Please . . . you are welcome to join me for a walk on this mental pathway for a few moments - the question in the subject may seem vague if not impossible to answer for some people, but we all derive our meaning differently and the question has been left intentionally vague for that reason.
I will offer up some some writing to prime the conversation. You may leave now if you wish . . .
. . . Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. The term synergy comes from the Attic Greek word συνεργία synergia from synergos, συνεργός, meaning "working together". I hope that by working together along with the original question that we find synergy with meaning - with a bit of luck I may set a theme. As we stop by my Zen Garden and take our seats, I say to you; by considering that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts - I wonder whether is it wise enough to speculate that meaning is derived somehow in the first instance of the first time meaning came to be - in other words - can meaning come about by lack of contrast?
The total sum of experience from birth to the present does not always provide enough meaning to some peoples lives and hence they go soul-searching or seek enlightenment or participate in any number of other potential activities that might bring meaning to their own lives. By asking something abstract and only using the accumulated information in ones memory is it possible to derive meaning from anything? How is it that somehow we are able to gain meaning from the unrelated? For example metaphors, analogy, parables or what ever you want to call your chosen device - poetry has proven to be such a device - as has art.
We get up and continue walking . . .
I once heard a saying that went something like "The fish uses its tail to swim forward. The fish uses its head to swim backwards." and in my quest to find meaning I started to wonder whether meaning may be propagated in more than one direction. We use devices like metaphors to convey meaning and so it is that I am mixing concepts to make an attempt to get to the bottom of a more abstract mental impression of meaning. At what point in our mental process does meaning start?
An acquaintance of mine once responded to me by stating, lets try again to add some meaning to it - the question - Where does meaning come from? Lurking in the background is the question of whether it is even meaningful to ask the question on meaning. For example if it might have to do with some kind of fundamental open-ended mess or ambiguity of things. The question itself then would relate to a potential answer or direction, starting off in the mental realm. Meaning then as an expression of direction, from the known to the unknown, from the past to the future.
He went on further to state that until now I "simplified" meaning to be some form of expression of connection, of relating. This is based on the experience of when or how some activity, or even "life", feels meaningful or not. And it always showed itself to be a function of the amount of connections something or someone has to other activities, people and events. It also explains the well known experience of a complete loss of meaning, which seems to be a result of engaging in activities for too long all having little relation to anything, or anyone, else beyond its own confines.
Philosophy then is deeply connected to meaning giving, since all the philosophical questioning, all the philosophical exploring is aimed to connect to everything: all the finer points of existing, of language, of dealing with experiencing and deriving sense from all of it. And yet it can also lead to meaninglessness, probably when one would stop applying this thought to all sense and all times. When all thought on life would become a bubble of life, becoming isolated. Such perhaps unavoidable form of alienation could then be part and parcel of having a mind in the first place; creating limited representations as a way to reason.
But back to the question, which was not as much about what meaning was but also where it would come from. Perhaps it would simply flow out of a more useful definition. If meaning indeed flows out of complex connection making, being it physical, interactions between senses and events, or pure mentally -- words connecting with words -- then it would connect deep down to the fundamental, driving forces of life itself. From these connections, all importance and value can be derived, arriving back again at the usual dictionary definitions of meaning.
This mental pathway shows how it can be said that truth, the alchemy of philosophy, is the greatest treasure as it leads to the giving of value itself, to self-knowledge, to value-knowledge. Everything else of value would be derivative.
Two questions that come to mind:
- ► How do you derive meaning in your life?
- ► What gives your life meaning?
We leave the path here to hopefully answer any question we want and ask any question we want with the intention of adding meaning to our existence . . .