Introduction: REAL Wellness
The letters R-E-A-L constitute an acronym that hints at the meaning of the phrase REAL wellness. The letters signal the nature of each of four key elements in what I consider a quality of life-focused mindset and lifestyle. These four elements – reason/exuberance/ athleticism and liberty, are the qualities that, more than any others, nourish the best physical and mental health from early life to old age.
Of course, no matter how well each is refined by environments and the individual’s efforts – even when enhanced by favorable genetics, the quality of life realized and enjoyed will be much affected, for better or worse, by daily servings of random chance. Fate does not rule, but it steers nearly everything along the way.There is no P in REAL wellness. A pity, that. If there were, the P would represent perspective.
To get the most joys out of life, perspective is vital. In the absence of the letter in the REAL acronym, the role of perspective can be addressed under the dimension of reason.
Meaning and Purpose
A few words on perspective are in order in the context of meaning and purpose in the universe and life. It seems to me that the universe is random and quite meaningless. It also seems that this is good news, since a view of no fixed purpose or meaning for every single person (or soul) imposed from above is liberating. The alternative, and the prevailing worldview, is that you are here as a slave to a god who demands unconditional love and devotion – but if you follow the rules of his minions on earth and win divine favor, you can float about, forever, in joyful delirium – after you’re dead.Meaninglessness in a random universe is good news. It allows a sensible person to create his own (positive) meanings for a pleasant enough life.
There are many factors that, over a lifetimes, have led me to a conviction that life is meaningless.
The History of Life
Consider what we know about the cosmos and the history of life on this planet (quite a lot) and elsewhere out in space (basically nothing). Science has established that the simplest forms of life, let alone the newcomer genus to which we belong (homo sapiens), have dwelt on our 4.6 billion year-old rock for 00.0001% of cosmic history. Put another way, no life, microbial or higher life form, existed during 99.9999% of cosmic history. Furthermore, varied forces have cast unimaginable varieties of chaos, mayhem, destruction and obliteration on the earth since it’s formation. Among these forces, most decidedly unhelpful for our alleged purpose-driven lives, are such unpleasantries as volcanoes, rapid climate change, tsunamis, earthquakes and asteroids. Especially asteroids.
If some genius in the future manages to create a machine for time travel, he or she better be careful when setting the dials. Venture back in time too far and on arrival there will be hell to pay.
Most Life Forms Are No Longer in Business
Consider just one consequence of this mayhem over eons of pre-history: From the time life finally got going until today, no fewer than 99.9% of all species that ever lived have been wiped out by ecological devastation.
Doesn’t this make you a bit suspicious of those who claim to know that human life in general and you in particular have a very special meaning in some grand scheme of things? Isn’t that a bit egoistic? How about lunatic crazy?
Dr. Tyson Address the Question of Purpose
Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked by the religion-based Templeton Foundation if the universe has a purpose. He said, I’m not sure. He explained:
An affirmative response could not be based on empirical foundations and that this way of thinking, common to most religions, has always failed badly. Any case ever put forward for purpose has failed as a way to understand, and thereby predict, the operations of the universe and our place within it.
To assert that the universe has a purpose implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life’s neurological pinnacle? … Religious people are taught that the purpose of life is to serve God … If you’re one of the 100 billion bacteria living and working in a single centimeter of your lower intestine, you might instead say that the purpose of human life is to provide you with a dark, but idyllic, anaerobic habitat of fecal matter. So in the absence of human hubris, the universe looks more and more random.
Whether you prosper or suffer, succeed or fail, the universe is indifferent. If you pray, you’re talking to yourself. No harm in that. In fact, if it gives you a warm fuzzball or two, we might favor it. But, maybe it’s best not to get carried away – be aware that such imprecations have the same impact on natural forces and events as rain dances, tossing virgins off a cliff, slaying a bull on an altar and all such tried and untrue, pitiful forms of sucking up to an indifferent cosmos that does not give a flip. You and I, all of us, are in this alone – no angels, no devils, no benign or evil spirits, no gods, no trolls to look to or run from. We’re all by ourselves, left to our devices, which aren’t so impressive.So, look on the bright side – make the most of the improbable life you have. There’s not a lot of time available. Enjoy. Suck it up and go for the gold – or whatever you find shiny, comforting, desirable or beautiful.
Good wishes and be well.