Chapter One: Knowing and Loving
We are born to know and love.
That is what makes us distinctly human beings.
We are born to do other things as well. We can and should “eat,drink, and be merry.” Pleasure is an important part of being a human being. Most of us need to work. Most of us need to perform many mundane tasks which require our time and energy in order to survive and function in the world in which we live.
But what makes us human and distinguishes us from all other beings and entities that we are aware of are our unique capacities and ways of knowing and loving. And it is those unique capacities to know and love which make us truly happy as human beings.
In order to live happy lives, we need to understand who and what we are as human beings. We need to know what it really means to be a being which is capable of knowing and loving. We need to know how we fit into the broader realities with which we interact in every facet of our lives.
Who Am I? What Am I? Why Am I Here? Is there a God?
What will really make me happy?
These are some of the questions we all ask ourselves from time to time. Our answers to, or avoidance of, those questions shape the choices we make which, in turn, determine our depth of happiness.
Living a happy life and a good life requires us to have as clear an understanding of reality as possible. The better understanding we have of reality as it truly is, not as we are told it is or hope it is, then the better chance we have of making decisions and choices that will help us to build and live a good life…a happy life… a life full of loving relationships.
“Ideas have consequences” is a quote that I heard or read many years ago. It is a statement that I think is very true. What we know and think has a large impact on how we act as individuals and as a society.
The purpose of this book is twofold:
1. To try to come as close as possible to understanding who and what we are as human beings, as well as the realities outside of ourselves with which we interact; and,
2. Based on that knowledge and understanding, to make decisions and choices which will help us flourish as human beings.
The following essays (attempts, as the root word of essay means) try to address a broad range of questions which start at the very beginning of what it means to exist and then to translate those basic understandings into practical applications which can help us lead happy, full and good lives filled with loving relationships.
I don’t say that my answers will be, or have to be, accepted by everyone. I know very well that I see the world through my lens of knowledge and experience. But I have been a lifelong learner. I have read hundreds of books and thousands of articles on a broad range of topics, including, but not limited to: art, history, science, philosophy, literature, business, economics, politics, theology, culture, etc. I have listened to and conversed with many knowledgeable and good people. I have worked diligently and consistently over a lifetime to understand all of reality as best I can.
I have written this book because I think my ideas may be helpful to others who are trying to think about and then live a good and full human life. In the following pages, I am going to start at the beginning, ask some very basic questions, and tell you what I have learned. I think all of us ponder these basic questions from time to time. I think the answers to these questions determine how we relate to and interact with reality; and, in turn, how happy a life we enjoy.
The first chapters of the book raise and attempt to answer some very basic questions. The chapters in the latter part of this book attempt to relate these broad and deep concepts to some of our everyday encounters with reality inside and outside of ourselves. And as part of the discussion of those ideas, I will talk about how those ideas can be translated into building a happy and good life for ourselves and those around us.
My suggestion to readers is that you move through this book slowly. Read a chapter or two at a time. Take a few days to think about the ideas you have encountered in the chapter. Think about how you live your life and what experiences you’ve had which either agree or disagree with the thoughts in the particular chapter.
My intention is to provoke your thoughts about who and what you are and the experiences that have brought you to where you are today. Your answers may be different than mine in major or minor ways. That is fine. None of us has a grasp on the whole truth of reality.
We don’t have to all come up with the same answers. The important thing is to think about and know reality as clearly as we are able to do, and then act accordingly.
It is never too late to start living a life which emphasizes understanding reality as it truly is and then making choices and decisions in response to that reality. Whenever we begin to do so, we will have a better chance to be happier and to start or improve our loving relationships with others. I hope this book helps you along that path.