psychologically tantamount to locking yourself in solitary confinement. After your body goes too long without feeling anything it shuts down and doesn’t even try to engage with the world. You die inside and end up sleepwalking through life until your body finally catches up with your mind and dies and puts you out of your misery. Granted, that’s an extreme case, but the standard for maturity and professionalism which our pleasure-hating society has set is closer to that extreme than it is to hedonism, and by numbing ourselves in the name of virtue and professionalism we’re creating a society of miserable, stressed out anxious fun police.

Being a somber stick in the mud doesn’t help anyone or anything. All it does is make life suck. In reality hiding your body and censoring your voice isn’t maturity, it’s oppression, and oppressing yourself isn’t the epitome of maturity; it’s the epitome of personal irresponsibility, and telling people they can’t act free and happy is the epitome of social oppression.

I’m not saying everyone should be wanton hedonists. I’m saying asceticism is as destructive as hedonism. Look, pleasure is fine as long as nobody gets hurt. Nobody gets hurt by seeing a woman’s head or breasts. Nobody gets hurt by seeing genitals. Nobody gets hurt by people dressing comfortably and decorating their office to reflect their personality. Nobody gets hurt by showing up to work or the grocery store in your pajamas. Nobody gets hurt when an individual sits in their home and gets stoned. There’s no logical reason to demonize pleasure, and there’s every reason to demonize asceticism. The simple math is that joy begets joy, and misery begets misery. The best way to navigate the gray area is with reason… not dogmatic mythology-based self-loathing fear-mongering.

 

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My Theories About Cheating On Tasks And Lovers

CHEATING ON TASKS

My theory on ethics is that the meaning of life is to fulfill your potential, and anything which helps you do that is good, and anything which hinders you is bad. Furthermore, it’s equally good to help other people fulfill their potential as it is to fulfill your own, and it’s equally bad to hinder other people as it is to hinder yourself.

Completing the overall goal of fulfilling your potential requires you to complete trillions of little goals throughout your life. Often times in life you’ll be assigned these tasks by people, like when a teacher gives you an exam. If you need to know the information on that test to accomplish a more important goal in the future, then cheating doesn’t benefit you. However, if the information being tested isn’t important, and the test is just a formality then it would behoove you to pass the test by any means necessary regardless of how you’re told you’re supposed to pass it.

Sometimes rules are best practices and should be followed because they guide you to success. Sometimes rules are just obstacles individuals put in your way for their own reasons. Rules exist to serve people. People don’t exist to serve rules. So if a rule doesn’t benefit you, then it negates its authority. You have no moral obligation to follow arbitrary rules. In those cases, the best thing you can do for yourself is to think outside the box, ignore the rules and take the shortest path from Point A to Point B.

 

"Cheating is just taking the shortest path between point-A and point-B"

 

However, just because you can cheat, and just because a rule may be illogical, that doesn’t mean it’s always in your best interest to cheat because rules usually come with consequences. Anytime you take a risk, you need to do a cost/benefit risk analysis. If you stand to lose more by getting caught than you stand to gain by succeeding, then it’s illogical to take the risk. Sometimes, the quickest shortcut is years of hard work and dedication.

 

CHEATING ON LOVERS

 

Marriage/commitment isn’t commanded or ordained by God. It’s a cultural practice that gives structure to people’s lives. Marriage laws are just rules people thought up and wrote down on paper.

It’s only right to follow a rule when it represents the best instruction to follow to accomplish a goal that helps you fulfill your potential without harming anyone else. When the rules become obstacles between you and your potential, then they’re not a moral imperative. They’re bad ideas, and it would be irresponsible to follow them.

This doesn’t mean you have permission to do whatever you want as long as you justify it by saying you’re fulfilling your potential. The reason we fall in love and make commitments is because it helps us fulfill our potential. It’s a tactical decision we make subconsciously. Our brains analyze other people, size them up, and determine if their assets can help or hinder us achieve the goals that are most important to us. 99.9% of the people we meet fail Cupid’s cost/benefit analysis. Those who score the worst, we ignore, avoid, dislike and even hate. Sometimes we don’t even know why we dislike a person, and we may feel guilty about it, but the reason is because a little “angel” on our shoulder whispered in our ear to beware of them.

