What is the purpose of all existence?
We are not meant to know. The gritty details of creation, infinity, and eternity are beyond human conception. We will know, hopefully, in the hereafter. It’s something to look forward to.
What is the purpose of our existence?
To use our skills to meet our challenges.
Aaaaaaaggh! That seems incomplete, and trite.
It does, if you do not trust God. Everyone’s trust fluctuates from moment to moment: sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. The exceptions would be those who never have been in a foxhole, and thus never have believed in God.
“Use our skills to meet our challenges.” Why?
God intends that we fulfill our role in His eternal plan. God is aware of each individual. He preplanned each individual birth, and the course of each individual life, to suit his eternal purpose. God is a big picture guy, yet He also does socks and jocks. He gives each of us a personalized set of skills, and a personalized set of challenges.
My eternal role may be small, yet it is definite. Eternity is incomplete without it. We are each designed to fulfill our roles, and to make our definite marks upon eternity.
Where does He get the time? It seems impossible God could be aware of each of us, as individuals, from individual moment to individual moment.
It does seem impossible. However: creation, infinity, and eternity also seem impossible. If God can create atomic particles, DNA, the Milky Way, a spark in the eye of one you love, loyal pets, and Kate Winslett™, why couldn’t He also be aware of us as individuals, from before our birth, to the moment of our birth, and in all moments thereafter? Since it can’t be disproved, it’s at least possible. In my wizened adulthood (closer and closer to my death-hood – so I am motivated), I have faith it is so.
“Use our skills to meet our challenges.” Seems awfully sterile – where’s the love?
It is love in action. To love God is to trust the skills God has given you, the circumstances God has placed before you, and the eternal purposes God has chosen. Any moment in which you are engaged in the most appropriate activity, and are using your skills to meet your challenges, is a moment of love in action. You are serving your highest purpose, and loving God to the highest extent.
Sounds a lot like painful sacrifice. I’m not into pain.
Yet you have pain – and lots of it. We all do. Pain is inescapable.
To serve your highest purpose is to be near to God, and to bask in God’s soothing grace. When experiencing pain, where is the best place to be: nearer to God's soothing grace, or further away?
Trusting God does not equate to masochism. God designed us to experience pleasure. He intends it. Our pleasure is part of His plan. Our pleasure pleases Him. We ought not view pleasure as an activity of last resort. It has an important place in our lives.
Why do pain and suffering exist?
Yin/Yang. One cannot have the front of the hand without the back of the hand. One cannot comprehend pleasure without pain; comfort without suffering; harmony without discord.
This is not to discount the Buddhist philosophy that pleasure and pain, et al, are mere constructs; and that everything simply is – and is perfect - without characterization as good or bad. I see elements of this in Jesus’ teachings, also. If one believes everything simply is, one would not characterize pain and suffering as bad. Thus one would never ask “Why do pain and suffering exist?” The Yin/Yang answer is for those of us who remain unenlightened, and do characterize pleasure and pain; comfort and suffering.
Ooookkaaayyy. Cough(poseur)cough. You talked above about loving God. What about loving your neighbor?
Excellent! Thanks for that question.
Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love God with all your heart and all your strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. Loving your neighbor is also about love in action: when you are engaged in the most appropriate action, and are using your skills to meet your challenges, you are serving your highest purposes. You are thus contributing as much as you can to your fellow man. This is love in action.
Wait, wait, wait: What about ladling soup at homeless shelters? What about contributing to charity? What about teaching? Coaching little league? Working in the Peace Corps? Being a Big Brother/Big Sister?
Love is not restricted to certain activities, or to approved methodologies.
"There is a time for everything." It is good to carefully consider the most appropriate actions for any particular moment. “Use your skills to meet your challenges” certainly means using your skills of reasoning, meditation, prayer, and instinct to meet your ongoing challenge of choosing the most appropriate courses of action.
Sounds so dry, and so serious. I’m again sensing masochism; and sack-cloth slavery; and lack of fun.
I empathize with your feelings. It’s our Puritan heritage.
Repeating Ecclesiastes: "There is a time for everything." Aristotle, also: "Everything in moderation."
Our muscles need stress and rest. Too much stress equals muscle failure, muscle injury, and a tired and weakened body becoming susceptible to germs and illness. Too much rest equals muscle atrophy, and the blocked arteries and wasting-away damages which soon enough result from inadedquate usage. "Most appropriate action for a particular moment" certainly includes both stresses and rests for muscles, intellect, and spirit, including: pleasures and pains, comforts and discomforts, wakefulness and sleep. "Most appropriate action for a particular moment" is not an exhortation to become a priest or a monk, or to take a vow of poverty or chastity.
How do you know when to do what?
You don’t know for certain, as we cannot predict the future.
Living is art. Almost always, we make choices based upon incomplete information: either to take particular actions, or to delay particular actions. Everything is a choice - constantly and ongoingly. Non-action is action.
We have skills - reasoning, meditation, prayer, instinct - which allow us to make the best choices during the time frames in which they must be made. As new information becomes known to us, we may change course. Or not. Living is art.
I’ve had a few, but then again, most were quite silly... and self-dramatic.
In the self-dramatic types of regrets, I would make a choice based upon incomplete information: I gave give a piece of the Berlin Wall as a gift to my sister in law. Later, when I had new information: she hates the piece of the Berlin Wall; I regretted not having made a different choice in the original instance: bath beads(?).
However, how could I have made a different choice in 1989? When I made the original choice: "the Berlin Wall! Cool!"; I did not have the newer information: she likes baths more than concrete historic mementos. Yet – oh the delicious regret, and the delicious self-flagellation: "She gave me the perfect, microwavable Tupperware bowl! How could I have given her a piece of concrete?" Maybe we’ve all done this type of self-drama - though maybe not this exact example! Now that I know more about life, women, and my sister in law, its perfectly obvious she would rarely be thrilled with receiving a piece of concrete. It was not so obvious in 1989. Do I now regret it?
We can regret, I think, deliberate instances of boorish or sinful behavior. Maybe, in 1989, I could've been more sensitive to others, and less involved with myself. Yet, I was who I was, and it was the only way I knew to be at that time. I know some things better now, but I don't regret who I was then. I think I ought not wallow in that type of self-drama, even in instances of greater consequence. I didn't know what I didn't know. What are ya gonna do?! In his old age, Bear Bryant said, of players from his early years of coaching:
"We did some of 'em wrong. We didn't know any better."
What are ya gonna do? Should Bear Bryant have wallowed in self-recrimination for the rest of his life? I think not.
When we do engage in deliberately boorish or sinful behavior, it is valuable to remember we are naturally fallen, imperfect beings. To berate ourselves - for being imperfect - is to not trust God.
If we seek virtuous action, we engage in a balancing act. We do not wish to justify sinful behavior: "It's okay to steal this, for I am an imperfect sinner". Yet, also, when sinful behavior occurs, we do not wish to be drowned in smothering, stifling regret and recrimination.