Saturday, February 25, 2006
The Meaning of Life
I work part time at a Caribou Coffee shop in Aurora and several of my fellow employees have recently fallen in love with MySpace.com, an online social networking site. Anyhow, my store manager posted the following question to our store's Myspace Group message boards, saying:
"Lets start a discussion about life guys. What does it all mean? Why are we here? What will happen to us when we die?"
Here is how I answered:



I think the purpose of life comes down to two thing: Joy and Love.

We were created for Joy, to celebrate the goodness and beauty and truth that we find in life. We were created to laugh and dance and play and weep and party... in short, to savor every moment that God has given to us. God invites each of us to join with him in the joyful dance of life. Life is a party, God is the host and we're all invited. :)

And we were created to Love. To love God, the source and definition of love, and to love everyone else too. We were created to experience intimacy and relationship with family and friends - to care for them, enjoy and appreciate them, and share our struggles and triumphs together. But more than that, we were created to love everyone, everywhere, to realize that we are all family, we are all children of God. To love means to care for the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts, and yes, even our enemies.

How do I personally try to live out Joy and Love in my own life? Well I never do it perfectly... but nonetheless, I think part of the reason I love talking to our customers so much is because I want to enjoy who they are, and I'm always trying to ask myself how I can show love to everyone around me.

Of course, I'll ask all of you guys to forgive me for those times when I fail at these attempts.

As for what will happen to us when we die... I have a few ideas, but honestly, I'd rather spend less time worrying about getting to Heaven when I die, and more time trying to bring a little bit of Heaven here to earth through my practice of love and joy.

Anyhow, sorry for the sermonette, but I am a pastor after all. ;)
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posted by Mike Clawson at 11:44 PM | Permalink |


10 Comments:


At 2/26/2006 08:50:00 PM, Blogger Syd

Dear Mr. Clawson,

I trust you will forgive my comments however, I found your response to the meaning of life to be needing a bit of elucidation.

Although you propose two laudable characteristics of a meaningful life, I would not present either of them as THE purpose of life (although your description of love did get close). Rather, my

understanding of the scriptures make it clear that the purpose of life is for each of us to worship God, in truth and in spirit.

Such worship will lead to many ways in which we should interact with our fellow man and, as you correctly point out, our Lord Jesus Christ told us that chief among those ways is to act in love.

The problem is that we cannot love in the instructed manner without a proper knowledge of the God who so instructs us. And, this leads us back to the purpose of life, our worship of God.

Of course, the object of our worship must be the one true and living God of Bible, the creator of the universe. This makes it obvious that unbelievers have no possibility of fulfilling their

purpose in life unless we aid them with proper instruction and understanding. They may be very "good" people but they cannot fulfill their purpose.

Unfortunately, the subject of unbelievers and their understanding of your blog leads me to a second comment on your response. You ended your blog with the statement "I'd rather spend less time

worrying about getting to Heaven when I die, and more time trying to bring a little bit of Heaven here ...". Although I think I understand your sentiments, the statement operates to prevent proper

worship since it belies the significance of God and the reasons why He alone is worthy of and due our worship. Your statement smacks of the world's wisdom to eat, drink, and be merry. I fear that

it satisfies the appetite of the unbeliever yet does nothing to insure their good health, spiritually speaking.

I hope my comments do not in any way seem harsh as they are not meant to be so (I am admittedly much better at dialog than diablog). However, I do wish that all, believer or unbeliever, would have

the correct understanding of our Lord so that he/she might make an informed decision in such matters. I note that you are a pastor and I applaud you for accepting His calling since it means that

you have a unique opportunity to speak to many regarding the truth and how to know the true meaning of life. I only wish your blog had been a bit more precise.

This subject is far larger than I have time or space to write in this venue therefore I shall stop now. However, if your readers wish to learn more about the saving grace of God, the creation of

the universe, or how they might get into heaven, they may read more at my website http://www.godsfreegift.com

May God bless you and your ministry.

Syd

 

At 2/26/2006 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Syd,

Welcome. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate much of what you wrote and agree with most of it. I especially agree with your thoughts on worship. While I didn't elaborate on the topic as much as you have, I still feel that my inclusion of Christ's command to "love God" (Matt 22:37) includes the idea of worshipping him. As Christ said, the whole of the Law is contained in the two commands to love God and love others.

Please bear in mind that my thoughts were posted on an online message board with a primarily non-Christian audience, co-workers whom I have friendships and face-to-face conversations with on a regular basis. Therefore my intent was not to give a fully developed sermon or theology of all these matters. My intent was to give an honest answer that would intrigue them enough that perhaps they would come away with a positive impression of our faith and possibly want to know more.

