This week, writer John Scalzi is blogging his answers to questions submitted by readers of his blog. Yesterday’s question was, in essence: What is the meaning of life?
Mr. Scalzi suggests that he devised his answer to this question via humanist (non-religious) means:
What I’m leaving out here, for the space of relative brevity, is a detailed examination of processes by which I came to this intellectual methodology, generated through years of self-examination and self-realization via intentional and unintentional experiential phenomena, to produce the robust heuristic structure through which I filter data.
Here’s the heart of his reply:
Finally, in the larger sense — the one in which I am a citizen of the world, that I like no man am an island, blah blah blah blah blah, it becomes a matter of asking one’s self first whether one wants to be engaged in the world, and then if so, how best to be of utility. I do enough things that I feel engaged in my world and I feel like I’m trying to do beneficial things (or at least I’m doing as little harm as possible). I think it’s my responsibility to try to make the world a better place than it was before I got here; I don’t feel obliged to be heart-rent at every thing that’s wrong with the planet. One person can make a difference in the world, so long as that one person realizes that one person can not do every thing or be actively concerned with every damn thing. I pick and choose; everyone does. I focus on what I think I do well, and where I think I can do good. (emphasis added)
I find his answer to the BIG QUESTION quite similar to my own, which I formed in the context of being a Christian. I guess it all comes down to the source of the responsibility, and his answer shows what I believe: that there are many ways to realize your obligation to ‘love your neighbor’.