Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Carry On


If the use of profanity offends you, here’s a nice, fluffy kitty to look at instead.

His future's so bright he's gotta wear shades

His future’s so bright he’s gotta wear shades

I think this cool cat might be a higher power.  At the very least he’s a purpose or meaning in life.  Why do I think this?  Recently I had an exchange with someone who informed me that I’d have to be mentally unbalanced not to descend into a life of pure hedonism without belief in a higher power, meaning, or purpose. Because I value people and am a nature-lover without belief in ultimate purpose or a higher power I’m a candidate for a straightjacket and a padded room.

Because I spoke of having an impact and leaving a footprint that ultimately speaks of a direction to which I am contributing.  Because I have direction, instead of floundering about aimlessly, my life has purpose or meaning.  The implication, though not explicit, was that this direction comes from something greater than myself.

This universe is greater than me.  I am only a tiny ant on a small blue dot in a seemingly infinite universe.  But does the universe give me direction?  Does it direct my life?  Only in the sense that it’s forces have an influence on my decisions – not because it was something that was instilled in me or innate from the beginning.

The only sensible reaction to a complete conviction that there is no higher power would be to place self-gratification above all else. What logical reason would there be for not doing so?…..

…..The one who utterly believes in no form of power or purpose would be mentally unbalanced not to go for self-gratification over completely purposeless self-denial. ”Doing the right thing” is an acknowledgement of purpose.

Are love, empathy, compassion, and nurture evidence of a higher power?  Are they a higher power, themselves? They could be self-preservation.  When we place indulgent self-gratification above all else without regard to our fellow man or the environment in which we live chances are we won’t have anything left but our right hand.  Other people will cut you out of their lives if you continually behave in ways that don’t enhance their lives in some way.  Our immediate environment might look like a giant refuse collection site.  There are people who do live this way – even people who say they believe in a higher power.

Maybe we all live in a way that does place self-gratification above all else.  Self-gratification is different for different people.  For some it does mean orgies, drugs, alcohol and complete self-indulgence.  It is possible that making others’ lives better, improving the environment, knowing that they left the only world they know exists a better place when they leave it than when they came into it is gratifying.  Most people wouldn’t call that self-gratification but, in a way, it is.

I highly doubt any of us operates in a way that is totally selfless – ever.  Even when we martyr ourselves it gives us some sort of “feel good” experience or we wouldn’t do it.  Even if we don’t know that’s why we’re doing it at the time.  I submit that no one “goes for completely purposeless self-denial”  but not because…higher power or some belief in an ultimate purpose.

Is loving our family, our friends, our neighbors, and the environment in which we live indicative of purpose or meaning?  Only if we choose for that to be our meaning and purpose.  I don’t believe there is any ultimate purpose or meaning.  Our lives have the purpose and meaning we give it.  My meaning and purpose is not the same as yours.  When we fill our lives with the things we love and do the things we love we are gratifying ourselves.

Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.
― JosephCampbell

If your meaning and purpose in life is to seek a perceived higher power, call it what it is:

I go to seek a Great Perhaps.
― François Rabelais

However if you need this higher power to give you some ultimate purpose in life not to be an asshat of astronomical proportions riding the stream of life in your giant douche-canoe and to play well with others, by all means, please carry on.  Just don’t be so certain you’ll find this higher power or what it is that this higher power wants.  Don’t assign it characteristics, personality traits, desires, or purposes.  Don’t assume it plays favorites, that it loves, or that it hates, and don’t presume to know it’s will.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this concept of needing a higher power or ultimate purpose is contrived in our own minds.

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.

And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.

“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.

“Certainly,” said man.

“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.

And He went away.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

21 thoughts on “Carry On

  1. Hey? Where’s all the profanity?

    Do you need a room mate for the padded room? If you do, pick me!

