If you haven’t read Vikings, Sex, and Charlemagne: Why Are We Here? part I, do so, or you’re gonna be asking yourself, “what the hell is he talking about?”
You may already be asking that.
We left off our discussion of the meaning of life with a basic, physical understanding of our drive to survive, in the sense of our own personal survival, that of our gene pool or family, and then that of our immediate friends and community’s survival, with the examples of the Vikings and the Chuck-ster, or Charlemagne as everyone else calls him.
But is our purpose on this spinning rock really to be boiled down to something as basic as finding a mate to create offspring and making sure they survive?
I don’t know. I used to think that was the case. Maybe it is. But deep down I hope that our existence is something more meaningful than copulating and replicating our genes. I know there are some who hold such a bleak view, but if so, then why do we possess the ability to think at the level that we think, or at least at the level that some of us can think, or do think?
I suspect that most humans can think at a higher level. They can criticize their own thought processes and actions, and inspect them for flaws. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the most of them actually do. I think that we can all agree on that. I mean, I have friends and acquaintances that certainly don’t get much past, “what’s for dinner?” Although, that’s a very good question; don’t get me wrong.
Hobbits and the Origins of Cooking
I also want to know what’s for dinner, but while I’m scarfing down BBQ pork, I wonder why we eat what we eat, how we eat it, the origins of cooking–was it really just an accident? Did some cave-dweller leave a shank of wildebeest lying next to his ‘questy’ fire too long, returned, bit into it, burned his tongue, said, “Oww!” and then thought, “Hey, this is pretty fuckin’ awesome!” making him the first chef in pre-history?
Or I ponder the mental process that his descendants went through that led them to take the seeds of ancient wheat grasses, grind them up, add water, and then bake them or fry them on a stone to make the first loaf of Unga Bunga Wonder Bread.
That’s the kind of thing that goes through my brain when I sit down to eat. I know; I’m strange. But not that strange, because the bread thing was Patience’s question at breakfast the other day. Of course, I then co-opted the discussion to contemplate the accidental-ity or intentionality of certain cooking scenarios in the theoretical, original Hobbit-hole, addressed to Number .001, Bagshot Row, Mr. Unga Bunga Baggins, Bilbo’s greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreat grandfather to the 50th power, or something like that.
Cooking in the original Bag End was a much more basic thing than in Bilbo and Frodo’s day where it had evolved quite a bit.
What was I talking about before I went off on the origins of food? Oh yeah, we were talking about the meaning of life. Hmmm. Maybe they’re related? I suspect they are. But I’m thinkin’ there must be a greater meaning to it all.
Here’s what I think. Yeah, I know, you were waiting with bated breath for me to say that. What I think, is that while making a kick ass breakfast with charred shanks of wildebeest and stone-grilled flat bread sounds like a good start for a purpose in life, it must mean something a little more than filling our own bellies, or even those of our hairy-footed offspring in the Hobbit hole. I think that our purpose is two-fold, maybe three-fold? I don’t know; hang with me. I’m goin’ in.
Free at Last
First, it should be our personal goal to reach a state of physical and then mental or spiritual freedom. Of those two, the latter is a far more important goal. That’s not to say that the physical must be neglected; I’m not suggesting that we flagellate ourselves, or that we have to sit under a tree for 20 years, like a Buddha, starving on little more than bread and water. I just mean that the spiritual is more important than accumulating wealth, or a bunch of stuff. The last thing we all need is a bunch more crap stored up in our basements or garages. In fact, we will never reach mental or spiritual freedom if we can’t walk through our own garage without tripping over boxes of junk. Get rid of it. Give it away. Cut it loose!
No, by reaching physical freedom, I mean just that: free ourselves from the stuff. It’s tying us down. We’ve become attached to it and that attachment spawns blocks to the mental-spiritual development that we should all be trying to achieve. They are anchors to the physical world, or at the very least, distractions from concentrating on what matters: the inner journey of our own minds. We can never master our mental state if we are too tied to the physical things around us. Once we jettison that shit, our minds are free to focus on things that really matter, like our families and the other people in our lives. That’s the second step to a more meaningful life, to answering the question of why we do what we do. That’s just my opinion, of course, my correct opinion. You can disagree with me, if you want. You have every right, to be wrong.
All My Relations…
Once we chuck all of those physical anchors, we begin to realize that what really matters to us is our relationships with the people we love: our families and our friends. We can then work to make those ties stronger. We can spend time with them–instead of stumbling around in the garage smashing our toes on boxes of detritus, looking for some thing that we don’t need.
We can cook food for them! That’s what I do anyway. Real food! Charred meats and hearty breads, okay, a few veggies, too. But is that it? As I said above, I think we have to move beyond that if we really want to have a purposeful, meaningful life.
Achieving some sense of family and friendship is a goal that most of us aspire to, if not achieve. That’s one that most of us can agree upon. But I think there’s more to our existence than throwing Barbecue parties for our family and friends–and I love to do that. No, in order to really say that our life is meaningful, we need to think beyond our own families and immediate friends. We need to embrace the rest of humanity in some way. We should work to create a better world, to realize that all humans are really one.
This is where we get to the third ‘fold’ of purpose: creating ripples. Now I’m gonna get really philosophical on ya, so get ready. It’s not really enough to just take care of our own.
Why not? Well, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with the idea; it all depends on how we define the last two words: our own.
What most of us mean when we say “own own” is, the people in my family, or the people I know and give a shit about. That’s what we mean when we say it. But the definition is too narrow, confined, and limiting. We should, I think, define it as every living being and everything in the universe. Yeah, I said it. It is our duty, as sentient beings, to take care of everything in the universe, what Native Americans refer to as All My Relations.
What the hell do I mean by that? I think we’ll save that for part III….