What do we want most in the world? What motivates us to get up in the morning? If one thing could be granted us, what would it be? We have to wonder how many people these days would ask for the chance to understand the purpose of human life.
Or how many people even think it matters if there’s a purpose to life? Or believe that the idea of a purpose to life is naïve and ridiculous? Is it just easier to have a drink or take an anti-depressant? What do we take the time to think about now?
We are distracted, preoccupied by the trivial. Whenever a screen isn’t provided for us while we’re in line somewhere or waiting for a friend, etc., we can always turn to the one held in our hand. We find ourselves turning away from the physical world we live in at every opportunity in order to embrace a virtual one. Our cell phones sit on the table when we do take the time to be with family or friends and yet, no matter how engrossing the conversation, we can be called away by a mere vibration.
We know this, of course. We have heard the warnings against the ubiquitous presence of these distractions, but we don’t change. We watch our funny or gross or cute or violent or sexual videos, or 24-hour “news” feeds or a whole range of sporting events –– but to what end?
What if we are meant for more than this? What if our lives do matter? What if it’s important to know why we matter? What if one of the reasons for living is to pursue the kind of knowledge that would reveal why we matter—a kind of knowledge beyond the senses; a supersensible knowledge?
Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:
It is by inner exertion of the soul that the human being is able to reach the supersensible world…. Before it can be known, the longing must be present to find what lies more deeply hidden in existence than do the forces of the world perceived by the senses. This longing is one of the inner experiences that prepare the way for a knowledge of the supersensible world. Even as there can be no blossom without first the root, so supersensible knowledge has no true life without this longing.
It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that the ideas of the supersensible world arise as an illusion out of this longing. The lungs do not create the air for which they long, neither does the human soul create out of its longing the ideas of the supersensible world. The soul has this longing because it is formed and built for the supersensible world, just as the lungs are constructed for air.
There may be those who say that this supersensible world can only have significance for such as already have the power to perceive it, but this is not so. There is no need to be a painter in order to feel the beauty of a painting, yet only a painter can paint it. In the same sense, it is unnecessary to be a researcher in the supersensible in order to judge the truth of the results of supersensible research. It is only necessary to be a researcher in order to discover them. This is right in principle.
Excerpt from Theosophy, Preface to the Revised English Edition, 04/1922 by Rudolf Steiner.
We are in danger of drowning in trivialities, of ignoring the longing arising in our souls to know the deeper aspects of ourselves. In comparing George Orwell’s 1984 to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Neil Postman says in the Forward to his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, “… Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”
Postman wrote this before smart phones even existed... How are we doing now?
Steiner indicates the need for “an inner exertion of the soul” in order to penetrate into the spiritual world, yet many of us can’t be bothered—we don’t have time. We believe that everything that takes time, wastes time. With our ever-expanding reliance on technology to get us what we want without waiting for it, whether it’s goods or answers, we may actually be losing the will and capacity to strive for deeper knowledge. Yet what could possibly be more important than this? You may want to read Steiner.
“How Can I Focus Better?”
“Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning”
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman