What is "Meaning"?

What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 7:44 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/14/24 7:55 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 8:03 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/14/24 8:14 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 9:43 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/14/24 11:05 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 11:35 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Nervous Bee 2/15/24 7:49 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 10:09 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Eric Abrahamsen 2/14/24 10:39 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Chris M 2/14/24 11:41 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Eric Abrahamsen 2/15/24 11:34 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Eric Abrahamsen 2/14/24 10:31 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Siavash ' 2/14/24 11:23 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Will G 2/14/24 10:53 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/15/24 6:01 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Martin 2/15/24 12:17 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Papa Che Dusko 2/15/24 6:32 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Will G 2/16/24 2:08 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/16/24 6:14 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/16/24 7:30 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Bahiya Baby 2/16/24 8:01 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/16/24 9:24 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/16/24 1:40 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Bahiya Baby 2/16/24 4:07 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Sha-Man! Geoffrey 2/16/24 4:45 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Will G 2/17/24 9:41 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Papa Che Dusko 2/17/24 2:19 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? J W 2/27/24 3:56 PM
RE: What is "Meaning"? Jure K 3/15/24 8:13 AM
RE: What is "Meaning"? J W 3/15/24 12:06 PM
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 7:44 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 7:28 AM

What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 5164 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
<<This is a topic I split off from Martin's log, on which a discussion can be had about meaning, what it is, if it's required for living a good life, or just any life.>>

So, just what is this thing called "meaning?"
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 7:55 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 7:54 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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There was an essay awhile back I was considering writing called "why you shouldn't try to live a meaningful life". And the basic idea was that meaning isn't really a phenomenon, it's a concept. And as such it's extremely fickle thoughts change extremely wildly, so it's a very unsteady thing to try to base your life around. The things you were doing as a youth seemed very important at the time, but as an adult they might take a sense of naivety to them. Or imagine you find yourself one day volunteering in a soup kitchen. If you are in a good mood you might think "wow look how many people im helping, look how big of a difference im making in the world". If you're in a bad mood you might think "this place is so awful and dingy! Why do i even bother with this!" (even though in a lot of other respects it operates exactly the same)

If you compare that with, say, trying to live a happy life, the comparison is interesting. Because happiness is something more "tangible", so you could imagine living a life where you find the things that make you temporarily happy (and you know it fades over time), and so you make a collection of those things, occasionally adding and subtracting from the set, and you just juggle through them until you die. But this seems actionable at least in a way that living a meaningful life doesn't.

I floated this idea by one of my more philosophical oriented friends, and he did point to something in his own experience where when he feels like he has truly understood something deep and profound there is a feeling with an ineffable noetic quality to it, and he considers that to be meaning. This made me a little hesitant to write up the essay...
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 8:03 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 8:02 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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In general, folks believe their lives have to have a point, or a purpose, which are proxies for "meaning." If pressed, they often can't provide a good answer to the question, "What do you mean?" I do think it's a sort of trap, where meaning becomes something we just have to have, and if we don't we feel left out, or guilty, or that our life has no direction. I think it's akin to not-self in a way. If we assume we have meaning, or say we have meaning, or adopt some concept of meaning, then we can say, "My life has meaning" and feel better. But if we examine this thing, we can see it has no intrinsic value. It's not required, not necessary, and maybe not even useful in an enduring way. We can live without meaning. 
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 8:14 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Oh 100%. I really think the thing most people vaguley mean by meaning is just some (typically prosocial) emotion with a positive vedana, which then the mind narrativizes around. Like someone may enjoy making art, giving that away to friends, etc. And so the mind imprints, "I am an artist." "my job in the world is to make beautiful things" etc.

if we don't we feel left out, or guilty, or that our life has no direction.

Well my hunch is that when people are caught in the meaninglessness of life, it's really because their life doesn't have consistent enough positive emotions to make a story out of. Like if you work an office job, and your boss is always cranky, and all you do is make spreadsheet for numbers for people you dont ever see - there is no positive affect to that, and it's easy to just spin it into meaninglessness.
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 9:43 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Here's an idea: live as if it's your last day, have compassion for everything and everyone you encounter, love yourself and all others, be fair, be polite, be peaceful. The "meaning" of life will then be clear.
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 10:09 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Maybe the quest for meaning in one's life is a remnant of the Protestant ethic. Or is it evidence of the desire to live forever, to not die? 
Eric Abrahamsen, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 10:31 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Geoffrey's first post pretty much nailed it for me: if you just say "meaning", I associate that with the habit of my younger self of over-conceptualizing and hyper-narrating everything that happens to me, and everything I do. That in turn is a major source of the dukkha I've been trying to address with meditation in the past 5/6 years.

