I’m an atheist without a supernatural bone in my body. When I die my “spirit” will extinguish into nothing forever.
This reality does not trouble me or cause me to wish that I denied death with some form of religion or spirituality, as do most of my 8 billion close cousins.
Given that I’m a mutant with defective reality denial genes, and therefore have nothing to look forward to beyond my brief life, how do I find meaning?
I find meaning by studying the origin of life on a rare planet, with its improbable evolution of complex life, and the singular emergence of a species with an extended theory of mind, and the improbability of being a member of that species alive at the peak of a brief 200 year period (out of 4,000,000,000) when we leveraged an improbable store of photosynthetically generated hydrocarbons to advance scientific knowledge and technology.
The fact that I’m writing this, and you’re reading this, is cause for awe and thankfulness.
Meaning comes from understanding why we can understand there is no meaning.
9 thoughts on “On Meaning”
Hello Robert, I love this brief piece on Meaning. It reminds me of many conversations over the years about the nature of experience and how we can transform that experience, volitionally. Wild shit. any chance of getting you to chat with me on my podcast, The Poetry of Predicament.(YouTube channel)? Thanks for your good work.
Nice to meet you Dean. I’ve been turning down requests for interviews for no other reason than I lack confidence. Maybe I’ll man up this year. In the meantime let me get acquainted with your work to confirm we are compatible.
If you’re feeling smart and are in need of a little humility, and/or if you need evidence of how unique the human brain is compared to every other animal on the planet, this interview by Sean Carroll of Roger Penrose is as good as it gets…
Kudos, a succinct summation. However, I wonder if the average human mind’s theory of the world and meaning etc. requires a less objective description of the universe. A few folks have suggested we could put the scientific story of creation and evolution into the language of myth and poetry, and a few have tried to do so, but I am a bit skeptical that even the grandest science based view of the universe would ever be accepted as part of tribal beliefs. I would speculate that most humans lack the intelligence level, or the type of intelligence, to live comfortably with this soul-less view of the world. If I am wrong about that, I don’t think I am wrong in saying that there is not enough surplus energy to give most humans the idle time to train in math and science and rational thinking. Easier, and less energy intensive, to give the peoples of tribes and nations simple myths to live by and follow.
Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you although perhaps for different reasons.
Most people have the genes for reality denial that enabled the behaviorally modern version of our species. They’ll believe pretty much any story that defines their tribe as long as it includes hope for more tomorrow, and some form of life after death. And they won’t believe any story that does not. Evidence, logic, and science are irrelevant for most people, and are not required to “succeed” in our world.
You make a good point about the time and surplus energy required to understand reality. When I was scrambling to make a living in the corporate world I never thought about any of these issues.
Am I the author of the text? well If it was you…you coined my thoughts of my attitude to life into words.
No borrowed ideas here that I am aware of.
Maybe my limited knowledge of eng lng and lack of wink emoticon made my comment too convoluted. I just wanted to express my gratitude.
BTW. your surname sounds “po polsku”. Can you speak polish? if the question is too direct just ignore it.
Thanks kindly. My father was born in Poland but I was born in Canada and only speak English.