Falling in love is the most selfless thing you’ll ever do in the sense that you’ll have to share your destiny and all your worldly assets with another person. On another level, it’s the most selfish thing you’ll ever do, because you’re not just giving away all your stuff to a stranger as a gift. You’re investing your resources in an opportunity that your subconscious speculates will give you the highest return on investment.

This may sound like a stoic speech on love from Ayn Raynd, but the difference between my philosophy and hers is she believes selfishness is the greatest good, and other people are only valuable to the extent that they can help you. I say everyone is equally valuable. Doing things that help you is the definition of responsibility, and being completely selfless is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Virtue lies in finding a healthy balance. So if you and your lover decide you can achieve more together than on your own, then join forces. Just don’t delude yourselves; b honest about the symbiotic nature of your relationship and make the most out of it.

 

"Doing something that helps you is the definition of selfishness, but it's also the definition of responsibility."

 

If you take a lover as an ally in your quest to achieve your goals, be wary of the fact that everyone’s goals change as they grow older. The best life-partner for you as a teenager isn’t necessarily going to be the best life-partner for you as an adult. When culture and laws dictate that relationships have to last forever, and partners should endure whatever miseries it takes to stay together, people end up staying in relationships that aren’t good for anyone. We should be consciously analyzing our lovers to make sure the cost/benefit analysis of staying together continues to add up, and when it doesn’t, we should move on.

If you find yourself in a relationship that is holding you back more than it’s moving you forward, your subconscious Cupid will start whispering in your ear, telling you to leave. No matter how hard you try to consciously convince yourself you’re still in love, your subconscious already did the math and determined you shouldn’t want to be with this person. If you don’t just die inside and accept a life of unfulfilling cold comfort, your heart and hands may stray to another person.

If the new person really is better suited to you than the last, then you should give into temptation and be with them, but you should formally end your previous relationship first. Its purpose for existing is over. So staying with them isn’t helping either of you, but betraying your ex-ally just hurts them and wastes your time by making your life unnecessarily complicated. Yes, breaking up hurts too, but the benefits outweigh the cost.

If you do decide to cheat, and you feel guilty about it afterwards, then you’re hurting yourself unnecessarily, and you’re not going to be able to give your all in your existing relationship, which hurts your partner and lowers their ability to give their all, which leads to a downward spiral of dysfunction and unhappiness.

You may be able to cheat guilt-free and never get caught, and you may tell yourself as long as your partner isn’t hurt by the knowledge of your infidelity, then you can have your cake and eat it too. It may look like you’re maximizing your potential happiness, but if you stand to lose more than you have to gain by cheating, then cheating is illogical. Plus, cheating isn’t free. You have to sacrifice time, effort and honesty to pull it off. If monogamy isn’t your thing, then you should just be with someone who is polyamorous, polygamist or a swinger. Then you won’t have to pay anything for your cake. Or maybe we should all lighten up a little and give each other some leeway.

 

 

If you’re single, and someone who is already in a relationship tries to cheat on their partner with you, technically you’re not breaking any divine law by giving into temptation. However, if your actions hurt the person being cheated on, then you’ve undermined the purpose of life, which is bad and thus wrong. Even if the partner never finds out, the cheater might return to their lover stressed, guilty and distant, and if that doesn’t cause conspicuous pain, it can still degrade the quality of both people’s lives. In that case, the cheater is guilty of their part in the crime, and you’re guilty as an accomplice.

But life isn’t always so simple. If someone wants to cheat on their partner with you, then their heart doesn’t belong to their partner. They’ve already got one foot out the door, and cheating is just a formality that confirms what was already true. Their relationship could have been dead for years. Their partner could be an abusive cheater themselves, in which case, why should you honor a social contract that they don’t? If the contract they have with their partner isn’t important to them, then it’s not important. Fidelity is just a rule someone else told them they have to follow and they pay lip service to but otherwise ignore.

If you fall in love with someone who is perfect for you, and you’re perfect for them, but they’re committed to a terrible person, then by all means, take that lover for yourself. But do it in a way that causes the least harm. Sneaking around with a married person isn’t good for anyone, and neither is waiting for the situation to blow up when the jilted lover discovers the truth.

