Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

If you’ve ever wondered… #themeaningoflife part 2

When asked the question: “What is the meaning of life?” I find that it immediately  begs another question. To ask what the meaning of life is, is to assume that life has a meaning.

It’s a loaded question, one step ahead of where the argument should perhaps start.

“Does life have a meaning?” should, I suggest, be the first question.

So, does life have a meaning? Either it does, or it doesn’t – surely? *Sidesteps ‘mystery’ for a moment* Is there a point or is it pointless?

Meaning is a funny thing – and a lot of it is to do with perception. There may be a series of events upon which a human mind can impose a narrative with a point. Wayhey: meaning! To another, the series of events are not seen as a series. Just events, with no links or purpose.

If you were to hand me a story written in Hindi, to me it would be meaningless. To another person it would be filled with meaning. I just can’t read it. But I can still acknowledge that there is meaning, even if I don’t know what it is.

When we look at life and it looks like chaos – is that because it is chaos, or because we can’t read it? – We can’t see the point of it – from where we are standing with the knowledge we have. This doesn’t preclude the existence of the meaning itself.

If life has a meaning it isn’t necessarily the case that we can know what it is. But if there is one – a fixed and absolute meaning that is unknown or known – it does require there to be a God. For life to have a specific meaning that is common to all and undisputable – an omnipotent deity is the only means by which such a “meaning” could come into being, which is why the question, “What is the meaning of life?” assumes an absolute.

To take God out of the equation, we are left with human meaning. These require us to superimpose sense and meaning on the experiences we have.

When tragedy, suffering or disappointment strike, the human may cope or not cope. They can make/see/generate meanings or fail to make/see/generate meanings.

They may channel their grief and frustration positively to generate a better future for themselves or others. They may see ways that doors being closed lead to other doors being opened and they can remain optimistic. At the same time, another person may go through the same trials and be dragged down and become pessimistic at the futility of it all.

People can and do find meaning in their lives. Maybe “find” is the wrong word. People can and do see meaning in life.

But – like the reverse analogy of the book written in a different language – I can read life and think I understand it and think I know what it means– but it doesn’t mean I’ve got it right



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10 thoughts on “If you’ve ever wondered… #themeaningoflife part 2

  1. theotheri on said:

    The only thing I don’t understand your saying – and therefore can’t say I agree with wholeheartedly, is the assumption that “a fixed and absolute meaning that is unknown or known – does require there to be a God.”

    But come to think of it, understanding “God” makes the question of the meaning of life look like child’s play.

    • It’s just that if one is looking for an absolute and expecting an absolute, an absolute could only be external, even theoretically, no?

      • theotheri on said:

        Yes, I agree, but with some qualifications. That external absolute need not be “God.” It may be within the substance of the universe, within the nature of matter and energy itself.

        But let’s assume it is God: is it within the capacity of the human mind to conceive of a “God” that is not limited by our very human capacities? I know you have said that you want to by-pass the “living in mystery” version, but I can’t see how we can. I listened to a talk by a Catholic missionary priest the other day, and to my amazement, (his being a Roman Catholic priest) he talked about the joy and richness and challenge of living in uncertainty — a word that actually I like a little better than mystery. Even when it looks as if we are absolutely right, we have to always consider the possibility that there are other possibilities.

        What’s your take on this?

      • Oh don’t worry I was only sidestepping mystery for a minute… I’ll arrive there in due course. I’ll visit at least 😉

    • …”the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” I suppose…

  2. theotheri on said:

    PS: I forgot to say how glad I am you have shared some of your thoughts on this question that has racked humanity for as far back as we can see.

    • I am glad I was asked. I just hope I arrive at something coherent!

      • theotheri on said:

        If you arrive at something “coherent” that lasts out the year, I’d begin to worry. I speak, of course, as someone who has been there at least a dozen times. Even living in mystery has depths of meaning that keep up the challenge. It’s like walking into a room that just keeps expanding into infinity. I love it!

        I suspect you have the potential of being a fellow addict… It’s one of the delights of hearing your thoughts.

  3. Excellent post and so very insightful 🙂

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