Archive for the ‘meaning and meaninglessness’ Category

Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?

December 16, 2009

My question – that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide – was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: ‘Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: ‘Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?’

Tolstoy, A Confession, in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, (Hodder 2008), p.201

the more I see – the more I know …The more I know – the less I understand

October 8, 2009

the more I see – the more I know …The more I know – the less I understand. …I’m the changingman.

Paul Weller

The acquisition of knowedge does not itself provide the interpretive key for knowledge. To know many things leaves unanswered what, if anything, unites them all in a common frame of reference. In that sense, nothing is really known. What is the unity that interprets the diversity of experience?

I cannot conceal from myself that my life had no purpose

September 21, 2009

My activities continue from force of habit, and in the company of others I forget the despair which underlies my daily pursuits and pleasure. But when I am alone and idle, I cannot conceal from myself that my life had no purpose, and that I know of no new purpose to which to devote my remaining years. I find myself involved in a vast mist of solitude both emotional and metaphysical, from which I can find no issue.

Bertrand Russell, 1931, Ray Monk, vo.2, p.125

A bunch of violets is a bunch of violets

September 19, 2009

A lead-pencil has a point, an argument may have a point, remarks may be pointed, and a man who wants to borrow five pounds from you only comes to the point when he asks you for the fiver. Lots of things have points: especially weapons. But where is the point to life? Where is the point to love? Where, if it comes to the point, is the point to a bunch of violets? There is no point. Life and love are life and love, a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets, and to drag in the idea of a point is to ruin everything. Live and let live, love and let love, flower and fade, and follow the natural curve which flows on, pointless.

D.H. Lawrence

To extract the skylark’s song out of granite rock

September 10, 2009

And meaning, what is that? Have you ever pondered meanings? We talk of the import or
meaning of this thing or that, the meaning of a poem, the meaning of a scientific concept, of a political event. Where are these to be found in nature? Only in us. They cannot be exhumed or distilled out of material movements. As well endeavor to extract the skylark’s song out of granite rock, or honey from the salt seas. They are not resident in physical things, or to be expressed in the terminology of the laboratories. Meanings are the exclusive property of conscious selves and continuing selves. “Though the universe encompasses me,” wrote Pascal, “by thought I encompass the universe.” What are we to understand by this? Despite its stupendous immensity, the universe is not aware either of me or of itself. I, in my insignificance, am aware of myself and of the world. Is it possible, this paradox, this preposterous, unbelievable thing? For it declares that you and I possess a supreme talent denied to the universe. We are awake as nothing else in creation is awake. The
most enigmatical, indescribable, undeniable attribute of the self is its awareness. How can such an awakening ever at all or anywhere come about? Can material things, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, water, lead, stone, electrons or protons, or any combinations of such things become conscious of themselves? Can the stream rise above its source or the result outsoar its cause? Can carbon recognize itself as carbon, or say “Ah, here is hydrogen”? If not, beside them we are as gods, looking down from the Olympian battlements of consciousness upon the
senseless nonentities which neither know nor care to know what they are or what they do.
Before you dismiss the self as irrelevant you will do well to ponder this, its aristocratic prerogative, which makes all else by comparison a negligible cipher.

W. Macneile Dixon, The Human Situation

The eternal problem of the basis of morality

September 10, 2009

The universe is not absurd in itself, any more than it is yellow or sugary: it simply is. Life and the world have a meaning for the believer who has a code of conduct in the Gospels based on the word of Christ. Camus’ anguish came from the fact that no morality was imposed by an atheist or agnostic’s world…For Camus, truth existed in the sciences, but not a single truth…Both (Sartre and Camus) confronted the eternal problem of the basis of morality if one does not believe in God.

Camus’ biographer, Olivier Todd, pp.145, 156

Needless to say, neither found that basis and no one ever will.

Can’t live by nihilism

September 9, 2009

Yet whenever we set ourselves on a course of action, putting one foot in front of the other in other than a haphazard way, we are affirming a goal. We are affirming the value of a course of action…Thus we are not living by nihilism.

James W Sire, The Universe Next Door, p.103

A man said to the universe

September 9, 2009

A man said to the universe

A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

Stephen Crane

A man cannot live without meaning

September 9, 2009

Here is what frightens me: to lose one’s life is a little thing, and I will have the courage when necessary.  But to see the sense of life dissipated, to see our reason for existence disappear, that is what is intolerable.  A man cannot live without meaning.

A character in Albert Camus’s play, Caligula,

If death ends all…

September 9, 2009

If one puts aside the existence of God and the survival after life as too doubtful to have any effect on one’s behaviour, one has to make up one’s mind as to the use of life. If death ends all, if I have neither to hope for good, nor to fear evil, I must ask myself what I am here for, and how in these circumstances I must conduct myself. Now the answer is plain, but so unpalatable that most will not face it. There is no meaning for life, and [thus] life has no meaning.

Somerset Maugham