I've been reading a book by Steve Hagen that I thought I'd like, because the title was so intriguing: Why the World Doesn't Seem to Make Sense. Unfortunately, it is the book itself that doesn't make sense.
When I'm not liking a book, I enjoy going back to the Amazon listing and clicking on the 1 and 2 star reviews, the worst ones. I heartily agree with what I found there just now.
-- Drivel. I regret spending the money, and more importantly the time, to read this book.
-- A horrible, tedious book purporting to be an inquiry but more just a tired, pointless use of paper and ink.
-- Great topic and obviously intelligent author but very poorly written - confounding & confusing. A disappointment after his book, Buddhism, Plain & Simple, which it was. Author needs to apply same writing strategy to this book. This is the opinion of highly educated readers.
-- Very repetitious. Says the same thing over and over and over again. If the book was half as long as it is, it would still be too long.
However, I'm forcing myself to finish the book, because here and there I find ideas that resonate with me. Mostly, though, Hagen does indeed repeat himself without making any progress toward answering his key question: why the world doesn't seem to make sense.
I'll probably write another blog post about the book once I'm through with it. For now, I'll address the question Hagen should have asked himself before he embarked on writing this book: Why should the world make sense?
Hagen is a Buddhist. A Zen Buddhist, apparently. He goes to great lengths, none of them very persuasive, to argue that concepts and thinking are our main problem, and that we should simply see what is going on in the world with supposed "pure awareness" or "bare perception."
Pure awareness or bare perception doesn't exist, as I've pointed out numerous times on this blog. (Here's one example.) We're always aware of some thing, not of awareness itself. Someone may think that is possible, but in that case they are aware of a thing they call "awareness."
Leaving that aside, my main problem with Hagen's book is the problem I have with Buddhism. Or at least, the aspect of Buddhism that believes in something called enlightenment.
This seems to be what Hagen is after, because he repeatedly refers to Truth and the Real Thing -- which are capitalized to distinguish them from something called (lower case) truth and the real thing. The latter, if my memory serves me correctly, was part of a Coca-Cola commercial.
Or maybe Pepsi. I don't drink either one.
I also don't embrace any organized religion, philosophy, or form of spirituality, preferring to make my own way through life the best I can. But Taoism comes closest to how I've come to see the world.
Namely, simply as I see it. Though I used to believe in a transcendental mystical enlightenment, now I reject that notion and enjoy looking upon life however it appears to me. And I don't have any desire for the world to make sense, because I can't envision any reason why it would.
Big bang. Hundreds of billions, maybe trillions, of galaxies. Likely, countless other life forms in the universe beyond our imagining. Evolution producing us after starting with single-celled life. The human brain being the most complex entity known to us so far.
I could go on and on. We're surrounded by so much wonder and mystery. Sure, we can comprehend some of it -- such as why there is such a toilet paper shortage in the United States -- but there's no way little us can grasp the gigantic entire cosmos.
So whatever meaning we find in life comes from us. It isn't out there waiting to be found. It is here, a unique presence within each of us, our personal sense of meaning and purpose that is unlike anyone else's.
Some days, the world makes sense to me. Other days, it doesn't. Regardless, everyday I'm able to get out of bed and do what I need to do, think what I need to think, feel what I need to feel. I don't expect that I'll reach a point when the meaning of my life is crystal clear, when all makes sense.
I'm fine with murky.
I'm fine with not knowing what the hell is going on, or why this and that is happening. Stuff goes on. Stuff happens. I enjoy trying to figure out the trajectory of my life, along with that of my state, my country, my planet, but I realize this is a journey with no destination.
Hagen does believe in a destination, along with believers in other faiths, religions, mystical paths, and such. That's OK. Each to their own.
Again, I just consider that Hagen wrote a book with a fatal flaw: the assumption that the essence of the world can be grasped by the human mind.