The Voyage to Infinity
All too often, we are confined to living our lives as static, statuesque people. We are sometimes unable and always unwilling to change and grow. We feel as if we, after finishing our education and settling down into mundane routines, have found all the meaning we shall ever find. We are the embodiments of change in our youths, but by the time we reach old age, we have grown cold and become opposed to any and all forms of change. In this way of living, though, we miss out on decades' worth of learning by allowing ourselves to embrace the boring and inconsequential lifestyles that we once swore we would never accept. We are not forced by anyone but ourselves to chase money or notoriety, rather than that which shall make us truly content. But if we allow ourselves to, we may embark on a voyage to infinity that can transform us forever.
All people have a need to belong. We create and hold closely our religions, even when objective facts show us the follies of our religious beliefs. We cling to our national identities and our country's actions, even when they seem completely alien or entirely reprehensible to the screaming little voice in our heads. We value our communities and cultures, while at the same time not giving a second thought to any other ones. This need to belong in itself is nothing to be ashamed of. It is only our nature, and our nature cannot always be helped. The problem arises in how we search for belonging and who we turn to. We seek for our own comfy little places in the world by seeking to associate our identities with collectives that we accept without question. We are born into a Christian home, so we become Christian and raise our kids to be Christian. We are born into a liberal community, so we become liberal and raise our kids to be the same. We are born in the West, so we embrace and even unwittingly worship this culture without the faintest idea of what any other cultures are like. We refuse to seek meaning in our lives independent of the influences of those around us, and because of this, we fall far short of attaining the fulfillment that lies just beyond the cusp of courage.
Some of us break through this monotonous existence, though. Some of us embark on a voyage to infinity; some earlier in life and some later on. But all who do, regardless of age, find themselves much more content at the end of life than those who do not. A voyage to infinity is not a physical journey, although this can certainly supplement it. It is a journey of the mind; a spiritual journey, if you will. It is learning all one can learn about those subjects that strike us as appealing. Practical knowledge is, of course, invaluable. However, the focus should be on those questions without answers. What is man's purpose on the Earth, if any? What should be humanity's collective goals for the future? Can war be justified? Can we overcome our differences and unite as a species to prosper together? Should we? Certainly these are questions without definitive answers, but certainly we can all come to our own conclusions about them. Now, some may scoff at the idea of devoting so much time to thinking about such things. They are right that the vast majority of us shall never be in a position to dictate the course of human history and decide such things as the goals of all mankind. But in their love for all things practical and their disdain all things philosophical is sorely misguided. We all need a set of beliefs and ideals to take us through life without the constant threat of crisis. Those who have no idea what to make of themselves and the world around them are, without exception, the most disturbed of all people. Most of us have accepted beliefs that bring us closer to our communities and perhaps introduce to new ones. We are terrified to wander out on our own and find our own paths towards the ultimate understanding of all that is. It is no shameful thing to accept the ideas of others and to borrow ideas and conclusions that you wholeheartedly agree with. But when one's whole worldview is based off of the teachings of others, with only a shallow understanding of these foreign teachings and no individual input, there can be no peace in the mind and the soul. What we must all do is embark on our own voyages, not being afraid to borrow from others but not giving up and allowing entire foreign philosophies to dominate our minds. We are individual beings, and we all have the capability to come to our own conclusions about the great questions of life. But why bother to embark on this voyage to infinity at all? And what does this voyage truly entail?
The dangers of collective and lazy thought are ever-present in our modern world. We can see these dangers manifest whenever we hear news of the violent Islamist ideologies that plague the Middle East. We can see them whenever we are reminded of the atrocities of brutal regimes past. Group thinking where only one or a select few individuals dictate the dialogue inevitably leads to the domination of the susceptible by the manipulative. This is not to say that collectives of equals are inherently harmful. However, collectives of hierarchy, where those at the bottom are taught that they are the natural servants of those at the top, are. It is for this reason that every single person on the planet must not allow themselves to become obedient slaves to the ideas of others. This gives their leaders power, and those who seek power the most are often those who deserve it the least. It is imperative for the well-being of all mankind that individuals go their own ways and resist the influence of easily corruptible collectives. It is imperative, then, that we go on a voyage to infinity.
