Does life have a purpose? Does it ‘matter’ what you do? Is purpose a purely human idea, or is it out there in the world? Is the distinction important?
This month’s topic is ‘meaning’— it may seem like a rather dull and circular subject, since we all have some idea of what it means to mean something, but hopefully I’ll be able to show you why the very fact that we take such knowledge for granted, is important.
The tip of the iceberg lies around the simple question: can you point to meaning? That is, can you show me some purpose or meaning that is out-there and not just in-our-heads? This is important because, whether you recognise it or not, we are all programmed by society (and/or the structure of the languages we use to think with) to believe ‘purpose’ exists; that there very simply is a distinction between some things, some ways of life or some ideas, that are ‘meaningful’, and those that aren’t.
Whether or not you’re living a ‘worthwhile’ existence, whether you’re achieving something ‘meaningful’ with your life, whether what you’re doing has any point— all these notions hold very powerful sway over how we live our lives, the decisions we make, our happiness, our ability to appreciate things, how we treat others and their behaviour or creations, and generally how time is ‘spent’… So, it makes sense to spend some proper time considering whether the idea even makes any sense; to decide whether it’s “meaningful to talk about meaning”, and to what extent notions of meaning or purpose are constructive and healthy in our lives.
Therefore, some of the topics we’ll be looking at this month will be:
The fundamental nature of meaning; as in, to what extent it is a ‘real’ thing or purely a tool for communication.
The personal, emotional, and global consequences of our belief or reliance upon meaning and purpose.
Typical ‘philosophical’ (fancily labelled and more formalised) responses to meaning in life– such as the Nihilism (there is no meaning), Existentialism (we forge our own meaning), and Absurdism (Y.O.L.O.) that coagulated out of the rising conflict in the 20th century between the individual, emotional need for a sense of ‘place’ and deeper meaning, with the seemingly cold and chaotic worldview of science, logic, and two world wars.
Trans-logical responses to the issue; i.e., responses beyond words and intellectual games, such as those offered by art and spirituality.
And more, or maybe less– it depends how much input I get from you folks! This is a topic that affects everyone differently, and is fundamental to our lives, so we all have valid, unique, and valuable responses to it: the more you participate in the discussion – the more art or ideas you send to me (for the blog or even just privately) – the more beneficial and constructive the discussion will be.
I’m with the existentialists on this one: you are responsible for the authenticity of your own existence– so take the reins and get involved!
Looking forward to it as ever,