As for a healthier understanding of "meaningful"... That's tough! Life is currently interesting enough that the question doesn't come up much. If there is deeper meaning... I think the friend who "truly understood something deep and profound" is on to something. Basically that just means insight, right? To me the sense of meaningfulness comes from leaving behind the limited self, and understanding something so thoroughly that you become part of it. Whether that's emotional, intellectual, or even physical. The key being that these kinds of understandings don't involve merely the acquisition of information, but instead require a transformation of the self, or an expansion of the self. That in some sense you are allowing the self to dissolve into something larger. "Learning by becoming."

I think there are plenty of cultural traditions that would say meaning comes from allowing yourself to become part of something greater than yourself.
Eric Abrahamsen, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 10:39 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Chris M
Maybe the quest for meaning in one's life is a remnant of the Protestant ethic. Or is it evidence of the desire to live forever, to not die? 


Maybe the Protestan ethic thing is just a different point of view on my desire to loosen the bounds of myself, and join with something greater. I'm looking at it from the inside out: the meaning comes from my personal sense of transformation. The Protestant ethic sees things from an external point of view: the "greater thing" I've joined is a community of people, and meaning comes from my having made myself useful to them.

Or, the Protestant ethic could be interpreted even less kindly, saying that that kind of meaning is just the desire for approval from one's peers. "When you yourself are in doubt, follow what others say".

For me, anyway, the "something greater" doesn't need to involve other people at all.
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 11:05 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Haha Chris, you need to take off your noble hat and put on your untrained worldling hat! ;)

This conversation reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Bojack Horesman
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Siavash ', modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 11:23 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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My impression is that meaning doesn't have any meaning!
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 11:35 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 11:31 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Haha Chris, you need to take off your noble hat and put on your untrained worldling hat! ;)

Is this like a cowboy hat? A tri-cornered hat? I need to know!   ​​​​​​​emoticon

EDIT - maybe, just MAYBE, it's a stocking cap! The one that I don't want is a Pope hat.
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Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 11:41 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Eric -- ​​​​​​​

Maybe the Protestan ethic thing is just a different point of view on my desire to loosen the bounds of myself, and join with something greater.

This does provide a purpose (meaning?) for some people. I used to work at a military academy, and there were several studies done on why the cadets there were so much more plugged in, dedicated, and upbeat than college students at other institutions of higher learning. The answer, in every case, was, "I believe I'm a part of something bigger than myself." I have to say, that's how they felt, and why they were there.
Will G, modified 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 10:53 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/14/24 10:49 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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I've been thinking about this question quite a bit recently too. At some point the dharma itself can start to empty out, as the mind's inclination towards insight quiets down. But the fruit of these practices can sometimes leave us feeling sort of 'neutered', as Rob Burbea mentions in a talk somewhere, albeit in a wonderful place, once we've integrated the insights that allow things to be seen as happening spontaneously.

I like Joscha Bach's idea that the interesting parts of our mind that build models of things are wrapped in a ball of stupid: the motivations that serve the organism's survival. The 'self' model, while not ideal, actually allows for more interesting behaviour then merely taking a backseat to the unfolding of these drives, with minimal additional 'fabrication'.

I feel like there's a transitional adjustment phase (or spectrum) between the end of suffering and the undertaking of other worthwhile things. It's probably better not to be too aversed to some suffering in that pursuit, i.e. trading in some suffering for some meaning. The problem is that once the mind becomes accustomed to the near end of suffering, it's tricky (at least for a while?) to get it to orient to anything else, leaving the 'stupid' parts more or less in charge, especially given how long the whole progress of insight business can last... hence Burbea's pivot in interest from emptiness practices to something a bit more creative, which requires its own set of practices to be nurtured and integrated.

