Chapter 2 - Searching but not finding
Is there more to life?
At times, you may have wanted to find more meaning to life. And at one time or another, you may have looked for answers in formal religion. But instead of finding fuller meaning and definition for your life, you may have come away empty. You also may have noticed any number of problems, such as:
1. Problems with “churches”
Regardless of the good things that happen in churches, you may have not liked where they have:
Tried to control people.
Tried to keep people from thinking for themselves.
Tried to stop people from being themselves.
Seemed more interested in money than in people.
2. Problems with hypocrites
If they have answers, then why do they behave as they do? Why do they treat others in such nasty ways?
3. Problems with pushy religious people
People trying to push you towards “religion” and into being like them. Not only do you desire to not be like them, but you also wouldn’t want your friends or kids to be like them either.
People who use stupid circular arguments, such as: “The reason the Bible is right is because it says so in the Bible.”
So you may have genuinely tried to find more in what they were putting forth, and yet came away empty. And you may have even felt “rebellious” and possibly guilty for not conforming.
What is the root issue?
If we now investigate this further, we can run into the difficulty of trying to get to the root of the matter. In other words, I know there are things I have looked at where something does not seem quite right, and yet I wasn’t able to put my finger on it. It is similar to an itch I can’t quite locate. I scratch in different spots, and yet the itch is still there… somewhere.
If the following applied to you:
“So you may have genuinely tried to find more in what they were putting forth, and yet came away empty. And you may have even felt “rebellious” and possibly guilty for not conforming.”
Then why did you feel that way? What is the root issue?
Sometimes questions can help to reveal the real issues. As such, let’s start out with the following questions.
Why couldn’t you fit in easily?
Why did you feel like a nonconformist?
Why did it seem that what was there was not “you”?
These questions help to dig towards the root issue. And as we go deeper, sometimes we find a question that hits at and reveals the deep root of the matter – such as the following question.
Why did you actually feel it would be wrong for you to go in those directions, even if those directions claimed they would eventually bring more meaning to your life?
Besides possibly not believing their claims, there is actually a bigger issue here – the issue of what I call “personhood”.
The label “personhood” may mean something different to you than it does to me. So before going further, I’ll define what I mean by “personhood”. Then throughout this book when you see the word personhood, you will know that it is referring to the following definition.
Maintaining the ability to think for one’s self.
Remaining a unique individual.
Remaining true to one’s self.
So how does this sound for identifying the root issue?
Even though you may not have been able to put your finger on it, deep down you felt it would be wrong to sacrifice and give up your personhood in order to move towards the solutions they were putting forth. In other words, you couldn’t be true to yourself and at the same time go towards what they were advocating. To do so would have been intellectual suicide… just kissing your brains goodbye and conforming to something that seemed foreign to who you really are.
I actually see this as an issue of nobility – that deep down it would not be honorable for you to blindly go towards something that would seem to kill your personhood and cause you to be untrue to yourself. So even if you felt like a rebel at times for not conforming, was it really being a rebel? Or was it a noble desire to maintain your personhood? I’ve found for most people it is actually the latter – the desire to maintain personhood. I’ll make the same assumption about you.
There is something I find quite fascinating in all of this. If deep down you desire that there should be more to life than what you’ve experienced so far, and also desire to maintain your personhood, then why can’t there be a solution or answer that meets both of these desires? In talking to a number of people, I have found an insidious thing occurring. A person looks for more, but finds that many religious institutions that claim to have more also seem to want to kill personhood. So the person does not move towards those solutions because they want to honorably preserve their personhood, and they come to the following basic conclusion.
If there is more, then it must mean the death of my personhood. Therefore “more” is not wanted at that cost.
In other words, if you like to think for yourself (which often does not go well in institutional settings), you may have been influenced enough by institutions to conclude that an answer to “more” would mean losing your personhood. But to be noble, honorable, and true to yourself, you realize that giving up who you are would be a violation to what is of value deep down inside of you.
I too think that if the cost is the death of personhood, then it is not worth it. But if personhood can be maintained and more to life can be found, then it sounds like a good thing. The following chapters explore such a solution. To be very clear, the preservation of personhood is one of the main themes that runs through this book, since personhood seems to get lost so easily in so many settings. This personally makes me happy, since any solution that kills personhood is not a good solution.
Here is our first checkpoint, to make sure that things made sense to you. Did you catch the idea that your own good desire to be noble could hinder you from finding more? Did you see how you could have picked up the base assumption that if there is more, then it would mean the death of your personhood? If either of these two concepts is still a little unclear to you, you may want to slowly reread and contemplate the concepts in this chapter (Chapter 2).