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Art & Culture

various essays on, well, art and culture

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession

Humor

ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my
adolescence

Personal Essays

more "it's all about me"

Politics

Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?

Society

Gun Violence
We Create the Meaning
The Secret to Success
Holy Writ & the Motion of the Sun
Vengance
The Car
The Mayor of Main Street
Smokin'

Travel

take a trip with me

First published 31 December 2006 at Daily Kos and at UTI


We Create the Meaning

I had lunch the other day with an old friend and fellow atheist.  It's ironic that we really only get to see one another during the Christmas period, when he is in town to visit family.

In the course of the wide-ranging conversation (we share many opinions, and differ just enough on some others to keep things lively), he mentioned that he thought that what my wife and I were doing in caring for her mom was praiseworthy.

I thanked him, and explained something I usually don't tell people.  I told him that some time back, when my wife and I were discussing such plans with her mom (back when she could do so, understanding the relevant issues), she indicated that she didn't want to go to a nursing home, but wanted to stay in her home of 50+ years until she died.  Nothing unusual in that - it is a common enough desire.  But I felt that since she, herself, had cared for a child born with a significant disability (cerebral palsy) for over 40 years, she deserved to have her wish honored, insofar as we were able to do so.

My friend nodded.  "Without having recourse to a heaven for our rewards, we have to create the 'meaning' of our life here, now, ourselves, and do the same for others when we can."

I think that this is something that theists just do not understand about us atheists.  Or perhaps the implications of it just scares the living daylights out of them.  Without a sky-daddy, or tribunal, or Karmic Wheel, or Big Magic JuJu Guy (thanks, Hank!) to sit in judgment of our lives and hand out punishments and rewards, the responsibility for making this life have meaning is ours and ours alone.  We don't get to pass the buck upstairs, or just shrug and say that it is in God's hands.  We, and only we, can work to make things better.  With all of the resources available to us, with the powers created by human ingenuity, we could make this world, this life, a paradise, if we so choose.  That we haven't, that much of the world still lives in poverty and fear, that much of our energy is turned to hate and destruction, is one hell of an indictment.

May we all work to have a better year than this one has been.  Best wishes.


contact me:
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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-2006
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-2006
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