Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Meaning of Life V

I was reading a psychology study on how culture determines the way we think and see the world.
The researchers gave a bunch of students a pile of pictures, let’s say a monkey, a goat, grass and a banana, and asked them to group the pictures together.
The Western students grouped the monkey and the goat together and the banana and the grass together, while the Eastern students grouped the monkey with the banana and the grass with the goat.
We Westerners see the world as objects while the Eastern people see the world as relationships.

In the Western culture we understand reality by taking it apart and putting everything in little groups.
We have medics for each part of the body and a branch of science for each part of nature.
We know everything about something but nothing about everything.
And that doesn’t even bother us :)

How would it be to see the world as a world of relations instead of a world of objects?
A whole working system, not as separate parts.

I remember when I was 6 or 7 I heard this riddle:
“What came first – the chicken or the egg?”
It bothered me tremendously because the only reasonable answer would be:
“There is no such a thing as a chicken and egg”
Yet growing up on a farm I was surrounded by chickens and eggs.

What? Do you think you have the answer? Do you think you understand?
Then try out this riddle: “What came first; life or death?”
See, we see life and death as two separate things, like the chicken and the egg, but also as tied together – you can’t have one without the other.
Now, what is the answer?

We see chickens as real and eggs as real but we can’t conceive a chicken-egg reality.
We can’t see this …chicken-egg-chicken-egg-chicken-egg… thing – for us, such thing doesn’t exist.
We can’t see our reality as a life-death thing.
We can see ourselves as part of a larger system, a meta reality.
We see my life and my death as different and separate from your life and your death.

We think of ourselves as appearing in this world from a black hole hanging around for a while and then disappearing back into that black hole.
But life is a continuum a …chicken-egg-chicken-egg-chicken-egg… thing not a random spontaneous act.
Nobody just pops out from nothing on a deserted island.
We might feel separated and independent but we are just a link in a chain.

Reality is not made of separate objects but of systems.
Each system is made of sub systems and each system in turn is part of a larger meta system.
It is easy to se how humans are in fact a digestive system, a circulatory system, a nervous system and all the other systems that make up a human being.
It is very hard to see ourselves as part of a larger system.
But there is hope as we have started to discover and analyze the natural ecosystems.
We are one step from discovering and analyzing the spiritual system of which we are all part of.

So looking from that perspective you will realize that the meaning of your life is given by the relationship you have with the rest of the links in this chain of life.
You can not love or be loved by yourself.
You can not be successful, famous or powerful by yourself.
You can not define who you are and what you are by yourself.
Your life has no meaning whatsoever if separated from this life continuum.


Quantum_Flux said...

A couple philosophical axioms, extrapolated from group theory:

(1) An object is a system with boundaries. Those boundaries are defined by the function in question that the system or object performs.

(2) All objects are subsystems of larger systems.


Math is a system of quantitative numerical (scalars) and geometrical relationships (dimensional coordinates).

Momentum and Energy is a system of mathematical quantities within Space and Time. A subatomic particle is a system of vibrating energy-momentum. An atom is a system of subatomic particles which typically manifests in the form of the Periodic Table of Elements (form). A molecule is a system of atoms. A phase of matter is a system of molecules, atoms, or subatomic particles (depending on the statistical energy distribution and the statistical distribution of forms). A material body is a system of matter phases. A network is a system of material bodies performing individual functions....stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters....multiverse, etc.

Actually, the funny thing is that this is just a scaling up of the properties of energy-momentum conservation in spacetime from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest multiverse, etc.

Ted Bagley said...

If only west could meet east. :(

Eco Yogini said...

i love theories of dynamic interaction.

this is why for myself, yoga naturally should lead to a sense of environmental stewardship. we are all connected.

I think for those who live in urban settings there is that much more of a sense of disconnect from others as well as the natural world around them. (which there have been studies that indeed indicate this is so). While those Westerners who live in rural settings have a much closer idea to the banana-monkey, grass goat connection (which was my first thought upon grouping- guess you can't take the dynamic out of the country girl!)

the fantastic this about culture/society is that it can easily and quickly change (and has). therefore, should our cultural experiences be such now (as most live in urban environments in the west) then it is not impossible for these trends and cultural "mores" to alter within a generation.
great post :)

Buddha of Hollywood said...

@ Quantum - Many time we understand boundaries as something that separate and not as something that unites - that is my only concern :)

@ Ted - there is hope:)

@ Eco Yogini - That is a really important POV.
We are getting more and more disconnected from nature, hence the feeling of stress and anxiety of the modern life.

Quantum_Flux said...

Boundaries are absolutely necessary if you wish to study a system.