Category Archives: meaning of life

Quote of the Week


The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.

–Václav Havel, Letters to Olga (1988), p. 237; courtesy Wikiquote

Universalism (What the Hell?!): Index

Once again, a sub-thread within my “Legends of the Fall” series has taken on a life of its own, to the extent of meriting its own index.  I don’t know how many more will end up here, but there are probably lots to come, either within “Legends of the Fall” or in this series outright.  Have a hell (or heaven, or none of the above) time reading these posts!

Legends of the Fall:  Reflections

Hell, Salafis, Philosophers, and Playing the Odds

Out of the Closet

A Helluva Post on the Rectification of Names

Excursus:  John Scottus Eriugena

To Hell in a Nice Handbasket

Interlude:  Questions, Objections, Issues

An Analysis of Universalism

Defining Terms and a Recap

Universalism, I Presume?

Damnation:  Inside, Outside, Upside Down

Universalism:  Summary (for now)

The parent series, “Legends of the Fall”, is going in a different direction, so the following addenda will be only in this index, though some may later cross back over.

If I Only Wanted To

The Divine Exception

Been a Long Time, Been a Long Time, Been an Aeviternal Time

Change My Mind (?)

Stubborn Highlanders

Sea Battles and What Will Be

The Divine Exception, Revisited

Simply Irresistible (or not?)

Some Preliminary Groundwork

Confucius and Socrates

More on Universalism–Compulsion vs. Choice

All Things Dull and Ugly

Choices and Consequences

The Mind is Like a Mirror Bright

I Want Your Love and I Want Your Revenge

Stubborn Highlanders Revisited, and Antinomies of Pure Reason

Arguments Against Universalism:  Missing the Point

On Anti-Universalist Arguments (reblogged from Opus Publicum)

Arguments Against Universalism: Justice Must Be Served, Part 1–Retribution

Arguments Against Universalism: Justice Must Be Served, Part 2–Just Desserts

Arguments Against Universalism: Justice Must Be Served, Part3–An Eye for an Eye?

Arguments Against Universalism: Your Own Damn Fault, Part 1–Rules are Rules

Arguments Against Universalism: Your Own Damn Fault, Part 2–Better to Reign in Hell

Universalism: Scripture and Tradition

Excursus: The Beatific Vision

Universalism: Is It Coherent?

Universalism in Various Religions: The Abrahamic Faiths

Universalism in Various Religions: The Dharmic Faiths

Universalism in Various Religions: Miscellany

Heaven, Hell, and the Religions

The New Testament, translated by David Bentley Hart–a Review

Arguments Against Universalism: Missing the Point, Revisited

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and Why We Shouldn’t Misbehave

Scandal and Universalism



Insights, Gnostic and Otherwise: I Don’t Wanna Live in This Place (or do I?)

In my “Towards a Gnostic Orthodoxy” series I’ve been exploring similarities and commonalities between Gnostic and orthodox Christianity.  Here I want to talk about a major difference–a difference that in my view is actually more fundamental than the various differences of Scripture, practice, doctrine, and so on.  This difference is a difference in outlook; or, to put it better, a difference of experience or perception of the world.

The first experience is the experience of being at home.  Sometimes we appreciate the beauty of nature; we perceive the miracle of being an intelligent being on a planet full of intelligent beings; we enjoy good food and good friends.  The sun shines, we love others, things seem to be going well, all is right with the world.  Sure, life isn’t perfect; but how wonderful it is to be alive.  In short, we sometimes feel very  much at home in the universe.  For all its flaws and faults, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.  This is what I will call the experience or intuition of belonging.  This is the fundamental orthodox insight.

On the other hand, sometimes things don’t seem so rosy.  Things are screwed up; we get ill; the stock market dives; wars erupt in distant lands; our finances bottom out.  We look around and it seems that everything is timed to have the greatest possible bad effects.  We see the faults and failings of even those closest to us, and even the things we take greatest pleasure in seem to loose their savor.  We feel, to quote an old Sting song, that “roses have thorns, and shining waters mud, and cancer lurks deep in the sweetest bud”.  To put it as David Byrne did, we look around and think “This is not my beautiful house!  This is not my beautiful wife!”  In short we feel like refugees washed up on the shore of some foreign land, adrift, far from home, not even sure where home is.    This is what I’ll call the intuition of alienation.  This is the fundamental Gnostic insight.   This is what the video above expresses, albeit in an 80’s, Euro-pop kind of way.  Read the rest of this entry


To misquote Sublime, I don’t practice necromancy.  For what it’s worth, I ain’t got no crystal ball, either.  I do, however, practice a form of it that I think is very common.  That is, I’m not trying to foretell the future by communication with the dead, which is the standard definition of “necromancy”; but rather I all too often unhealthily try to recreate or relive the past.

I grew up in a small town of fewer than a thousand people.  I went to college in a city of (at that time) a hundred thousand.  It was nearly a hundred and fifty miles away from my hometown, and in a very different geographical and cultural region of my home state.  As you might well imagine, it was quite an adjustment.  I adjusted though, such as it were; and I often think of it as my second hometown.  After college I moved back to my hometown for seven years.  Finally, I moved back across state, and since 1995 have lived in the metropolitan region of my “second hometown” ever since, even working in it for about seven years.

I currently live in a small town about twenty-five miles from my college city (CC, henceforth, to save space), and have worked in or near where I live for the last seven years or so.  Therefore, except for occasional doctor’s appointments or an occasional lunch with my wife (who works in the city), I am not much in CC any more.  All this is to set the stage for the minor incident that prompted this reflection. Read the rest of this entry

Quote for the Week

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

                     –Bill Hicks, Revelations (1993), courtesy Wikiquotes.

I’m not a fan, not because I dislike him but because I wasn’t much aware of him when he was alive.  From what I’ve read and some short clips I’ve seen, I certainly wouldn’t agree with many of his beliefs, and in his last years he seems to have pushed edginess to the very brink of obnoxiousness, if not all the way over the brink.  Still, he had talent, and this quote is quite nice–reminiscent of the Hindu concept of līlā; and certainly a good prescription for the world.

Plato or Aristotle?

There’s a pop-culture game you see now and then, the name of which I’m unsure, but which you could call “this or that”.  You name a certain pop-cultural category in which there are (or are perceived to be) two different major choices, and the players pick which one.  For example:   “Coke or Pepsi”; “Chevy or Ford”; “PC or Mac”; “Marvel or DC”.  You get the idea.  If one played this game with ancient philosophy, one might say, “Plato or Aristotle”.

The two giants of Classical Greek philosophy are an appropriate “this or that” for various reasons.  Theirs are the last two major schools of Classical Greek philosophy–after Aristotle comes the Hellenistic age.  Hellenistic philosophy (some characteristic examples of which are Cynicism, Skepticism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism) is generally thought to be less ambitious, more inwardly directed, and more pessimistic than Classical philosophy.  On the other hand, the towering genius of Plato has had the result that we have only fragments of the pre-Socratics.  Many of them probably weren’t systematists; but even of those, such as Pythagoras, who probably were, we have little that remains.  Thus, for Greek philosophy at its height, the choices are Plato and Aristotle. Read the rest of this entry