You are consciousness navigating through empty space.
When you think about it, Democritus, the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher, who flourished in Abdera, Thrace about 460 BC was right. The first human being to formulate the atomic theory proposed…
Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.
This emptiness of form includes us. If we were to remove the empty space between every person on earth, we would probably end up with something no larger than a grain of rice.
The Illusion of a Tangible World
This stark contrast between the apparency of the world of people and things and events with what really exists makes it difficult to decide on the good life. Indeed, for centuries, philosophers have failed to agree on a viable definition.
Still, although it’s a valid pursuit to ask what is good, true, and beautiful, it’s also a doomed one — because it’s impossible to bind the infinite universe in the nutshell of human language.
In the final analysis, we have to grapple with the granularity of our lived experience, accepting the plain truth that it is beyond our reach to comprehend why we exist amidst the paradox of infinity small and infinitely large things.
Defining the Good Life
Against this background of bewilderment when puzzling over mind and matter and describing the intangibility of “amness” and the concreteness of “isness,” it can be difficult to define the good life.
With those constraints in mind, I would like to propose that the good life one of bold inquiry.
In Defense of Curiosity
While the general sentiment is that life is about winning — acquiring more prosperity, property, and power — thinking people are quickly bored with structuring their time around primal pursuits.
Instead, thinking people suggest that the good life is one of inquiry. (This is not to say that they send checks back in the mail, but they are often quickly discontent with such simple goals as pursuing financial security alone.)
What thinking people love to do more than anything else is inquire.
The Pleasure of Inquiry
Inquiry is a pleasurable way to structure our experience.
In The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, the American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, sums up why inquiry is such a great and noble pursuit:
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”
We do not know who we are, why we are here, and what it is that we have come to do. We do know that it’s only a short journey and that by the time we even get close to recovering from our vertigo, it’s time to go back to where we came, wherever that happens to be.
The brevity of our stay and the chaos of our dualistic world places an unusual burden on us to come up with a reasonable philosophy to live the best life we can imagine.
While most people settle for what they have been told is the best way to live, the thinking person continues to ask questions. In this process, he or she may become a writer, an artist, a philosopher, or a scientist, but, in truth, all these are mere variations of the same work — the work of inquiring about the nature of the labyrinth of time and space and dust and destiny that defines human experience.
As Sisyphus shoulders his boulder up the hill, he takes comfort in asking himself questions about the rock, the hill, and his purpose in pushing a large stone destined to roll down again. I imagine he concludes that it’s enough to inquire why consciousness is stranded in an ephemeral world.