On some level, it can feel like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't... but I also see how much flexibility of mind insight practice ultimately allows for, which should eventually allow us to jump on and off as many rides as we see fit without too much friction, with a sort of de-centralized orientation, rather than one that tries to follow a single coherent self-story.
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 6:01 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Also I just remembered a philosophy podcast I like did a series on the creation of meaning 

here
Nervous Bee, modified 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 7:49 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 7:49 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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I am also rather critical of the fact that our lives have to have an externalized meaning. If I am aware of my basic character strengths and am able to specifically create positive effects in my interaction with my environment, then this will most likely have a positive influence on my self-image. The effect of this is multifaceted, if you manage to reflect and work on characteristics that seem personally meaningful to you, then this probably makes life more meaningful - without life having to fulfill a specific purpose.
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 12:17 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 12:17 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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There are so many great thoughts here! It's a fun topic. 

A funny thing is that what I wrote in my log was the result of my misreading Papa's comment. He was talking about time, not meaning, and I simply read it wrong. I think I will start a separate "What is Time" thread to address the excellent question that Papa actually posed. 

The way I was thinking about it is probably closest to what Will said because Rob Burbea's teaching in that area resonated with me as well. Rob summarizes contemporary Western Theravada teaching as: pay attention to the present moment, because that is all there is, and try not to cling. If that is actually what is being said, then it is true that there is not much room for meaning, at least in one sense of the word. When there is only the seen, etc., certain types of meaning are explicitly excluded. 

A meaningful activity, outside of the context of Buddhist insight, tends to be an activity that is part of a story that goes beyond the satisfaction of the immediate desires of the individual. Rob talks, in particular, about "telos," which is to say, ultimate ends or purposes, that go beyond a single lifetime. That way of looking, or that framing of experience, really doesn't fit well into "in the seeing just the seen."

That said, awakening itself is a story, and I think that short-circuits the meaning problem in many cases. Thoughts along the lines of "Wow, that's was cool, I was totally seeing just the seen, I'm really making progress along the path!" are pretty common. To be clear, I think that is fine. Anekatavada, paradox, and all that. 

Another way of approaching meaning is as "that which answers the question, why." When that sort of meaning is absent, and things seem pointless or meaningless, it can be pretty unsatisfactory. But as long as the question "why" is not coming up, there is no problem. "Just the seen" will do nicely in the absence of "why." I think we might even stretch that to say "in the absence of doubt," where doubt is that sort of niggling uncertainty that goes with the worry that something is wrong. One of the reasons for mentioning this is that certain ways of seeing that do not involve any story (or at least not at the conscious level) can seem very meaningful. Think about your typical "seeing the universe in a drop of dew" experiences, or "I am" experiences. They feel very meaningful. In these sorts of experiences, the receptors in the "meaningfulness center" in the brain are fully saturated or, possibly, it's just that the "doubt center" has been taken offline. 

Yet another approach is the Mahayana thing. The Bodhisattva vow ticks plenty of meaningfulness boxes. 

For the moment, I am fine with saying that meaningfulness arises and passes away but is not mine, and does not provide reliable satisfaction. Of course, I could say the same thing about coffee, and I am drinking a cup as I write this. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 6:32 PM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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 "coffee, and I am drinking a cup as I write this. "

​​​​​​​Me too emoticon 
Eric Abrahamsen, modified 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 11:34 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/15/24 11:34 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Chris M
Eric -- ​​​​​​​

Maybe the Protestan ethic thing is just a different point of view on my desire to loosen the bounds of myself, and join with something greater.

This does provide a purpose (meaning?) for some people. I used to work at a military academy, and there were several studies done on why the cadets there were so much more plugged in, dedicated, and upbeat than college students at other institutions of higher learning. The answer, in every case, was, "I believe I'm a part of something bigger than myself." I have to say, that's how they felt, and why they were there.

I think it's real! I don't think that's self-deception or anything.

Martin and Will have pointed out in different ways that, after spending all this time relinquishing and ceasing and stilling, the idea that we should be giving our lives meaning is kind of backing up the pipes, so to speak. The more I think about it, the more I think the very definition of meaning has to be "something greater than you" -- otherwise how is it any different from just... however else you felt that day (including, yes, your cup of coffee). But "something greater than you" sounds suspiciously and uncomfortably like the fixed, reliable, external, really-real, North-Star certainty that we've just spent all this time and effort discovering can never exist. It's tricky to re-introduce a little bit of this thinking, without letting ourselves slide too far into it.

