I know I should give "finding the meaning of life" more time. It's one of the great questions of all time, after all.
But towards the end of the lesson plans I found myself pushing for the end, with no real "answers"
Intentional Insights seems intentional, but provides little insight, in my opinion.
I found myself less and less open to the lessons, and Doppelganger took over more and more.
I'll still maintain doing the goals, because time may show that I was wrong with my initial dealing, and actually do find some kind of meaning. You get what you give, right?
As it stands right now? I did thirteen lessons to be given my final assignments of...
1. buying the Intentional Insights book, and
2. Leaving a positive review.
Genius. I wish I had thought of doing something like that. I'd have a lot more spending money, that's for sure. Have a person pay for basically a really long advertisement that makes them feel they are accomplishing things, and then sell them something.
Here's an abbreviated response to the lessons given to me by an Associate professor of history who used anecdotal evidence and statistics as a way to help me find meaning in my life. I have provided the answers I gave to the lesson, but not the lesson itself.
Every lesson quiz begins with "Statistics... blardy blar blar."
Assignment 4 is to “watch videotaped feedback from participants in the workshop to learn more about their stories and perspectives on meaning and purpose. You will have an opportunity to evaluate your own experience in relation to the workshop participants.”
The videos are all on youtube. We are to watch the videos and then comment on them.
The gist? Each of us is free to formulate her or his own answer to this question (What is the meaning of our life).
Doppelganger: I'm finding it easier and easier to pick everything apart. If the goal is to find meaning for the self, and not some grand meaning, couldn't you also say that if it doesn't work (you haven't found meaning) maybe change your perspective and act like it does have meaning. For example, working in a soup kitchen might not fulfill you right away, but if you convince yourself you are doing something "good" then you could condition yourself to like it and have meaning. After all, many of the religious groups use arduous physical labor as a means to condition followers into thinking their contributions mean something.
Helping others might feel nice, but it isn't really an act of altruism. In this regard, finding the meaning of your life through community still feels self serving to a degree. Our actions can really only be "judged" by our lifespans, so pursuing a life of decadence can make us just as happy as a "worthwhile" or community based life. After death, cognitive function ceases, and we can feel no regrets and the opinion of others does not matter to us. Finding the meaning of your life could be hanging out with a bunch of bearded guys and strapping bombs to vests. There's meaning and purpose for the individual in those groups. And if there is no afterlife or meaning to existence, then those bombers views are just as legitimate as the people in this course.
Here is an excerpt from Doppelgangers Response to the course lesson
Lesson 6: Do You Need Religion for Life Meaning and Purpose?
“What is the meaning of life for you?”
I still haven't found the meaning, if there is one. Apparently I find no meaning in my own life. Strangely, or aptly, this doesn't bother me. I do not lose sleep wondering "what it all means" or "Why am I here?" Whatever the reason I am supposed to be here is, I'm doing it, whether I know what it is or not.
How did you reach your answer?
A combination of an old African tribes beliefs; Great Oludemare created us to serve a purpose and we're doing it even if we don't know what "it" is, and the scientific postulation that the Big Band set up the initial conditions, and all of reality is just a playing out of subatomic particles; that is free will is an illusion and we're just a bunch of gears in a random machine.
Lesson 7: Communities and Life Purpose
Intentional Insights asks: Did you ever try journaling?
Doppelganger: Once, when I was younger. I found that leaving a mental papertrail was an incredible liability. Oddly, I was inspired to keep such a journal after reading Harriet the Spy (great book). Like Harriet, my observations and thoughts were used against me, and it taught me that my thoughts are my own, and need no record to be validated.
If you did, what kind of benefits did you get?
At best I learned that memories are flawed and colored by emotion. Films I loved as a youth were horrible when watched as an adult. The phrase, "when I was a child I spoke as a child and thought as a child, and when I grew up I put such childish things away" came to mind.
What kind of challenges did you run into?
One major obstacle was justifying the time to writing the journal. I had, and still have, little time for such writing. I would rather work on a novel than sum up my day. And with the proliferation of Facebook, I don't even really need to. I can go back several years and look at posts I made a long time ago, or collate thoughts I had in a philosophy forum, etc..