As for my theology of heaven, it's not at all an "eat, drink and be merry" idea, but rather a kingdom of God idea. Jesus said the kingdom is here, it's among us, it's a present reality. And he described this kingdom as one of love and justice and peace - a kingdom that turns on its head all the world's values of power and wealth and violence. And Christ has called us to help him in the task of bringing this kingdom about. As we pray in the Lord's Prayer "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." While I certainly believe that the kingdom of heaven continues for us after we die, I also believe that we are called to begin living in the kingdom - according to its values - here and now.

For an excellent explanation of the fullness of Christ's gospel of the kingdom (of which the gospel of forgiveness of sins and resurrection after death is one important facet, but not the whole picture) I'd recommend picking up a copy of Brian McLaren's latest book The Secret Message of Jesus when it comes out in April. It's a biblically and historically sound look at the fullness of Christ's gospel message.

Thanks for dropping by!

Shalom,

Mike Clawson

 

At 3/02/2006 08:26:00 AM, Blogger David Williamson

Love and joy - a few subversive words from Joe Ratzinger:

"The loss of joy does not make the world better -- and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good.

"We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to makng sure that other people, too, can rejoice and recieve good news"

 

At 3/02/2006 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Good words David. It reminds me of how Shane Claiborne writes about a laughing, dancing revolution of love.

 

At 3/02/2006 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Simon Cleveland

Dear Sir,

In your personal formulation of life's meaning, you attribute existence to emotions. Although life is full of emotions, since they are the base product of our developing mind, joy and love have no relation to the physiological purpose of existence. As a matter of fact, joy and love are emotions attained only after the physiological needs are satisfied (study Maslow's needs theory). Indeed, altruism deserves mentioning here as it is the product of the complexity of our genes, (see for example Altruism in animals at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism_in_animals), but it is inseparable part of physiology. Remember, emotions are just that - emotions. Life however is a lot more complex than feelings. Attributing its purpose to feelings is simply plain ignorant.

 

At 3/02/2006 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Simon, welcome to my blog.

A couple of responses:

First, I don't think about or define love and joy primarily as emotions. They have an emotional component to them, no doubt, but they are not mere "feelings". Love, in my opinion, is a state of being, a self-giving orientation of the whole person toward others. It encompasses mind, will, body and emotions (Not that each of those are separate things in themselves. We are wholistic beings, not the sum of our psychological and physiological parts). Joy, similarly, is a wholistic appreciation of that which is good, true and beautiful in others and in the world around us.

Love and Joy, IMO, are not reducible to mere physiology. I believe that human beings are physical and spiritual and mental beings, each arising out of the other. But again, don't misunderstand me. I don't view mind, spirit and body as separate "parts" of a person. Spirit arises out of our physiological beings, but is more than that, and mind likewise arises out of both spirit and body. The mind is explainable in physiological terms but it is not merely reducible to it.

As for Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, I have studied it, and I think it's fundamentally flawed. Have you ever spent time with the truly poor, with those who struggle to have even their most basic needs met? I think you'll find that even those people long for love and joy as much as any of us. In fact, I have found that the poorest of the poor often have a greater capacity for love and joy than the most of us here in the affluent West. Rather than Maslow I'd recommend that you read anything by Mother Theresa or St Francis.

And as for our purpose... I don't think physiology can provide purpose any more than mere emotions can. You speak of our physiological purpose, but how could the mathematical rules of matter and energy, biology and chemistry provide any sense of existential purpose? If all we are are physical beings, then it makes no sense to speak of purpose at all. Life is merely absurd if all we are is matter and energy. Purpose requires intelligence, design, will.

But I don't believe matter and energy and the laws of science are all there are. I have made a choice, an existential leap if you will, to believe in a Creator God, who brought everything into being for a purpose. So, when I speak of Love and Joy as our purpose, I mean that those are the reasons for which God has created us. I believe that God created us to experience love and joy and to share love and joy with others.

Why are we here? Because God was overflowing with love and joy himself and wanted someone to share it with, to shower it down upon. The source of our existence and purpose is not mere emotions, the source is God. Life, as you say, is complex, but I think love and joy are undercurrents that permeate every diverse aspect of our lives, if we have eyes to see them.

Thanks for the thought provoking ideas.

