BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2017
Science cannot answer all the details of life, much remains undiscovered beyond the grasp of laboratories and imaging machines. This is the undefined center of life.
We express our character through observable action. The nooks and crannies, the polished and rough, are on display for the world to see. Others look and judge by the actions we take. We work, we love, we hate, we give, and we hurt. These outward actions are measurable elements, easily compared and contrasted with others. Actions are essential to well-being (see Five Basics of Well-being; Building Blocks of Choice). We shouldn’t feast on positive mindsets while starving for positive action; but there is more to a person than the value of their actions; something beyond description, existing in the mind, and (metaphorically) in the heart—I call this the undefined.
In their brightly bleached lab coats, scientist and doctors scurry around the laboratory and medical offices frantically measuring regions of the brain for activity, jumping at meager morsels of understanding to grasp the undefined measures of life. Scientific discoveries are enlightening, opening new realities, and creating better methods of healing. Even with modern technology, vivid brain scans, detecting chemical movement and neuronal communication, we still only have a small glimpse into the vast universe. The liveliness of our existence remains relatively undefined.
Innate drives, shaped by experience, leap to life. The neurons communicate unnoticed without invading equipment but express themselves through motivations, emotions, consciousness, and behaviors. Somewhere in the twisted axons and neural synapses is born self-confidence, security, and self-esteem pushing connections and inspiring hate. Does this make me good or evil? How does freewill exist within this framework? The answers remain—the undefined.
Science will continue to provide expanding insights into the fabulous functions of the brain; but the knowledge has become too technical for the ordinary human. How does the activity of our brain help us survive divorce, courageously compete for gainful employment, break devastating addictions or endure suffering from cancer? We live in the richness of existence regardless of what is defined and what is remains undefined. We must walk through daily existence with liveliness, full of emotions, and healthy connections. Presumably, we will understand more about life at sixty than we did at twenty. But the twenty-year-old is tasked with making choices that have greater impacts on their futures—education, marriage, and careers.
"The liveliness of our existence remains relatively undefined."
We always will be challenged with unknowns. Perhaps many unknowns will shift with new discoveries, answering stubborn questions from the past. However, with new knowledge also comes new questions. Within the realm of partial knowledge, we must act. Immanuel Kant wrote, “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” The well-lived life needs some knowledge. Our actions must respect the laws of the universe. In this sense, Francis Bacon is correct, “Knowledge is power.” This is not a call for complete knowledge—for completeness is impossible.
The undefined is the obstacle; accepting it is the answer. We must live within the burden of ignorance but flourish within the gift of partial knowledge. We gather the fragments available, organize our lives into action, and trudge forward into the darkness, where happiness, fear, joys and sorrows will be found. This is the experience of the undefined life. The life we live.
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