From your experience, how can the process of journaling be optimized?
I guess you could start a blog instead of paper writing, although paper writing aids in patience development and long term focus.
I write (fiction, children's stories, short stories, blurbs, philosophical editorials, etc), and sometimes I write re enacted scenes, or how I would like arguments to go, or how they could have gone worse. I write counter arguments to things I hear people say, sometimes I write from a completely different viewpoint as though I actually believe what I am writing. So I don't see why journaling should be exclusive to my mental health.
Lesson 8 Rituals and how they are important....
This lesson has all the trappings of religion, with none of that messy deity worship. Basically, if you act like a religious person SHOULD act, you will feel better about your life....
I don't feel I learned anything from this lesson. Rituals are definitely important to heroine users; those that have broken their addictions who then relapse die not because they overdose, but because they changed their ritual.
to explain, most heroine users go through a defined set of steps before they inject. This system helps when they do not have a rational mind, and they can shoot up by wrote. With going clean, they have often been trained to avoid doing all the activities that led them to use heroine, and in doing so, the much needed mental/physical preparedness is gone. The time they took to shoot up in a specific way alerted their body to prepare itself for the incoming drugs.
They ignore this ritual and die because their body hasn't "braced" itself.
Really, rituals are just a form of operant or self conditioning. These actions are reinforced as effective due to the fallacious reasoning of peer justification, or "Everybody else does it so it must be okay."
But that's just me. What do I know?
Lesson 9: Meaning, Purpose, and Civic Engagement
Have you done any volunteering with others in your social circle?
Not in my current social circle, but I have volunteered extensively, from soup kitchens to cleaning my local church. I haven't done it (volunteer) recently due to many factors, primary being the needs of my family.
If so, what benefits do you think you gained?
I gained the perspective that I really don't like people generally, and I feel that I have to pretend to be nice. I saw the same people with the same problems from the time I started to the time I left volunteering, and even left the city I was in. One woman in particular even had the same sign for three years that read "I just need enough to get home" (this is rhetoric, though). I also found out that many of the homeless made about $20 a day.
If not, what are practical steps you can take to help yourself and others in your social circle engage in social service activities?
I don't think it's necessary to do civic minded activities with a like minded group. I think that's a nice tag on that atheists feel warm and fuzzy about. Then there is the assumption of actual change, or that these civic activisms will have any real effect or for any real purpose. Sure, goals may be reached, but a rat has a goal too: hit the feeder bar for another pellet.
Sure, you feel good for helping others, but this seems illusory. We feel good for doing things, but the effect of those things is negligible.
I still don't know what to place to find "meaning" for my life. I have some goals that I can do, but I still don't think these will add meaning to my life, since I have made goals like this before.
For instance, I set out the goal to write several novels, and I have achieved those goals. I still have goals in place to write more novels. I have done historically what is prescribed to do now, yet I still feel confounded when asked "What specific steps will you take to gain a sense of meaning and purpose in life? "
What have I learned? To put carrots in front of myself and try to get them. Where am I going? I don't know, apparently that's all I have to do to gain meaning. Life may be a journey, not a destination, but it is still a good idea to have a destination or else you might as well walk in circles, metaphorically speaking.
This science based quest for meaning in life just seems to be a business model designed to make you feel good. I'll agree that this is a great way to slow people down from committing suicide, however, we might come to see our daily actions and interactions as dictated primarily by the force of habit. We cease to see ourselves as free agents and come to see ourselves almost as machine-like drones. From this perspective, all our actions, desires, and reasons seem absurd and pointless. The feeling of absurdity is closely linked to the feeling that life is meaningless.
So far I've been told to develop a set of habits (rituals), based on variations of Buddhist teachings, and religious simulation.
Much of this course also seems to be a willful act of "eluding". This act of eluding most frequently manifests itself as hope. By hoping for another life, or hoping to find some meaning in this life, we put off facing the consequences of the absurd, of the meaninglessness of life.
Maybe I'm wrong in all this. I just am calling it like I see it.