You could think of meaning as being defined as "purpose" (as Chris mentioned), "explanation" (as Martin mentioned), or maybe "value". I can't think of any other good specific definitions. All these things are connected to something greater, but that something greater is always itself bound to be impermanent, contingent, and dependently arisen. But maybe that's fine! We don't need to demand that whatever it is is cosmically permanent, just that it's bigger.

Wisdom asks us to understand the causal connections between things, without expecting us to comprehend the whole universe. Metta asks us to extend goodwill to all living beings, but I'd be surprised if many of us manage that. No problem; we just try to go a little bigger than we are right now.

Last thought: when I consider my experiential sensation of meaning, I suspect that it might be about the ceasing of something unskilful (rather than the introduction of something positive) after all. What if the sense of meaningfulness isn't real, only the sense of meaninglessness? What if meaninglessness  is just something we inflict on ourselves, alongside the rest of dukkha? And all we have to do is stop doing that.
Will G, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 2:08 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 2:07 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

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From a follow up comment on this article:
http://bach.ai/dont-be-that-reptile/

"Nothing has meaning in an absolute sense. If we keep our longing for meaning next to the proof that meaning does not exist, we might become nihilists, and suffer from our frustrated need for meaning. If we fully resolve our need for meaning, we become sociopaths and lose the ability to love, which is built on the shared pursuit of meaning. In a way, meaning is like the One Ring of Mordor. If you wear it, it gives you incredible powers, but at the same time it corrupts you. If you drop it, you lose the Brotherhood of the Ring, which is built around a shared mission. Thus, you have to carry it, but carry it lightly, and not wear it (except in times of extreme need, for which you will have to pay)."
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 6:14 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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So I disagree with that quote. But the things points id like to bring up are 

1. is being a nihlist actually that bad? I think it mostly gets a bad reputation in the west because meaning is usually constructed socially, so the people who "give it up" are generally jerks. They also are giving it up in a mundane sense where they still have that need, they just aren't getting it filled and it's probably causing them to become unhappy. Compare that with some deep in spirituality and has gone deep into emptiness. They are probably nihilistic but not because of neuroticism. (Also I strongly disagree resolving meaning makes you a sociopath, you could just be someone who settles on a life path) 

2. my hunch is that if you've started to really see impermanence, no self, etc you can probably *only* find meaning in the absolute sense. Like if you're this meat robot, that is one with the universe - then that's meaningful insofar as you are the Tao unfolding. Not two, not one. 
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 7:30 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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So you mentioned you liked this guy earlier, but I read that 'dont be a reptile' article and it does come across as like scientific-materialist nihilism. Like he is basically talking about how we are just fancy animals trying to appease our reptile brains and "Let us find our healthy balance on the rope on which we descend into oblivion.", and how we probably used to be happy in the good ol' days before society just got so gosh darn unnatural. And he is pretty belittling towards like things that fall outside his personal paradigm (because he is a fancy neuroscientist who knows the truth!)

Mindfulness and meditation practice, the boom of life coaching, the resurgence of psychedelics and festival culture, the frenetic resurrection of religion are all part of this. They promise small and large fairytale roles, costumed interaction, mobile devices hooking into our brains in novel, scientifically designed ways to trigger those regions responsible for spiritual experience, dissolving anxiety and overcoming the unbearable frustration of our basic primate urges.
The interesting thing, though, is this thought process is just completely caked in assumptions/views that may or may not be true or helpful. For example

  • There is a material world, full of things, and we are ultimately things in that world
  • That the seed of all our action is neuro-electric-chemical and is governed by scientific laws
  • Our behaviors ultimate stem from an impersonal process, known as evolution, which is strictly a survivorship bias mechanism built into the world
  • Science can determine truth about the world
  • We are a biological organism made strictly from matter
So there are obvious views that undermining this (say the brains in a vat or simulation or even old school God), but even if we don't want to adopt stranger beliefs, you can actually reasonably disagree with all of this from a scientific standpoint. Quantum mechanics seems to be at odds with a "world out there of things themselves, independent of observers" (a fun video about the subject).  There are theories that it's consciousness itself that causes the wave function collapse. You could take a transhumanist approach. There's the idea that all we've seen is consciousness and its contents, which limits the epistemological implications of the scientific method.

