The fear of purposelessness

It seems to me that it is characteristic of Christian thought, and of the West in general, that there must be a purpose to life.

My children raised within an Eastern Japanese culture (and myself in a Chinese culture) do not seem to feel the need to ask the question of “why”? Growing up in Australia, this question was of utmost importance, to adults, and in being so to their children as well. The question of why seems so vital to Western/Christian thinking one can only be seen to it being tied to the fundamental nature of God.

God is talked about with the assumption He is conscious. The language is couched in a way that means it is a He. He is also The Father. So framed in such language it is impossible to escape the conclusion that what brought forth the universe can only be a conscious creator.

Nihilism has such a negative meaning in English. To be without intrinsic purpose is like being lost. There is a kind of helplessness to purposelessness. And when individuals choose their own purpose a sense of “group-ness” is lost. Christianity is therefore social, not in any way a “dialogue” (there we go again, giving Him a human quality) between the individual and God. The conversation is between Christians and God, not of individuals. The only way then is to set up God to be dialogic and purposeful.

Eastern thinking never had to deal with purpose the way Western thinking had to. Nor did Asians have a problem with purpose. There never is (“was”, perhaps Christianity has already made headways into influencing The East) this “there-must-be-a-purpose-in-life” monologue that Europe(ans) always seem to have.

On the social media platform Periscope a random drop-in into scopes in America seemed to be one of preaching, evangelical and missionary in outlook. There is a purposefulness to Christianity that is lacking in, for example, Buddhism. Of the 18,000-plus Buddhist temples in Japan you hardly see missionary-ism at work. Each temple on average caters to over 6,000 people in the population. The priests are too busy conducting funerals and such, preaching is hardly part of its work. Buddhism, in this sense, is for the living, even in funerals. The dead have no need for Buddhist names. Purpose is what we as individuals make of it, with influence or interference from what is properly called The Church.

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