Thursday, November 29, 2007

Measure of a Man

What is the purpose of life in our modern society? Is it the acquisition of wealth and other material things? How about the acquisition of science and information to attain a working knowledge of the universe and the world we live in? Perhaps using one's intellect to benefit humanity, or even one's local community are also important purposes. Where do the notions of helping others, charity, good will, and attaining other such altruistic behavior lay? In this Winter Solstice (most people call them Holidays, some Christmas, other's Winter, etc) season, it's always the materialistic things that get notice. Now, even in a non-dualistic physical universe, as I'm convinced we live in, there are abstract notions such as philosophy, ethics, morality and countless other concepts that need to be explained and expanded. Most people are constantly on a quixotic quest, searching for a purpose to their own reason for existence. Some intuitively or culturally believe that the prime objective to life and a sense of purpose is the acquisition of wealth whilst others in the non-binding free spirited nomadic existence. Still others maintain that importance lies in family ties and the continuing support of a large extended family. In essence then, What defines the measure of a man (person)?

Culture is the first important motivator for a sense of purpose. Depending on the environment with which we're raised, and the values instilled in us, we develop a generalized notion of behavior. Taking altruism for example, some believe that helping others is beneficial because it's reciprocated in the future by some universal source called Karma. Other's believe karma to be selfish, and help others based on vague notions of moral righteousness. Still others that their invisible deity has inspired them to help, often in fear of negative judgment upon death. Yet, altruism is coded in our biological behavior and evolutionary past. It's still impossible to determine, based on looking at a person's genes whether they're going to be altruistic or highly selfish. In general however, most people do have a sense of altruism -- reasons often varying based on shared values and culture.

Ultimately, an objective perspective on our cultural values plays a large role in how we accept certain truths. Will we constantly be slaves to our cultural values or is it possible to look at life from the fresh points of view. I believe that we must break free of those cultural constraints that keep us tied to primitive notions of ethics and morality. We can't continue believing that religion is good for the masses, or that all cultural behavior should be protected from disintegration. As liberal and progressive as one's notions are of liberty and free will, some behavior, due to our evolving sense of morality is deplorable and should be terminated. Infanticide, human sacrifice, cannibalism, and slavery are notions that almost all people can accept as improper and in dire need of termination. Yet, some are unwilling to questions fundamentalist religious behavior. In general, nothing that harms others, whether psychological (as in the case of religion) or physical is above criticism. We should all accept individual freedoms as long as they don't interrupt those of others. Forcing outdated views on a population because most people are yet to awaken to a decent understanding is still wrong. Many creationists are rabidly attempting to force creationism or intelligent design to be taught along with general science in public school curriculum, when those beliefs, even if in the majority are completely wrong. The facts of the universe stand in isolation of majority thought, but many people still can't grasp that.

With these thoughts in mind then, it's difficult to judge how society measures a person objectively. However, with some critical thinking, fact based evidence, and ultimately progressive thought, we can establish a new agenda. At the moment, many are occupied by attaining wealth, social status, fame, attention, etc. Few stop to think that within a century, their personal status is but a whisper in a vast ocean. Yet, if more people focused on attaining knowledge as their sense of purpose, instead of wealth or fame, the future would be far more prosperous. Progress is fueled by cumulative steps, and with more people involved in each initial stage of knowledge, more of it will be passed along. Just as in the case of populations, with larger gene pools leading to healthier more vibrant communities, a larger knowledge base in the general public will lead to a healthier and more vibrant future. Many obstacles prevent the transition to this mode of thought. Of primary consideration is that our society does not reward knowledge as it does wealth and success. Speaking of the situation in the United States for example, a decent education of the general public is frowned upon by the elite because it prevents their overthrow. When individuals awaken to understand their oppressed nature, they will have no choice but to revolt and overthrow the corporations and the 5% of the population that owns 70% of the wealth. An educated populace is a danger to the elite, but with a majority of people unable to awaken to the truth, then tyranny is the natural course of things. Of particular importance here is that a working democracy needs an educated populace. For all the faults of the Founding Fathers, one can't deny their ideals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideals are founded in a period of Enlightenment when rationality and common sense pervaded. They Founders knew that a voting population must be educated and well informed to further democracy. Threats from hell, eternal damnation, or spiritual destruction do not provide the means for a proper basis in morality, ethics, and in effect democracy.

Society therefore will prosper and stagnate based on the foundation that is the general populace. With societies which allow irrational thought and archaic useless notions like religion, then progress will eventually be halted, resulting in disorder and chaos. People must make a choice as to what they measure themselves with. Measure yourself based on those notions that will be widespread and acceptable centuries from now, and you are already progressive beyond the common cultural trends.

Ultimately then, regardless of the status quo and our current moral and cultural values, those who look ahead will always remain progressive and assist in ushering a clear path to a more evolved cultural, ethical, and moral future.