Like all of his reasoning just feels philosophically lazy and close minded to me.
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Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 8:01 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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I think for me what makes this conversation tricky is that there's two kinds of meaning. Real meaning and meaning in the more casual way we use it, when we say phrases like "meaningful life" or "finding meaning" are we really talking about meaning or are we actually talking about passion.

Recently I got into chess and I absolutely adore it. I just love playing chess. I'm super passionate about it which gives me that "mmm meaningful activity" type vibe that a lot of people seem to be missing or chasing these days. I want to study it. I want to play it with people. I want to play it on my own. Etc. in a colloquial sense we might say it gives my life meaning and everybody here gets what that means. But it's not really an accurate use of the word. It'd just be weirder to say "it gives his life passion" We might get away with "he's fierce impassioned with that so he is" 

Obviously the crisis of meaning is a bit of a trope in pop culture these days. But is meaning even the right word? 

Like when I say "hey, thank you, that really meant a lot to me" 

​​​​​​​That's a communication of love. It has very little to do with meaning really. 

​​​​​​​I often argue with my friend about the word purpose. When he hears purpose he hears a shallow unreachable idealistic narrative. When I hear purpose I feel something passionate and alive, something awake and immediate. 
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 9:24 AM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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​​​​​​​I often argue with my friend about the word purpose. When he hears purpose he hears a shallow unreachable idealistic narrative. When I hear purpose I feel something passionate and alive, something awake and immediate. 

And I think about porpoise emoticon
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 1:40 PM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Real meaning and meaning in the more casual way we use it, when we say phrases like "meaningful life" or "finding meaning" are we really talking about meaning or are we actually talking about passion.

Are these really different? Like surely when people are looking for a meaningful life they want "real meaning". (Is it not true that living a life full of passion seems to honor the miracle of life that we've been given?)

Recently I got into chess and I absolutely adore it. I just love playing chess. I'm super passionate about it which gives me that "mmm meaningful activity" type vibe that a lot of people seem to be missing or chasing these days. I want to study it. I want to play it with people. I want to play it on my own. in a colloquial sense we might say it gives my life meaning and everybody here gets what that means. But it's not really an accurate use of the word.
Idk. You are taking time to learn an ancient game, past down for thousands of years, that people have dedicated their whole lives to to playing, that we still play even though machines have us beat. If that's not playing in the grand human game, what possibly could be?
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Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 4:07 PM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Meaning - what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action.

​​​​​​​My love for chess has no meaning in the above context of the word. Doesn't mean anything to me intellectually. At all. Nothing. 

Any other use or understanding of the word meaning. Including the manner in which it's commonly used culturally "it means a lot to me" is often a stand in for a passionate or emotional connection to something. And the point here being an emotional connection doesn't have to mean anything. At all. Nothing. Does not have to be explained or understood. You might still try to. You might tell a story about it but your applying intellectual meaning to a spontaneous experience which never required meaning to arise. 

If a lover said "you mean so much to me" what is that meaning in comparison to a translator who says "this phrase here means" 

Like it's the same word but not the same meaning. (Wub a lub a dub dub)

So to answer the question I think "meaning" is akin to inspiration, a sort of spontaneous curiosity... I mean (see) Im just trying to communicate passion. And most of the time people talk about meaning I think that's what they're talking about. When people talk about the crisis of meaning, as post-conventional as that is, mostly they're still talking about a lack of passion. 

Now, meaning in the context of some grand epic narrative - which obviously could never satisfy - is weirdly similar when I break it down for myself. (Epic narratives are worldviews) 

​​​​​​​I know a number of people who spend a lot of time thinking along these kinds of lines. But it breaks down into the same deal as before. They're just impassioned about the subject, it's meaningful to them but they will never find Meaning in it. That same searching ultimately led me to meditation. It has been meaningful for me to discover there's no meaning to things. Heh.  

​​​​​​​When experience becomes hollow and meaningless what is it that seems to be missing? When people feel that way is it really an intellectual understanding that's missing? When they're searching for meaning, what kind of meaning are they searching for? 

