"Forever in debt to your priceless advice."
- Kurt Cobain
I get it. I was young once, too, and I still try to be young at heart. I know that the only way you really learn, about life, is by living, and making mistakes.
Of course, as Kurt himself demonstrated, mistakes can be fatal.
I was traveling in March 1994, when the incident occurred in Italy where he had a drug overdose - possibly a suicide attempt. I remember seeing the Rolling Stone cover earlier that year, with Nirvana in suits, and thinking, man - that is too much. It was clear that the pressure was intense, and that he needed a break. I wrote in my journal that he should cut out and travel. Come to India, and get off the beaten track. Stay a year. No-one will know you, and you can get your balance back.
Sadly, there was no way to communicate this advice, not that he would have taken it. One month later, Kurt was dead.
Most people rarely give our deepest questions, including of life and death, more than a passing thought. Everyone is too busy with their day-to-day affairs, in many cases just trying to get by. There is a gap, a hole in our education, other than what we learn from the hard times.
While I certainly can't replace your mistakes, I also don't think that advice is useless. I've spent my life trying to understand these questions, and to provide simple and clear answers. The University of Life is my attempt to present this knowledge.
I've now added the text articles to Part 4 of the website. Other than a review of the social institutions that control our daily circumstances, which I intend to add to Part 3, the initiative is essentially complete. To try to summarize what it is that I set out to accomplish, the following is taken from the site's Epilogue.
"The goal of knowledge, of a real quest for truth, is to learn to see things in a new and more accurate way. This is how we really move forward, as individuals and as a people.
If you look at the record of the human experience, there have been a number of distinct leaps in our understanding - new ways of seeing things, even though sometimes you can't physically "see" it. Here are some of the most notable of these developments.
Many thousand years ago, by unknown inventors, we learned to create a set of symbols, a language, with which to describe the world.
Similarly, ancient Greeks, in about 700 BC, made the first coinage, the first money, which - by enabling specialization - led not only to all subsequent economic development, but to all human social and knowledge development as well.
Also in Greece, the philosophers known as the atomists speculated that extremely small substances underlay everything, even though at everyday scales there is a massive variety of shape and form. This was an incredible inspiration on their part, and it ultimately led us to the discovery of real atoms, their subatomic constituents, and the elements which combinations of atoms form, which elements in turn are the fundamental components of everything in the observable universe.
Ancient Greeks further recognized that the earth was not flat, but it was not until the late Middle Ages that Nicolaus Copernicus understood that the earth was not the center of the universe, and, along with Galileo Galilei, that it revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.
Isaac Newton learned how to calculate the force of gravity, and then centuries later Albert Einstein discovered how it really worked, and through this that space-time is curved, although this is one of the things that we can't actually see. Newton and his contemporary Gottfried Leibniz also discovered calculus, the basic mathematical technique that we use to describe reality, and on which most science in the intervening centuries, including by Einstein, has been based.
Neils Bohr and other scientists further recognized that reality at the smallest level is not only atomic, it is quantum in nature, and governed by chance and probabilities.
Similarly, Charles Darwin and his contemporaries recognized the basic patterns of evolution, and then a century later James Watson and Francis Crick described the DNA molecule on which it is based.
From another perspective, Jesus Christ recognized, and gave his life to demonstrate, that basing human behavior on love is far preferable to a world dominated by personal selfishness.
Similarly, Buddha, through his prescription of a middle way for life, between extreme self-denial and complete and undisciplined self-satisfaction, uncovered another behavioral guideline which, like love, has an almost infinite set of applications.
I can also add that a related advancement, although in this case there was no specific individual who was responsible, is the recognition that we have a set of rights which derive from the fact that we are alive, and that these include not to be subject to discrimination on the basis of characteristics over which we have no control; and that we have the right to govern our lives, and not to be dictated to by others.
These are among the most important advances in knowledge that humanity has ever achieved. But, there is no reason to believe that they are the limit - that we have learned everything significant there is to know.
Through the University of Life, I have tried to put forward some new perspectives. I can add, I am not the only person to recognize some of these things.
I've tried to show, and continuing scientific advances notwithstanding, why there are limits to what we can understand.
I've given a basic model of human nature, and also of the nature of god. Through this, I believe I have revealed that there is a fundamental purpose to life, including for your and my lives, and which is entangled with - is essentially an indivisible part of - the purpose of the universe and of god itself. I've shown that both what we do in life, and what life is doing through us, are critical, and of value: that life is not meaningless.
I've further redefined life, both by revisiting the idea of a lifeline, and by extending the concept of life to the entire planet, and the universe.
I also explored how change occurs, and not only physical, but behavioral change as well, for individuals and for society. This is particularly important, because our misunderstanding of change is what is responsible for the fact that we are failing to achieve it. Many people do not make the most of their lives, and the world is not at peace.
Finally, I've redefined evolution, at least as it appears to be possible for species, like humans, which have already evolved an advanced self-conscious mind. I've concluded that we are evolving as a species right now; further, that we must evolve, to correct our past - and present - mistakes; that new evolutionary doors are opening; and that you - personally - can lead the way.
What this last point also illustrates is that knowledge - in a vacuum - is in a sense, useless. In one way it only has value to the extent that it is applied. And, let's not forget, some applications can be bad.
In conclusion, I want you, and as many other people as possible, to learn to see in a new way, and to take control of your life. I want you to learn to recognize, and fight off, all of the influences that undermine your free will, and through which you are shaped, and standardized, and dominated. No matter what difficulties you face in your life, I want you to rise to the challenge. I want you to be free.
I believe that if you reflect on the different ideas that I have discussed, not only will you come to accept their validity, you will find a way to incorporate them into your own life. More than anything, I want you to be creative, to be original, to be unlike anyone else alive. This is the way forward, for you and me, and for our species. Life "is" a wondrous gift, and all that remains is for you and me to make the most of it, in our own unique ways."