What If We Could Ask The Big Questions? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture In a world of consumerism and instant gratification, what if one slows down to ask the bigger questions in life? Can one find the time to ask these questions in a fast-paced world while at the same time not get sucked in to the abyss?
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What If We Could Ask The Big Questions?

Do you have enough courage to put one foot into the abyss? David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

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David McNew/Getty Images

Do you have enough courage to put one foot into the abyss?

David McNew/Getty Images

What if one is running through a world where the main concerns are procuring "purple plastic penguins for the poolside," catching the latest installment of the "lives and antics of the rich and infamous" and receiving the next dose of "Wonder Bread and high fructose corn syrup?" What if, as the result of an accident, or a series of dreams about being inundated by waterspouts and of being inundated by a real waterspout, one starts asking the forbidden "questions?"

What if one starts asking: Why are we here? Why am I here now? What does it mean to be human? What is our humanity? How did the universe and life come about? What really is the nature of reality? What is time? What is space? How do we really know? What is the nature of God? Why is there evil? What is the nature of consciousness?

Who is "I"? What is beauty? Are we under the control of a deterministic universe or do we have free-will? How can we choose, if we don't really know what can happen? What is the next step in human evolution? The evolution of anything? Can we even say it? What are the goals of technology? Just because we can, should we? (Not that these are new questions, but rather, new questions to the one pondering the questions.)

What if one finds, as Nietzsche stated, " ... when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." What if, faced with the questions of meaning and purpose, one finds himself dangling at the edge of the abyss. There, like the event horizon of a black hole, the souls of those who are foolish enough to have asked the questions before are sucked in, never to be seen again.

Yet, can't we ask?

What if one goes to science (reason) and religion (faith) for answers and finds them lacking (if not, possibly, the sources of the problem)? Those failing, what if one goes to the counselor's couch – only to laugh at the thought that such concerns are the result of unresolved childhood conflicts, repressed sexual / aggressive desires or the fear of death. (We've been there twice, maybe three times.)

Where does one go, in this time of instant oatmeal, instant messaging and instant gratification, to find the time and solitude to fully ponder these and other "deep" questions. Academia? We think not. The monastery? We doubt it. The asylum? Maybe.

How does one go face-to-face with the System and say, "Hey, we all need a few months (or years) to sort a few "things" out?"

"Get back to work (the void)," they storm. Although they may be right when they add, "And stop wasting time on those stupid questions. It will only get you in trouble."

Yet, why do the redwing blackbirds come back each year? Why do crocuses spring up next to melting snow? What more do we need? What if one just goes quietly into a forest?

So, we will end this by asking: Where in this day and age, does one go to ask the questions? Where does one go to find like "minded" people who are also seeking the answers? How does one find the time to read the great works, the space to ponder the great questions and the courage to keep one foot in reality while placing the other foot into the abyss?