Friday, June 25, 2010

Shipwrecks, The Full Moon, And Stuff That Floats

It bothers me that we can interpret life however we want. It's like we're given a ship and a compass, plopped in the ocean, and told to get home. But where's home? And why do I want to go there? And should I go fast or slow? And what about the storms? All this free will is giving me a headache.

We should be born with a manual explaining the purpose of life, general moral and ethical guidelines, and how to interpret the world around us. Instead we have to figure it out using only our experience and our conscience. Sometimes I feel lost at sea with nothing solid to stand on. I don't think I'm alone.

For instance, today I listened to gray haired man talk about a recent fight with his wife. I grabbed my notebook, ready to learn tips on conflict management from a guy with forty years of marriage experience. His grand conclusion: the full moon made his wife crazy.

Really? That's what happened Charlie? She called the cops on you because of the lunar calendar? Is this like timeless wisdom from ages past? Are women really werewolves? I'm so confused.

It bugs me that we are free to come up with any wacky conclusions about life that we want. I'm free to decide that there is no God. That black cats are bad luck. That blonds really do have more fun, and yes, even that the full moon makes women crazy.

Why is this OK? There are literally six billion weirdos out there, and every one of them has at least one wacky idea about the world! Even the smart ones! There are superstitious scientists, anarchic politicians, and atheistic priests. And then there are ordinary people like you and me with worldviews chock full of inconsistencies. How can we possibly see through our own weirdness?

But more importantly, why are we trying? We seem so confident that our world can fit perfectly into a box. Have we never considered the fact that there are billions of other boxes out there, each one owned by someone trying to cram their experiences into it?

I have yet to meet someone who doesn't think they've got the basics nailed down. Nobody ever says, I dunno, I simply cannot understand the world. We want so desperately to make sense of everything that we are willing to use absolutely ridiculous ideas to explain stuff. Like the full moon. Or the Big Bang.

No Charlie, she didn't call the cops because of the full moon, she called them because you're a violent moron. And no Mr. Smarty Pants, our intricate world didn't explode into existence by accident, it happened in some way that you can't explain.

The more I think about this stuff the smaller and stupider I feel. My conclusions are flying out the window like cargo in a shipwreck. All I need is one thing that floats to hang on to. The rest can sink for all I care.

Maybe that's the whole point. Maybe shipwrecks are the only way to discover what life is about. Extraneous stuff sinks while you hang on to what keeps you alive. You don't really ask questions, you just grab on. (Picturing six billion boxes sinking). That's a lot less free will than I thought. OK, I feel better now. Go ahead Charlie, keep blaming the moon, when you care to join I'll be over here with the raft.


  1. I think that's why God allows shipwrecks - we figure out what floats.

  2. Before I knew JC I really used to feel like life was a swamp, with tufts of seemingly solid ground that I tried to jump to, and each time I stepped on one it would sink below the surface. And I needed to know, if I BELIEVED in something it had to be cos it was real - not cos of culture or family or even cos it 'works' ... but is it REAL. 20 years later I can say that He really is the Rock