Some of the big questions start to take on new meaning and urgency as I begin the long decline. I find myself asking why, not what or how; those other questions can be left to explorers or scientists.
Why questions are another matter. Why humans? Why are we different? Why religion? Great philosophers, theologians, great thinkers even do not provide the ultimately satisfactory answers. The only really convincing answer to any such question is internal and may never come. To some of us this produces a constant and dispiriting nagging and fretfulness, an unsatisfactory state of mind, a source of depressing midnight thoughts.
My own questions include why do we think we are unique and important when we believe at the same time that we are on one planet amidst billions of stars? On the other hand, why do we appear to be a unique species on this planet? Why do we have brains to ask such questions, which patently do not trouble the other hundreds of species, when in cosmic terms we are so insignificant? Is our current view of the cosmos any more accurate than a caveman’s? Supposing it is, why should we be concerned to know? Assuming such a thing as an afterlife what is the point of it, either as a re-incarnation here or elsewhere, seeing that there is no reason to think that we will be aware of this life? The only evidence we have of immortality is the gene. If it is the sole immortal why is there such an elaborate mechanism perpetuating such an inarticulate entity?
Why do we accept as fact the physical presence of what we see, touch and hear? Is the bible true after all? If the seven day story is correct, or rather six days and a rest day, I find it difficult to envisage actually building it all in so short a time. But if the whole thing is imaginary, then even a Terry Pratchett or an Arthur C Clarke could create a fantasy world in a few days if pushed. We may thus be a small part of some corporate imagination. Multi User Domain type games on a computer are much the same thing. If conversely our theories about the universe are true, who lit the fuse for the big bang? We know atoms and molecules are smaller than our solar scales but similar. Are we on something which is smaller in scale to some other object or system? If you drop a light bulb on the floor, you get a similar big bang.
You can see why these questions are becoming urgent. For one thing, they keep coming, multiplying at a frantic rate and none with a satisfactory answer.
Or is Shakespeare right? “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio” Should we go with Hamlet and not bother our pretty little heads?