What Shapes Us?
I believe in the theory that my physical body is only a holder of an
individualized, eternal, inner core that is essentially part of a greater
good and divinity, but I can’t prove it.
Our bodies eventually disintegrate into bones buried under ground,
stored in mausoleums, or burned and grounded by cremation services
into ashes. Our souls, our inner selves, however, never die and go on
after death into something extraordinarily stunning. Such a belief is
soothing, a calming balm in a world of confusion and unanswered
The problem, of course, is that we rarely, if ever, see any proof positive
that our souls live on. Yet, while many of us do have highly emotional
transcendent experiences whereby glimpses of the eternal seep into our
very being, those experiences slip away quickly, and we are back at
square one as imperfect and forgetful humans struggling to survive
comfortably in what often seems to be an awfully cagy and mysterious
British philosopher Mark Vernon in “How To Be An Agnostic” eloquently
harkens back to this kind of thinking by referring to Socrates.
He describes Socrates as “an observer of the night sky humbled by the
immensity of the universe, his idea of philosophy was not of inevitable
progress towards the bright stars of certainty and illumination, but was a
dawning awareness that the forces that shape the world stem from dark
masses and unknown energies.”
A well-known quote attributed to Bertrand Russell expands on this
notion of the unknown:
“Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to
its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be
true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these
questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our
intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which
closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the
greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind is
also rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the
universe which constitutes its highest good.”
What does Russell mean by “the greatness of the universe”? How does
one contemplate it? Is it a series of random cosmic events, exploding and
bumping chemical reactions without a specific intelligence or mission
other than to expand? Is it basically malevolent, benevolent, or both?
Can most of our planet’s main life, a small blue dot within the cosmos, be
simply obliterated by an asteroid as it has been in the past? How do we
as a species fit into this vast universe we witness in the night sky? Why
does there seem to be no other similar lifeforms in the enormity of it all?
Does it even have a “highest good” as Russell suggests?
Such mysteries seem futile to contemplate, yet many of us still consider
deep unanswerable questions in an unending quest to know more. What
is that drive in us that keeps asking such questions, seeking, as Russell
claims, an enrichment of our imaginations far away from close-minded
My answer, in brief: your inner self. If you pay close attention to your
inner self, you ask more questions. You journey down mental pathways
that bring relatively brief moments of enlightenment. Those brief
moments are worth the effort.
Thanks for stopping by,
“Philosophy is to
be studied, not for
the sake of any
to its questions.”
- Bertrand Russell