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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Meaning of Life (draft, part 1)

We can believe that the world is a text whose meaning the discerning reader understands and which all discerning readers understand in the same way and that all who fail to understand it thus (properly) are misguided for any one of a number of definable reasons from a lack of fundamental perspicacity (they’re too stupid to get it) to an accidental or nefarious being-led-astray (someone or something has tricked and deceived them). Or we can see the world as not a text in the first place but as something which simply is, which therefore is not put in front of us as something to be understand.
We can proclaim that the very notion of “understanding” is a problem, particularly when the thing to be understood is not a text. Language is the tool of understanding. And language runs into problems when it attempts to understand—to come to terms with, to bring into language—that which is not language.

We can represent the world with words. But there is no one, single, right way to do that. There is no full or final way to do that. We cannot bring the world to presence again which has never been present as such the first time. We can represent the world as a way of talking about the world. (If we could do this properly in words, we would not need music or painting.) But when we talk about our representation we are not talking about the world anymore. And the representation itself wasn’t exclusively about the world and didn’t represent it in its totality and didn’t get it quite right.

Even if we could get the world right in representing it, we’d also have to get the representation right by representing it—a rererepresentation. Let me get this right. Well I’ll let you, but you won’t manage it. My permission has never been lacking. And it was never what you needed.

We’ll never get over the inadequacies of language. And even if we could get a perfect language, we’ll never get over the inadequacies of perspective. The implication, however, is not that you stop trying. An imperfect representation is not a wholly false representation. An interested and partly blind interpretation is still work making. If there is no right perspective, no perfect or absolute perspective, there can still be valid or viable or useful perspectives. There can still be good perspectives. There can still be good language. Good for what?

Set you values and argue for them. Life is a value. No one deserves a life and no one deserves happiness. But we can decide that life and the greatest quality of life not for the greatest number but for everyone is the value. Everyone means everyone.

The first value has to be the earth itself. There is no place else for us to live. So earth must be as healthy as possible. The health of the earth should not be compromised. The question to ask is not “will this create jobs and thereby increase the quality of life for some people?” but “will this harm the earth? Will it lead to or contribute to the kind of destabilization that compromises the stability of the planet, its ability to sustain healthy live throughout its complex ecology?”

Right now we’re destabilizing the earth—with misguided fossil fuel use and exploration—not even for the sake of those jobs, which are just a corporate smoke screen, but for the profits of megaconglomerates, for the pockets of those who already have far more than they need. For greed. For power. For the basest animal out there. 

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