You and I live according to a story.
Actually, we live according to several kinds of small stories, but there is some form of an overarching story we believe in that gives meaning to our lives.
That’s one of the valuable critiques postmodernism has contributed to philosophy in general. Events don’t happen to us in a vacuum – we understand everything within the context of various stories.
[Bear with me on this]
For example, a plant I have had since I was three-years-old is suddenly blooming for the first time in my life. That is a fact: a thing that has happened.
Logging that in my brain as a fact is not where my thoughts end with this event, though. I follow by ascribing meaning to it: this plant has never produced a flower; now it has; perhaps this is a sign of something good. OR: this plant has never produced a flower; now it has; it doesn’t mean anything.
Those two options loosely represent the common perceptions we in the West choose between in giving meaning to events (notice that ascribing “no meaning” is still an act of ascribing meaning – lack of meaning still means something: that there is no meaning!).
Notice also that both perceptions do not deny the facts: a plant has never flowered; now it has.
Surely there are factual reasons why this change has happened (I know of one that is the likely direct cause: the plant was outside during winter for the first time in many years, giving it a period of dormancy from which it could emerge in Spring).
But the facts in and of themselves do not lead directly to particular meanings.
Yes, I can surmise why the plant has now flowered, but that does not give meaning to the event – the plant hadn’t been subjected to the elements for many years; now it has, so now it did.
But, in the past when the situation was identical, this result still did not occur.
And, yes, we can theoretically trace each small event backward to determine precisely what changes directly lead to this result, but still, that does not provide meaning. It does not answer, “why now?” Why did events only recently coincide in which I was encouraged to put the plant outside during winter?
If you’re response is anywhere along the lines of, “Well, because they just did…idiot,” that is your moment of affixing meaning, because it is not a given that events happen “just because” – that is purely an interpretation.
This is a silly example but it illustrates the point fairly well: our choice to understand events within particular meaning-stories (metanarratives, to use the postmodern phrase) is strictly a choice emerging mainly from our dispositions and backgrounds.
Why have I waxed on about a plant?
Because across the spectrum of metanarratives (atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, pantheist, agnostic, Jewish, Christian, humanist, utopian, utilitarian, apathetic, etc.) there seems to be a common theme that consistently resonates: love.
The shared experience of love is cross-narrational(?) and not denied by any narrative.
Even if love is considered a strict result of evolutionary adaptation, it is still practiced by those who would otherwise deny its continued utility apart from motivating species’ survival.
Even if considered purely an illusion, it is still practiced to some degree by those attempting to rid themselves of all desire.
There is seemingly no escaping love.
That being said, granted the universality of love and its central importance to human life, it follows clearly to me that if there is some sort of personality(s) behind the existence of the universe, it would be safe to assume that love would likewise be of great importance to it/them.
That isn’t a logical necessity by any means, but it is a logical assumption.
Despite the bitterness I still stew over and the quesetions that remain unanswered in my relationship with God, I think an honest assessment of the major metanarratives on offer concludes that – be it true to reality or not – love is most central in the Christian paradigm.
That doesn’t mean love is ignored in other metanarratives, but that it isn’t as vital to the essence of meaning as it is within Christianity.
Christianity is incomprehensible without love (it’s hard enough with it!). Christianity is centered on the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whose ministry consisted of teaching an upside-down version of who God is and what His Kingdom is concerned with versus the assumptions of the religious establishments of the day.
The emphasis of Jesus’ teaching focused on God’s reckless love for humanity.
The consequent understanding of Jesus’ death at the hands of imperial and religious powers was as an act of God taking upon Himself the darknss of existence – injustice, pride, greed, et al – in order to redeem creation because He loves it.
The Resurrection (if real) is the evidence that said redemption is in motion.
Love is God’s motivation; love is God’s purpose; and love is God’s primary command to those who would follow Christ (John 13:34-35).
The Christian metanarrative thus resonates with me unlike any other: in my practical experience, love is the best thing about living, and the love expressed within Christianity (self-sacrificial; committed; persevering; humble) is the purest love I know as demonstrated for my daughter.
So it is that philosophically I find Christianity compelling, which of course says nothing about its factual claims.
But if I were to believe in a god not of my own making, that God is one that I would follow. That is one that speaks to life as I actually experience it, whether I can fully comprehend Him or not.