Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Experience of Vitality

Originally posted on August 29, 2013

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), the noted pioneer of contemporary views of mythology, wrote: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

I so agree, because it’s deeper than the mental construct; it’s visceral. We can talk about meaning, but it becomes more when we can feel that our lives are meaningful. The feeling rather than the thinking is important. Admittedly, though, it is closer to poetry. I like to quote Whitehead on this: “The use of philosophy is to maintain an active novelty of fundamental ideas illuminating the social system.” My interpretation of this passage from near the end of his book, Modes of Thought, is this: Good philosophy, meaningful philosophy, will be unafraid to use new words, new constructs that are slightly elusive of mere rationality. We’re talking about aesthetic, moral, intuitive ideas that transcend logic.

Meaningful philosophy, a philosophy of life that is felt as compelling, a philosophy that illuminates, must escape the dry confines of mere rationality.  Admittedly, rationality is better than superstition, but there is a subtle difference between pre-rational ideas that have been kluged together so that they offer the illusion of coherence—which is what constitutes 80% of normal discourse, and trans-rational ideas, which must reach into novelty, poetry, to suggest something that can be uplifting or inspiring. Philosophy as it stands is fairly good in cultivating critical thinking. Yet at a moderate to advanced degree, mere rationality lacks the power to fully describe the ideals of morality and aesthetics.

What then will it take, what words, what experiences, to help you to feel more meaningful in your life?

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