Life is complicated, and every moral decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. Cheating isn’t wrong because someone once wrote in a book that it is. The morality of your actions is based on the fact that life is valuable, and if you value people, then you should help them maximize their life as much as your own. Staying with your lover may not be the quickest path between Point A and Point B, but infidelity tends to be a much longer route… but there are exceptions to every rule.

P.S. Every person I’ve ever known who was a serial cheater, acted extremely possessive of the person they were cheating on. They would constantly check up on them and accuse them of wanting to cheat because they were projecting their guilt and paranoia onto their victim. If you know someone who acts like that, they’re probably cheating.

 

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Should You Let Friends Borrow Money?

If your friend comes up to you and tells you they’re in a time of need and they ask for your help and you look them in the eye and tell them, “Sure, I’ll help you, but you have to pay me back every penny and maybe even interest.” …that means you weren’t really friends to begin with. When real friends hear that a friend is in need, they go out of their way for them, because that’s what friends do. That’s the point of being friends. You’re more than just allies in the game of life.

When a friend asks to borrow money from you, you just give them the money and never expect to see it again. You don’t have to be a drama queen martyr about it. Your friend could ask to borrow money and you could give it to them, and they can pay you back just like normal, but when you hand over your money you know in your mind that you never expect to see that money again, and you’re going to forget about that non-debt as quickly as possible. Then, if your friend ever does pay you back it will be a pleasant surprise, and it will make you feel closer to your friend since they gave you more than you expected from them. And your friendship won’t go through any rocky times because you weren’t  permanently stressing about holding debts over each other’s heads.

It’s fine to lend people money and expect to get paid back; just understand that expecting to get paid back is a clear sign that you’re not friends, you’re allies at best. So if you lend someone money and expect to get paid back, don’t hug that guy a party the next weekend and tell him you’re buddies.

And if you ask one of your friends for money and they get domineering about the details of the loan and keep pestering you about it, then you know you’re not really friends. You’re only as valuable to them as long as it’s convenient for them, but they won’t go out of their way for you, because your friendship isn’t worth a piece of paper to them. They failed the friendship test and aren’t worth the time and effort to pursue a deeper relationship with.

And when you do hand cold hard cash to one of your friends that you never expect to see again, pause for a moment and smell the roses. A good friend is the rarest, most wonderful thing in life, and today you got to experience real friendship; apparently, there’s someone in your life who is worth more than a piece of paper. You’re lucky to have them. Cherish them.

That’s why you shouldn’t lend friends money… that you expect to get back.

 

"Don't let friends borrow money unless you don't mind never getting it back."

 

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My Quest To Find The Meaning Of Life

The cover of my book, "Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life"

Over the course of 10 years, I wrote a book on the meaning of life titled “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.” I didn’t do it to get rich quick, or because God told me to or because I’m the smartest person alive. My motives came from somewhere much more down to Earth. To understand why I wrote this book, you need to know the whole story.

I’ve always been an introvert, predisposed to working alone on long projects, and I’ve always loved puzzles. At the age of seventeen, I made a conscious decision to make a hobby out of solving difficult logic puzzles for the fun and challenge of it. Originally, this consisted of completing puzzle books, which I did with varying levels of success. That got boring quickly though because I was just rearranging words, letters, and numbers, which felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve real problems that had useful implications for myself and hopefully the rest of society.

The first big challenge I picked was creating a perpetual motion machine. Although I failed to build a working perpetual motion machine, I don’t count the quest as a failure, because it provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment and valuable problem-solving practice. When that thought-experiment had run its course I started looking for a new one. It wasn’t long before the question of the meaning of life caught my attention.

The challenge started out as a game, but the more I thought about it, the more seriously I took the question. I considered myself a responsible person who followed all the rules and lived a successful life by modern society’s standards, but could I say for certain I knew the meaning of life? No. So could I honestly be sure I was fulfilling it? No. I was just expecting I’d nail it by chance; I was leaving it up to chance whether or not I validated my existence or wasted it in vain. For the first time, it struck me that the meaning of life might not be a novelty riddle after all. It might be a matter of life and death. In fact, it might even be a matter of eternal life and death… and that wasn’t even the worst part.

What shook me even more profoundly was the realization that if I didn’t know the meaning of life then I couldn’t teach my future children what it is or how to fulfill it. I was leaving their fate up to chance as well. How could I do that in good conscience?