​​​​​​​*My love for cheese. Sorry. Chess is for losers and dorks and I am a very cool guy who eats cheese. 
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 2 Months ago at 2/16/24 4:45 PM
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RE: What is "Meaning"?

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Yeah I would say people in search of both more passion in their life and Context for their life would count as looking for meaning. The tricky thing is that honestly when people say they want a more meaningful life, I think sometimes they might be thinking of one or the other, or even possibly both (I think there is a pretty common underlying assumption that once the "correct" Context is found, then struggle is minimized or there will be more passion).

​​​​​​​When experience becomes hollow and meaningless what is it that seems to be missing? When people feel that way is it really an intellectual understanding that's missing? When they're searching for meaning, what kind of meaning are they searching for? 

Here's the thing, it still could be either context or passion, since both of those are still missing for a lot of people in today's modern world that alienates most people. Like you could imagine a suffering artist, who still says their life is meaningful because of the art they make (like they have figured out a context for themselves to make sense of all the suffering). You also didn't really have the problem of meaningless lives in the middle ages, since the context for most people was pretty fixed.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/17/24 2:19 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/17/24 2:19 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 2730 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
And just when I got the meaning it vanished, to become an itch on my behind, sharp, unpleasant, but it also vanished, so ... I remembered the meaning I  had, but was not sure it was accurate anymore ... then there was uncertainty and naked wonder just staring at it all ... 
Will G, modified 2 Months ago at 2/17/24 9:41 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/17/24 9:41 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 37 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Maybe listen to his conversation with Michael Taft! You might be surprised...
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J W, modified 1 Month ago at 2/27/24 3:56 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 2/27/24 3:50 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 675 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Interesting thread! And sorry to jump in late, but here's my 2 cents on it... 

I think the quest for meaning could maybe be described as a quest for satisfaction (with oneself, one's life, etc), and this quest, if approached the right way, is perhaps similar to what we generally refer to here as 'awakening', insomuch as the further one progresses along this quest/path, the more one realizes that what is meaningful and what brings satisfaction is not other than the way things are, i.e. the present moment ('this'), and that there is in fact nothing to achieve or gain, and there is no quest, nor absolute meaning.

Also similarly, this quest to find meaning can just as often (or more often than not) lead one in the opposite direction than intended and can lead one to feeling generally less satisfied, as far as one looks for meaning in places other than what is presently in front of them, and especially if someone looks for meaning in places / situations / ideals that are very different than what is currently in front of them, most definitely if that 'meaning' exists in some alternate universe or completely unknowable/inaccessable/fantasical place and requires one to do all sorts of horrible things to other people or to themselves to "get to" this place.
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Jure K, modified 1 Month ago at 3/15/24 8:13 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 3/15/24 8:13 AM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 461 Join Date: 9/8/20 Recent Posts
I sometimes wish there was "meaning", but that's just another subtle form of clinging, no energy for that. How can we explain the present moment and the sheer beauty of that, let alone what is meaning? Is there enough space for meaning in this moment? I know I lack the energy to explain any of it. 
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J W, modified 1 Month ago at 3/15/24 12:06 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 3/15/24 12:06 PM

RE: What is "Meaning"?

Posts: 675 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
"I sometimes wish there was "meaning", but that's just another subtle form of clinging, no energy for that."

I think 'meaning' is as real as anything else, and as such of course 'meaning' can be clung to, just as 'wishing' for it to be real or not real can also be clung to.  Which is, I think, what you are saying here.  

I think we just have a built in desire, on a biological level, to fulfill basic needs in our lives, and that's not something specific to humans even; so in the biological context I might define 'meaning' at a high level as a desire to be happy, healthy, and wise.  Sure, this desire isn't real, but if you don't eat, you eventually will die which most people want to avoid.

"How can we explain the present moment and the sheer beauty of that, let alone what is meaning? Is there enough space for meaning in this moment? I know I lack the energy to explain any of it. "

Meaningfulness/prescence/knowingness, to me I guess are different words to describe kind of the same thing, although maybe we're using different definitions here.  But I absolutely agree - not just how but why does one need to explain it?  In a moment of presence and meaningfulness, and heartfulness, there's nothing to explain, it's just obvious.  

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