Meaning

“Meaning” is our word for whatever from the future is sensed in the present. Or, said differently, whatever promises to outlive us. Nothing that has a visible end feels meaningful.

The language of zen was a fortunate discovery for the materialist mind. It gives him an attitude and some phrases for those moments when he is asked to talk about meaning.

Why are we so desperate to send somethng into the future? A son, a poem, a building, a scientific advance — something with my name on it to outlive me, so that my life will have meaning.

Why? Either: 1. the “the structure of DNA is to replicate” or “2. God made us like Him, and so put eternity in our hearts”. Everyone chooses some version of one of these two explanations.

Number 1 might be taken one more step back, to “the sun exists”. The sun’s energy is entering our biological system (indeed, even created it) and must perform work to balance the equation. So, species seek to propogate, biological life reproduces, DNA replicates: we seek a legacy because the sun exists.

Then again, why does the sun exist? If you have gotten this far with me, you know the question is infinitely recessive, making it absurd to ask for a reason for anything’s existence unless that thing was made by a mind with a use or end in view. The reason question is itself the designer question, rephrased.


So the materialist position, finally, is that there is no reason for anything. It all exists, and it will all — do something. Which, of course, is logically equivalent to silence. So the materialist answer is to deny the significance of the question, and the materialist comment on the “meaning of the universe” is, formally, a void.

So then, if the question is insignificant, why does it recur in the human psyche? If the materialist position fails to “explain” the feature of our species that most distinguishes us from other species, how much actual explanatary power does it possess? If a worldview explains best those features of a thing that are not unique to the thing, and explains least those features more unique, and formally utters absurdity in the face of the unique feature, does that worldview correspond with the empirical universe?

After all, the human need for meaning is part of the data of the universe, the data needing to be accounted for by any cosmology, just as much (more!?) as the hunting patterns of the carpenter ant.

*******************************************************************************

“Meaning” is really just a synonym for “felt eternity”. Whatever we feel to be ongoing with no imagined death we will feel has meaning. I say “feel”, not because all this takes place on the emotional level, but becasue it does not take place on the analytical level. It is intuitive, for people of all kinds of worldviews. Because the individual’s experience of meaning takes place not in his intellect but at a deeper level — not sub-conscious — at the personal level, where the individual is a psycho-intellectual unity — becasue htis takes place at that level, it is possible to be a genuis as an intellect yet live your whole life feeling meaning you have no right to. Indeed, most people do this, because the mind is the seat of fiction, but eternity is in the heart.

******************************************************************************

“Life has no meaning without God”

This common saw of the evangelical apologetic pamphlet is actually not experientially true. It is sort of like we evangelical Christians sometimes WISH for pagans to have no feeling of meaning.

Truth is, many atheists and unbelievers experience their lives as meaningful, because they experience their lives as connected to the future. But these same people think that when their dear children die, they simply cease to exist, and 100 years from now , all that they are will have ceased to exist. But, you say, this is the very reason they want to leave something important behind.

But why? Why does Einstein care if he left E=MC squared behind? To make the species better? Why? That the need for meaning could be satisfied by curing cancer assumes something not in evidence: that is is better for the species to survive, and not die out. Why? Why is it better for the human species to survive?

Since this is just the question of reason all over again (what are we FOR), and assumes an intention on the part of a maker, and there is not one available, at this point the skeptic usually just sneers and says something like “it is self evident that the human race should survive…if I have to explain that one to you, well then…” — but this the intellectual deux ex machina in his system. Which we do not object to, by the way. But he does.

Truth is, every cosmology either has a deus in the machina, or simple silence. There is no model of the universe with no Person behind it that is formally more than a descrtiption of what is observed. Meaning must be asserted, and can either be personal, or asserted absurdly into a sub-personal universe of particulate furniture.

What we mean, and should say better, is that the meaning experienced by those who reject a Creator is stolen meaning, stolen by means of a hallucinated future

Many live in meaninglessness their whole lives but are quite happy.

The church lost power in its proclamation when it bought into the confusions between psychology and spirituality. One of those confusions travels with the word “happiness”. Psychological “happiness” is not the same as spiritual meaninglessness. How insipid and insulting the preachers of the church have become: “…but if you don’t know Jesus you aren’t really happy.” What does that mean? Is this some new Christian freudianism , whereby we will tell you what you are really thinking or feeling even though you don’t know it yourself, but we do? This insults both parties to the dialogue.

Not to mention that the christians who like to say this don’t appear to be any happier than anyone else, and many unbelievers appear quite happy. So the new gnosticism of the christian church comes full circle: we are happy, you are not, and all evidence otherwise is an illusion of the world of appearances. Reality is known only to the gnostikoi.

********************************************************************************

There is more of a concern in the Bible with temporal eternity than with spatial infinity. In fact, there is no concept of spatial infinity in the Bible, just an infinity of personal reach: no task too difficult for God.

but see Meaning and Happiness

One thought on “Meaning

  1. Pingback: Meaning and Happiness (outline) « Taliesan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s