-Mike

 

At 3/02/2006 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Simon Cleveland

Howdy again Mike,

What an elaborative approach you possess to the game of language and semantics. How can one ignore the structure of the words you use to build up the beliefs in a Supreme Being and to condemn the otherwise obvious condition of primary physiological existence as ‘absurd’? But here is where we differ, Mike. Here is where language parts us - it isn't the meaning of the word 'belief' but its component of language. In your established predisposition to the existence of the spiritual, you've constructed your meaning. But don't you see - it all revolves around language. Had our forefathers decided to ignore the concept of language and remained simply ignorant to the capacity of the developing brain, you wouldn't be blogging now about 'belief in God' but instead be chasing animals for your evening meal.
The construction of language, as the product of our developing brains, resulted in our capacity to communicate ideas.
But it all started in the 'primordial soup' so to say. Back then there wasn't an intelligent design, a Supreme Being, but instead there was death and survival. A few billion years later, you and I are sitting being some PCs, chatting away about semantics, attempting to define emotions and feelings and attributing to their simplicity much more than their simple meaning.
Mike, I've spent enough time with the poor folks from third world countries and am aware what the 'soul' desires in a moment of weakness (that's to say, only after the belly is full). I ask you - how many proteins does Love contain? How many calories can Joy inject into my blood stream to foster my physiological existence? Should I fall on my head tomorrow and forget all definitions of emotion, feeling, soul, should I met a complete amnesia, then what happens with my prior constructed meaning of ‘Faith’ or ‘Belief in God’? Don't I revert to my essential needs - to feed, to nurture my chemically- imbalanced mind? If you enjoy reading and are interested in learning more of the philosophical component of existence, perhaps my latest book 'Existential Meditation' would be of help?

-Simon Cleveland

 

At 3/02/2006 04:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Simon,

I agree with you. It's all a matter of language. I'm a philosopher too, one with existentialist and postmodern leanings in fact. Of course my concept of God and spirituality is a construction of language. What else would it be? But here's the thing... so are your materialist beliefs. Your predisposition against spiritual things is as much an arbitrary decision on your part as is mine to believe in the reality of a Supreme Being who gives meaning to all existence. Both of us make a "leap of faith", as Kierkegaard would say.

So here's my question: why do you give preference to the physiological aspects of our existence? Why do you prefer to interpret everything in terms of those needs rather than others? And don't say that it's just the way things really are. If what you say about linguistic conditioning is true, then you are no more an objective observer of the nature of reality than I am. What I want to know is why you have chosen the materialist's set of explanations over the supernaturalist's? Why accept the linguistic constructs of sciencists as any more true than the linguistic constructs of pastors and theologians like myself?

Thanks for book recommendation. I'll take a look at it some time if I get a chance.

Peace,

-Mike

 

At 3/02/2006 05:05:00 PM, Blogger Simon Cleveland

Hi Mike,

Our conversation has taken a surprising turn. Rather than consider the consequences leading us to seek meaning, we are focusing on the choices and subjective interpretations of religious or economic teachings (that are in its core - subjective themselves) – oh well, what the heck. I'll indulge in this pleasant form of communication, simply for the sake of philosophizing.

So here's my question: why do you give preference to the physiological aspects of our existence? Why do you prefer to interpret everything in terms of those needs rather than others? And don't say that it's just the way things really are. If what you say about linguistic conditioning is true, then you are no more an objective observer of the nature of reality than I am. What I want to know is why you have chosen the materialist's set of explanations over the supernaturalist's? Why accept the linguistic constructs of sciencists as any more true than the linguistic constructs of pastors and theologians like myself?

To keep this answer short, I'll answer you with a question. What's the first thing you remember as a child? Or rather, when you reach the furthest back into your memories, what is the very first thing that comes to mind? Now, this is not a hard question to answer, Mike. Most likely you'll recall something silly that happened to you, perhaps your mother, your dad, one of your aunts, etc. Can you reach yet further back to the time of your womb's residence? Impossible, isn't it? Well, it's because the infant’s brain doesn’t begin to store long term memories until about its third year of existence. It’s simple – genetics.
Regardless, to come to the main point (see the book I recommended in my previous post- it goes into much more detail) memories, feelings, lessons, neuron networks (those are the little things that help you connect events occurring in your day-to-day life), societal interactions, the mind, meanings of life, God, soul, materialism, empirical research, etc., all that comes after the brain has developed physiologically and adapted itself to the environment. Its primary function however is to control motor functions, to keep check of all internal systems, to make sure adequate supply of minerals are relayed to all the right places so that you don't end up cripple, or mute, or deaf (see effects of a stroke on a patient).
And since we live in a linear universe, where entropy dictates that our internal components would one day return to the state of disorder and never the reverse (whoever claims that Raising the Dead is possible is an idiot) and where the second law of thermodynamics dictates that the energy of a closed system never disappears, I'm left to conclude that no other logical explanation can supercede the existential 'a priori.'

Cheers,

Simon Cleveland

 

At 3/03/2006 12:29:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

For the record, everyone knows that Rising from the Dead is impossible. That's why when it actually happens we call it a miracle. :)

 

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