To my surprise, I found I wasn’t playing a game any longer. I was waffling at a crossroad in life. Should I go down that rabbit hole or find a way to write these thoughts off and get back to my routine, comfortable life? I didn’t have to second guess myself for very long. Regardless of anything else, the bottom line was I was planning on becoming a parent, and I had a responsibility to my unborn children. A father’s job is to teach his children how to make the most out of life, and since I didn’t know the meaning of life I didn’t have an end goal to teach my children how to accomplish. I was going to have to find some kind of answer to the meaning of life so I could teach my descendants everything needed to know to have the best chance at validating their existence and making the most out of life.

Being a child myself at the time, I had no idea where to begin answering such an enigmatic question, but I knew history was full of people much smarter than me. I assumed/hoped one of them had already figured it out. So I started making trips to the library and bookstores hunting for the book the master wrote his/her revelation down in.

Some of the things I read had promise, but without exception, they were all flawed in one way or another. Most of the self-help books were oversimplified and based on emotion more than logic. You could sum up most of them in the phrases, “The meaning of life is a good cup of coffee.” Or “Love everybody.” Nice sentiments but vague to the point of being useless.

The books written by self-proclaimed spiritual gurus tended to ramble incoherently and not be based on any kind of evidence whatsoever. The authors just said, “This is the answer,” and expected the reader to accept their mystical conclusions without asking for any logical or empirical proof.

As for Western philosophy… I know I could get crucified for saying this, but I would describe most of what I read as nine parts academic masturbation and one part insight. For all the amazing and useless things I read, I never found a systematic, logical, empirically valid explanation of the meaning of life.

And then there are the world’s religious books. The first problem they pose is that most of them claimed to be the final truth on life and state it is foolish, arrogant, or outright immoral to question them let alone believe in any other belief system. So even if I quit searching for the meaning of life and bet my soul on any religion, I would still be committing blasphemy according to multiple other self-proclaimed holy books. This concerned me deeply because I don’t want to go to Hell. If blasphemy is immoral, then I don’t want to commit it, but we’re all in a no-win situation. In the end, I figured if you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you may as well do your best.

All things being blasphemy, the way I chose to commit it was to put all the religious books I could find to the test of empirical and logical truth. Without exception, they all contained historical and scientific errors, textual problems, absurdities, contradictions, and incoherent moral codes. Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about each religion, attempting to explain their mysteries. But Occam’s Razor can explain all of them in one sentence: All the religions humans have created are mythologies.

If that’s true, it creates as many questions as it answers. How was the universe created? What defines ethics? Is life meaningless, or is the purpose of life simply beyond the grasp of human intelligence?

The last question bothered me the most. If it really was true that we can never know the meaning of life then that would mean we have one, but can never sure if we’re succeeding at it. Does that mean we were never meant to fulfill it? Would that mean, for all practical purposes, life has no meaning? Are our lives nothing more than pieces in a cosmic game of Periwinkles? Are we not important?

My inability to answer any of these questions drove me to existential depression. I tried to act like nothing was wrong and continued going to work and socialize with friends but found it hard to be enthusiastic about anything since it seemed nothing we did mattered in the long run.

Walking through my tiny corner of the universe, I couldn’t shake my suspicions that it would be absurd for life to exist without a purpose. Surely there had to be a reason why such a complex universe full of complex living beings existed. So as I went through the motions of life I continued to think about and observe the world around me hoping to find the clues I’d missed.

On my way to work in the mornings I passed by a large oak tree, and I’d often stop to stare at it and ask myself, “What are you doing there Mr. Tree?” One day I was studying Mr. Tree when I found the clue I was looking for. The tree contained patterns. The branches weren’t geometrically organized, but there was a pattern to how trees in general look. Then I looked down at myself and found patterns in my body. We can recognize humans from other animals because our structure follows the same pattern. Skeletons follow patterns. Heredity follows patterns. Biology is all about patterns. For that matter, so is the rest of nature: gravitational pull, chemical reactions, and mathematical equations. These all behave according to patterns which reflect phenomenally elegant order in the universe.

