The Mystery of Meaning

By Seamus Anthony

By Seamus Anthony

Now that I have made the commitment to blogging here again, I have been pondering what this blog is actually about. To start with it was about “personal development”, “self-improvement” and “success” but I have never felt comfortable with any of these labels whatsoever.

I think I prefer to decide that this blog is about “Meaning”.

Why? Because that’s what we all need and crave in this life – Meaning – and big time.

It is my humble opinion that all of human activity, everything we do, is shaped and coloured by the fact that we are given life, wonder “why?”, get no answer and then have to die. This shaky sequence of events, facts and mystery is the foundation on which the entire human condition is built.

But Why?

The thing that sets us apart from the animals, as far as we know, is that we hit the age of 2 or 3 and suddenly we wonder: “Why?”

It’s like – all this stuff exists … ok … got my head around that …

… but why?

Why does it exist? Why is my Mummy so tall? Why am I eating potatoes? Why does the dog have black hair with a white stripe on his nose?

In fact (can you tell I have a 2.5 year old kid?) it is very interesting to follow the train of thought of a toddler and discover in this, the entire problem of “being human” – we just don’t know what it all means. (Some people think they do of course, but they have no precise way to verify their beliefs about meaning so it cannot be denied that they are anything more than conjecture.)

Here’s a hypothetical discussion with my 2 year old:

Daddy what are you doing?

I am working.

But why?

Because we need money.

But why?

Because if we don’t have money then we can’t buy food or clothes or toys.

But why?

Because this is the system that is set up, it’s called Capitalism.

But why?

Well, truly, I don’t know why Capitalism exists, probably because of all the systems they have tried, it is the one that seems to work, albeit far from perfectly.

But why?

Dunno – maybe because it is the system that most honestly addresses and mirrors human nature.

But why?

Because humans are by nature very concerned with getting things, with survival and with the pursuit of pleasure.

But why?

Because that’s how our brains are wired up – we chase pleasure and avoid pain and do our damndest to survive.

But why?

Because that’s just what animals do and we are animals.

But why?

But why are we animals? Well … because we just are. Nobody knows the answer to that question.

But why?

Because when you ask the question, you’ll never get an answer.

But why?

You’ll never know why you never get an answer to this either. We do not truly know why we exist and we never get an answer when we ask the question. It’s just a big, big mystery.

I wonder if you started with any question whether it would always come down to the eternal question that every human must ask and never get an answer to: Why?

So I guess that’s what this blog is about – it’s about the eternal, fruitless search for Meaning (yes, with a capital M) and what to do about that.

It’s not really about trying to sell you on an answer – because there is none. Rather, this blog is about finding ideas and ways to cope with the absence of Meaning, and to connect with others along the way – so please, drop me a line and say G’day!

Hi, I'm Seamus Anthony. I am an author, artist and musician from Australia. Here at Rebel Zen, I document my journey as an creative artist and human and in doing so, hopefully help you in your own progress through your life of creativity. Go get your free E-book by me: "Taming The Monkey Mind".

2 comments Write a comment

  1. Hi Seamus,
    Thanks for blogging your thoughts about the nature of human experience. It’s comforting to know that someone else is thinking about these things too. It must occupy everyone’s mind at some point of every day – but it’s a subject that few people feel comfortable talking about. The superficialities and surface details of our day-to-day lives are much more diverting. But the ultimate question is always there – lurking – lying beneath it all – “I may do this, I may achieve that, but what’s the point of it all? Why are we here?”
    You’re right, Seamus. There is no ultimate answer to the question. The only answers that the universe offers us – in knowable, definitive terms – are matters of physics. Deeper questions about the “why’s” are always nebulous. Do we find meaning (for ourselves) through the act of searching? Is the question there (in the first place) to prompt us onward – to explore our environs, to explore ourselves and our relationship to the whole? Or is the entire enterprise inherently fruitless? If there is no clear, discernable answer, should we bother to even attempt the quest? Is it smarter to accept that we can never know the answer and leave it at that?
    Our brains may not be equipped to deal with the enormity and complexity of the answer. To know would require that we comprehend the workings of the entire universe – which is impossible – given that we can only ever see an infinitesimally tiny facet of the whole. To know the universe’s intent, we would have to keep track of what is happening to every subatomic particle and every atom and every molecule in every galaxy and every star cluster and gas cloud at every physical point in the universe and at every point in time. Is there an algorithm that underlies it all – that governs the universe and makes its intent apparent – something that can explain the patterns that we see? Even if we found that algorithm – would we be satisfied? Or would we then ask: “So who/what spawned the algorithm?… and what, in turn, spawned the source?” The quest is endless. The more we know, the more there is to know. We can ask, knowing that we will never find an answer, truly. Perhaps the simplest we can do is to respect the universe that created us – that is us. We can trust in our being.
    Everything changes. Species change. The planet changes. The universe, itself, is always changing – this very second – on a gargantuan scale. All is impermanent and variable. But for a very brief moment – in the midst of it all – we exist. We can’t expect to comprehend it all. The fact of our being is all that we have – and will ever have – to go on. The meaning lies in our existence. The simple fact is – in this moment – we are. And are we not the universe looking back at itself?

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