When the wheels began to turn in my head for this particular piece, I was sitting in a coffee shop looking stoically out into the street like your typical twenty something hipster. After I laughed at myself for looking so ridiculously depressed for no reason, I returned to my thoughtful brooding watching the traffic. My thoughts began to drift toward the tiresome task of Philosophy homework, and the current subject of Postmodernism. The fact that I am now writing an article inspired by alone time in a coffee shop, traffic, and Philosophy homework says volumes about my love life. I would laugh with you, were the subject of this sordid realization someone other than your’s truly. However after my momentary despair, my thoughts returned to the loftier abode of Philosophy. As I thought upon this admittedly cliche subject, my frustration grew at my obligation to study such a useless course. The result of which, you are about to have the high honor of reading. Here are some observations for you before you buy into Postmodernism, and the litany of other philosophical fads.
1. We all know there are things that are absolutely true, no matter who you are.
I remember listening to a debate not long ago between a Postmodern philosopher and a Theistic professor (another indication of my relationship status). As I sat and listened to them bicker back and forth as to whether good and evil actually existed, the Theistic professor finally got fed up and asked, “What if someone killed a child on stage, would that be evil?” After a solid 15 seconds of silence, the Postmodern philosopher quietly answered, “Well I wouldn’t like it very much, but I can’t say that it would be evil.” The audience responded with gasps and various noises of shock. My point is this, we all know deep down some things are good and some things are just plain evil. It does not matter if we do not believe something is evil, belief does not dictate truth. In one of Plato’s less mentioned works called Protagoras, he narrates a fictional conversation between the Sophists and Socrates. In this piece his fictional character Protagoras is a relativistic teacher, meaning he does not believe anything is absolute for everyone. We can be sincere, and yet sincerely wrong. Protagoras is asked if truth is relative, then why should a person not go to a young toddler to learn instead of him? If good and evil are simply preferences of culture or individuals, then nothing is sacred and we may as well selfishly seek only our own good. As one early christian writer said it, “If our hope is in this life only then eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (Paul the Apostle) As I sat at my depressingly solitary table in the coffee shop watching traffic, I realized that the cars knew the lights meant the same thing for everyone. If suddenly one of the cars decided red meant “Go,” and green meant “Stop,” it probably wouldn’t end well for everyone else. I genuinely hope you and I have something greater than ourselves by which to measure ourselves.
2. We are more than matter.
Atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “I consist of body and soul – in the worlds of a child. And why shouldn’t we speak like children? But the enlightened, the knowledgeable would say: I am body through and through, nothing more: and the soul is just a word for something on the body.” Are we nothing more than deterministic creatures bound by our biological predispositions, and controlled by electrical impulses? I was sitting in the office of one of my dear friends Tegan Bower. As we had coffee early in the morning, our conversation drifted to our upbringing and the fear of repeating generational mistakes. Tegan, by whom this piece is partially inspired and wholly dedicated, looked at me and said something that still abides in my soul. She said, “Dylan, you are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of your parents.” Apart from the presence of an immaterial soul and will, on what basis can that be true? I cannot be determined solely by my physical makeup. I am not a collection of evolutionary accidents, and neither are you. I am not disregarding evolution, in fact I think it explains and helps our understanding of reality quite a bit. However, it can not fully account for what it means to be human. You and I are much more than a host of subatomic particles, assembled by chance. Regardless of the means by which it was accomplished, evolution or immediate creation, we are gifted by God with a soul to dream, resolve, change, and love. When we realize we are not “body through and through”, we can cease our morbid introspection to look outward, and eventually upward.
3. Where does that leave us?
I believe one of the reasons the modern agnostic or atheistic individual is so resistant to the idea of something outside of what is physically measurable, is because of the questions that are raised. Where did our soul come from? For what purpose did we come into being? Who or what created us, and why? Where does Good and Evil, or Right and Wrong, originate if not in our culture and opinion? Which, if any, of the spiritual or religious worldviews accurately brings all of this into union? I am not interested in answering all of this at the moment, only in making you ask yourself the questions. In the life those who ask genuine questions, receive genuine answers. As Christ once said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”