It would be illogical to assume that everything in the universe behaves according to predictable patterns, but life (and all the patterns it contains) came into existence on accident. It’s no more an accident for life to exist than it is for water to freeze. The universe was meticulously designed to produce living beings. The immeasurable level of detail in the design of the universe isn’t an accident.

Atoms, molecules, solar systems, and DNA are so ingeniously designed that I can’t discount the possibility an intelligent God created them. If that’s true, then why does God let bad things happen? Does/should God answer prayers? How do you learn about an absentee God of science? Do you even need to know God, or were we put here to do something else?

I wanted to explore these questions, but a voice in the back of my head kept asking, what if I’m wrong about religion, and there really is an angry, jealous God?  If I ever claimed to figure out life for myself, would I be punished? Would I go to hell? Were humans not meant to think for themselves? Why would God create children who aren’t supposed to think for themselves?

With or without God, is it still impossible (or at least too difficult) for humans to figure out? If the question can be answered, who’s smart enough to do it? Could I do it or should I leave it to the professionals? But who are the professionals? What would make someone qualified/disqualified to find the meaning of life anyway? Do you need a doctorate degree, a Nobel Prize, membership in a high IQ club, or at least published book under your belt before you’re certified to… ask questions?

I lost sleep asking myself these questions. I knew if nobody else had life figured out, then I’d have to do it on my own, but I didn’t think I could or should for all the reasons stated above. But then again, not trying was as good as suicide…and in the case of my potential offspring I was responsible for, manslaughter. This infuriated me. I kept telling myself, “This is insanity. It doesn’t make any sense.” Then, after a long night of tossing and turning in bed, I finally let myself admit the simple and obvious truth of the matter. It was insanity. It didn’t make any sense because it was illogical.

There may or may not be a God. We’re all just stranded in this big, elegant universe. We’re so lost we don’t even know how lost we are. If God’s out there, we’re left on our own to sink or swim. We don’t know the difference between right and wrong or if there is one. There is no instruction book. All we can do is figure out life for ourselves.

Whether we know or will admit it, everyone does this. We look at everything around us and come to our own conclusions. So I said, “To Hell with taboos,” and made a decision to consciously do what I’d already been doing all along. I’d figure out my own systematic, logical explanation of the meaning of life. The point wasn’t to create a book to publish. It was to create my own personal guidebook to life.

Having decided that, I turned my attention to the enormous task of figuring out where the hell to begin. Ask yourself, “What is the first thing you need to do to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” That’s a riddle within an impossible riddle. When I posed it to myself, I felt completely dumbfounded, but in that boggled, fuzzy state of mind I had a moment of horse-sense clarity. I realized if you want to answer any question, you need a step-by-step guide to answering questions.

So I went back to the library and the bookstores and read a stack of books on logic and problem-solving. I learned a lot of useful things from those books, but I didn’t find the streamlined guide to answering questions I was looking for. So I looked back over everything I had learned about thinking and boiled it down to a neat list.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather data
  3. Identify the variables you have.
  4. Identify the variables you don’t have.
  5. Sort the data.
  6. Apply formulas.
  7. Ask sub-questions.
  8. Question your answer.
  9. Apply the solution.

I spent years applying these steps to the question of the meaning of life and piecing my conclusions together in this book. I included a detailed breakdown of my method of problem-solving in Chapter 14 since everything you’ll ever do in life will be the product of questions you’ve asked yourself. No matter what the meaning of life is, it involves problem-solving since everything does.

If you read “Why” you’ll see how I applied these steps to the question of the meaning of life. If you just want to know the final conclusion I came to, read the next paragraph for the spoiler:

Regardless of whether or not God or an afterlife exists, or even if there’s no meaning to life at all, the most logical thing a living being can do with their brief time here is fulfill their potential. If that sounds anticlimactic, it’s because the most interesting part of the question, “What is the meaning of life?” isn’t “what,” it’s “why.”

This book isn’t the final answer on life. God didn’t reveal it to me. It’s just the conclusions I’ve come to that I base my life around. If you read my book and find even a single sentence lacking I hope you don’t dismiss all my observations and conclusions. Takes what you find to be true, and leave what you don’t. If you have a better answer, the world needs it. I need it. The way I’ll measure the success of my book isn’t by how many people believe me but by how many I inspire to ask questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

The Meaning of Life
My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)

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