    I wish I could stop saying “I get it.” In a recent conversation with mom she told me I’m a seeker. That I seek every time I’m in the garden. The garden is God. Nature is God. I just see the garden as the garden but often I think the squirrels are the true gods. It helps her cope to reformulate my atheism into beliefism of some sort.


    • Ha! I had a day or two to think about it. When I first started writing this it was pretty much laced with, ‘What the f#@*k is this bullshite?!?’ I had a chance to mull it over and tone it down some.

      You’re in, but I think they ought to send us loons somewhere exotic and sandy with umbrella cocktails instead of padded rooms. That’s just boring.

      ‘No, mom, I just like to play in the dirt’, just won’t suffice huh? And you know, people that think nature is god don’t really bother me too much, it’s when they start assigning their god attributes of most any kind that bothers me. I can’t prove there’s no god. I’m not even trying to. But if there is one it’s not any of the ones that I know of and I really don’t think I can know this god, nor do I think this god cares about being known.


  2. I followed that thread. Yes, I have encountered similar (obstinate) reactions.
    I am ,very slowly but surely, trying to resist the temptation to argue with those that propound such ( in my belief) nonsense and rather ask that this ”Higher Power” be described, identified, named, or/and defined.

    If they cannot offer a coherent answer then I consider they are merely peeing in the wind.
    The best response then is ….”Next,please!”


    • The thing is I wasn’t even trying to get him to describe, name, identify, or define what he thinks this “Higher Power” is. I didn’t even care, really. I was trying to show him how and why someone who doesn’t believe that could get up in the morning without the desire to impale themselves.

      What he did describe as a “Higher Power” sounded pretty darned impotent to me. It started this universe and just sits back and watches like a voyeur? That makes him feel better?!? That’s just…creepy What the hell kind of “Higher Power” is that?

      “…a god may be aware of every sparrow, but will still not interfere with the cat’s snack.”…???

      Is he comparing disease, famine, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. to a cat’s snack?


      • This is the problem. When push comes to shove it is the definition that stumps them every time.
        Trying to bridge the gap between Man…man-god and Universe Creator is just too much for their mind and the fall back line is usually a variant of Goddidit.


  3. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I believe you handled that tete a tete very well.


  4. “Are love, empathy, compassion, and nurture evidence of a higher power? Are they a higher power, themselves?”

    Brilliant observation!

    It worries me when theists bring up this subject of “purpose,” as it seems to indicate (seems to be a confession) that they are so shallow that they cannot derive meaning on their own, in their own lives, in the life shared.


    • The thing they fail to see is that they have derived meaning on their own. Their meaning is the pursuit of an imaginary friend.


      • The pursuit of an imaginary friend who hides from them BUT wants to be in a relationship. There’s also the “secret information” thing going on; the idea of being part of something grander. Originally i think this message worked very well on the poor and destitute, the idea of cosmic justice is pretty alluring, but in the modern era it also plays very well on the “Me, me, me I’m so special” persona.


    • “It worries me when theists bring up this subject of “purpose,” as it seems to indicate (seems to be a confession) that they are so shallow that they cannot derive meaning on their own, in their own lives, in the life shared.”

      I wonder, does a higher power giving our lives meaning act against the typical free will apologetic provided for the argument from evil? In other words, if God permits evil to allow us the free will to love Him freely, does He not impinge on this free will by assigning a meaning or purpose to our lives? Are we free or do we have a purpose?

      (Caveat: Depending on your conception of God/higher power, this may not be relevant.)


  5. Great post.

    I think it is funny that hedonism becomes the “sensible” and “logical” pursuit absent a purpose derived from a higher power. How so?

    When I reasonify and logicate, I find that pure hedonism is not as fulfilling and satisfying as the commenter suggests. Even my emotions guide me away from pure hedonism.

    But they’re MY emotions. It is MY reasoning ability. If I realize I don’t want pure hedonism, I must be the higher power! I HAVE THE POWER! HE-MAN!


  6. Pingback: On Higher Powers and Self-Gratification | The Caveat Lector

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