There is a habit among naturalists and those working in the sciences I know towards sustained abstract thinking and problem-solving. Many of the profound questions underlying, say, the push to Mars, are, in fact to find out if life could be there (possibly microbial life beneath the surface now or long ago).
From what I’ve observed, such a task requires one’s use of reason, imagination, math skills, engineering experience, and people skills to build a rover to solve particular problems. It can yield incredibly precise and long-lasting knowledge of the natural world, and keeps yielding new data coming back from the surface of our nearest neighboring planetary body.
It also takes smarts, courage and dedication.
I’ve learned how you ask questions can be as important as the questions themselves, and the questions you ask can sometimes, curiously, be more important than the answers you get. The ‘method’ used to achieve these milestones has much to do with a crowning tradition and achievement of human endeavor, particularly of Western thinking, thus far.
More deeply, we’ve all wondered why we might be here, why there’s such joy, friendship and love in our lives but also so much suffering, pain and death. It’s pretty much an axiomatic truth that everything which lives must die. This is the tragedy each of us must bear, laughing all the way to grave or trodding carefully, with utmost seriousness. Boredom so often overtakes us. Familiarity breeds contempt.
Religious traditions and metaphysics offer answers to many deep questions, but I generally remain unconvinced they’re always able to offer the best path towards that which is true.
One of the broadest appeals conservatism has for me is its tragic view of human nature. Upon reading many poems, and songs, and engaging in trying to write poems and compose basic two-voice songs myself, I’ve found that much of my own nature is deeply flawed. As any of us who’ve experienced love can attest, or getting a well-deserved punched in the nose along the way, it is usually for some flaw or fear we know to be true in ourselves for which we can punish others.
Looking inwards, I am capable of noble, chivalrous sacrifice and exertions of steady will, but frankly, I’m also capable of very selfish, petty, blind impulses and urges. I’ve learned to be very careful what I find myself thinking, as I believe my thoughts dictate who I become.
I tend to see human civilization as thin veneer over a valueless Nature. Each moment is ours to discover, and to choose more than we may ultimately know, though few, if any of can live with such intensity in all but a few moments of our lives. We human beings can’t bear too much truth for too long.
I tend to see our traditions and laws, institutions and language as tissues of contingency, ever-changing in a changing world and no better nor worse than the individuals and ideas bouncing around within them at any given time.
Hope that helps!
***What have I got wrong? What am I missing?