Not Knowing, Perhaps Never Knowing: Fundamental Questions in Life
I realized that a lot of the questions that I sought answers to probably won't be answered within my lifetime.
- what does it mean to be a "good" person?
- how do we do the most good in the world and what does that mean?
- do we even want to try to do the most good?
- what kinds of institutions / incentive structures that will bring the best in people and how do we make them happen?
Religions and philosophies have evolved thousands of years trying to answer those questions, and more, and yet, we as a society do not seem to have come to a consensus unlike the fundamentals of math.
It honestly used to terrify me, that I wouldn't be able to know, that I might not be armed with enough knowledge to really know that what I am doing is good for society or myself, and accidentally follow the footsteps of the likes of Karl Marx, Adam Smith who seemed idealistic, and perhaps craved for a better society, but had their teachings warped in a way that may have caused a lot of suffering.
But the world is too complicated with too many variables, too much chaos (in the literary sense and to an informal sense, the mathematical sense) that answering these questions may as well be intractable, perhaps forever. From what I know, predicting the weather more than 2 weeks out is simply impossible.
Perhaps this is what my humanities teachers in high school meant when they claimed that I had a "math brain," constantly seeking answers, trying to logic my way into the world rather than immerse myself in not knowing. Never being able to know for sure what exactly were the motives of the key figures in history, or the author of books, and just embrace the endless trail of questions that get generated.
Someone told me today that life would be boring, depressing even, if all of these questions get figured out, and I suppose that they can, to an extent be interesting to grapple with, reexamine with various lenses, sit with. Though I don't completely agree with that, it's provided me with a different way to think about the fundamental questions in life that perhaps, if answered, may potentially lead to breakthroughs in the way we go about life, on a day to day basis.