Our voyage begins with the realization detailed above, but what has already been discussed is not the idea in full. It is also important to note that we, as individuals, all interpret the world uniquely. Even identical twins still are not absolute copies of one another, for as they develop, their environments change them ever so slightly and they eventually grow into their own individuals. We are all different, and to try to infinitely categorize us as this or that is pointless, because it tries to enforce conformity and it ignores the subtle differences between even the most similar of people. And, since we are all different, we shall all come to different conclusions about ourselves and our existence; all unique but none inherently superior or inferior to any other. All our conclusions would be fine additions to the great mosaic of human ideas, and all of us working hand in hand to solve the issues that threaten us all would make humanity a nigh unstoppable force for good to be reckoned with. Still, though, how does one come to the end of their voyage to infinity, and how does one even continue after the realization detailed above? Upon the realization that you have the potential to contribute ideas that no one else could ever hope to contribute, one thing would be abundantly clear. If no one else can harness your full potential for you, then for the sake of both yourself and everyone else, you must harness it. First, you must educate yourself on what it is you are trying to achieve. Infinity, in this case, is not a concrete goal, as infinity can obviously never be reached. It is a representation of the potential of the individual. The main goal is for every individual to craft their own unique and full view of themselves and their universe, for their own sake and the sake of others who may gain much from their wisdom. These views are not set in stone, though. Our perspectives always shift as we progress through life, and so our worldviews are to shift with us. The wise among us are not content with their current understanding. They always crave to know more and to be more, and this is why their journeys are called voyages to infinity. It is not the comprehension of the subject that is the hard part, though. It is the application of it.
The Voyage (I)
One must then search through the vast catalog of ideas already thought up of by the geniuses of the past. To ignore the masters of every craft who dedicated their lives to the betterment of mankind would be of the highest folly. In the beginning stages of one's voyage to infinity, one must learn from those who came before. Their knowledge and their conclusions may not be entirely satisfactory to the modern interpreter, but this is no matter. The ancient philosopher Plato, for instance, referred to women as possessions, but he also founded the first university and developed the highly influential theory of Forms. Despite the flaws of our ancestors, they had many profound and worthwhile ideas. The understanding of their most important contributions to the great mosaic is the first real action one must take in a voyage to infinity. Next, one must judge the ideas they have gathered, and reach their own conclusions about the same topics. This is not something that can be done in a day. It is imperative that some time is set aside each day to sit back and think, not only for the tranquility of the mind in what may be an otherwise stressful time, but also to help the mind work through its newfound ideas. One must reflect on the ideas they have been introducing themselves to, and they must pick out those ideas that are most profound to them. These shall form the basis of their own philosophy, and those ideas which are wholly original are not to be rushed. Often, the best ideas are those that come at random. We must be patient, and allow the ideas of the wise men of old and our own ideas formed from our experience and perspective to blend together to create a beautiful and wholly unique mixture. We must allow the ideas to come to us, rather than forcing ourselves to search for them.
The Voyage (II)
The process of learning never ends for the wise among us, but there is always a time after which one can consider themselves well educated. It is at this point that one's focus can shift from gathering the knowledge of others to gathering one's own knowledge. What inherent truths about the world have you noticed that no other person has, to your knowledge, ever seen? What meaning do you derive from what you do? How would the world be run if you were to be its ruler? These are questions that one can sit on for days or weeks or even months without ever finding an answer, and that is perfectly alright. The point is not to rush oneself to conclusions that satisfy no one and thus aren't useful to anyone. The point is to allow these conclusions to come naturally as the product of collected learning and experience. A voyage to infinity is not something that can be rushed. It must steadily move along, but must also be pushed by the individual enough so that it never dies down and never grinds to a halt. The hunt for meaning is something mankind has struggled with for many centuries. Each individual's conclusions about the pressing questions that they most care about are invaluable, and thus must be carefully crafted and not be sloppily thrown together. Finally, there shall come a time when one feels they have achieved what they have been searching for. They have found the ultimate meaning. They have reached the coveted state of enlightenment which so many have tried and failed to reach in the past. This is, of course, a bit of a mistake. There is no true moment of enlightenment; it is a process, just like everything else in this world. But it is at this point that one may begin to share their ideas with others, and spread the wisdom they have gained. Still, though, one's growth shall never cease. As we currently live our lives, the amount of growth and learning we undergo decreases exponentially as we get older. By undergoing a voyage to infinity, we could flip this principle on its head and be exponentially more wise as we age. Every year would be unimaginably better than the last, for every year we could have infinitely more understanding than before.
At the end of it all, there shall be no more blissful ignorance lingering around in one's mind. There shall be no torturous longing for answers to impossible questions. The entire idea is to find peace in oneself through knowledge and understanding, and then use the unique wisdom that shall inevitably rise from this mix to help one's family, one's community, one's culture and, possibly, the whole world. This is a daunting process. It is not something that can be done without care. Perhaps only the most determined among us shall be able to truly ever find what they consider to be enlightenment. However, it would be madness not to try. The voyage to infinity is a beautiful thing if done right; for it just may be the ideal middle path between blind and dangerous collectivism and the terror of being a person without an identity. It is a harmonious and joyous liberation through the finding of your own meaning in life, and when applied, it just may lead to the world we all want to see.