What is the most basic article of faith?
This is not all that we are.
I think this simple statement sums up the most significant difference in core philosophies in our world today. Many of our disagreements in the realm of morality, religion, ethics, justice and economics trace their roots to our affirmation or denunciation of this ideal.
Certainly there is no way to empirically prove some intangible soul inside us that makes us any different from a cleverly designed machine executing its programming. There is no objective experiment we could run that would yield a satisfactory answer and let us know of life after death, or of an eternal or even elevated nature – something that places us above mere animals.
Perhaps I just don’t want to believe in an empty and meaningless universe, but it is hard for me to conceive of this is all there is. Art and beauty and love in particular seem so wasteful in a universe governed by logic and survival and chance. Without the possibility of something beyond what we see and experience it’s hard to justify how hope could be anything other than delusion, integrity could be anything but weakness, and compassion anything but folly. Yet almost every person and every society would call hope, integrity, and compassion virtues, not vices.
Perhaps faith is blindness, and perhaps only the weak and enslaved believe in something beyond what they can know and measure. It is possible that love is a farce, and that poets and writers for thousands of years have been naïve and foolish, guiding others on an ultimately futile journey of emptiness.
But somehow I suspect deep down the reason so many people in so many cultures across all of history believed in and recorded their suspicions of the intangible nature of life beyond “what we are” is not because they were more foolish and less enlightened than liberated modern man. I wonder if in our desire to master all there is, we jettison intangible things we cannot know or understand in order to make our quest appear that much simpler, but in reality that much farther away.