Welcome back folks,
Last time we spoke, I said that this world is hell on earth and other pretty harsh words to that effect. I closed by saying that we’re here to serve a purpose and that if we resist the understandable urge to “check out” early, we may find meaning. I used that word – meaning – because it’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.
Before we go any further though, I want to categorically state that Ursula Le Guin is a fantastic writer. As I see it, when it comes to drawing up a universe and completing it with every aspect of life, including the philosophical depths of each society, she is indeed Asimov’s peer. And that is by no mean a trivial statement.
I just finished her great book “The Dispossessed” and at some point, the protagonist – Shevek muses about the meaning of life. It’s what Le Guin put in his mind that crystallized something for me. I can spend days (and have) trying to put into words what I think the meaning of life is. Why we are here, what do we do with the time we were given. Then comes along this fictional character and says it all in less than a paragraph.
You will excuse me, of course, that I would take more than a paragraph to try to explore the meaning.
Shevek muses about the means and the ends. What’s important? Is there an end? What does it mean?
We look differently at how to reach an end. Some people consider the end that thing you want to achieve and will try to achieve it by any means. Others will say they’ll only try to achieve the end if the means are worthy/moral/etc.
I ask (echoing Shevek’s sentiment) – IS there an end? SHOULD there be an end? What are we trying to achieve in life? And does it justify the means?
As you can see, the word mean frequently comes up in this post, and not just because of language. It’s not semantics. It’s important to understand that the meaning of our life is directly linked to the means of our life.
Many of us want to achieve success. Be it financial, professional, or success in relationship etc. We’re geared towards achieving something. Something that can be defined, qualified, quantified. Something that could be used perhaps in our eulogy? “He was a great scientist.”, “She was a fantastic filmmaker.”
We feel that unless we do something with our lives, time was wasted, we don’t get recognized for our achievements, we disappointed someone. We have nothing to show for.
But what if the end is not important? What if there IS no end? What if all that counts are the means by which we live?
I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like there is nothing that we can achieve in life more important than the means by which we live. Can great achievements (be it tangible/quantifiable or praises) go hand in hand with great means? Sure. There are some pretty good examples.
Should we feel like we failed if on our death-bed, “all we have to show for” is a modest and loving family? I think not.
If I die a poor man who never hurt a soul, I’d consider this the greatest achievement possible. Other than dying a very rich man who’d never hurt a soul of course. But you see, even when we understand the meaning, we still think about the end.
Which brings me to the second part of Shevek’s musings. There should be no end, because what happens when we get there? Instead of working towards an end, should we not work always and without exception towards the means? Should we not consider every single decision we ever make, small or big, as the meaning of life? If the answer to that is “no”, then I truly give up hope to ever find the meaning of life.
Kurt Cobain, god rest his soul hit the nail on the head, whether intentionally or not, when he finished Nirvana’s “All apologies” with the immortal line – “all in all is all we are“. What we are comes down to what we do, with our means. And like life, this is not something that simply ends. It goes on and on, with every choice we make.
All in all is all we are.
Are you confused? in agreement? Want to challenge? By all means (see what I did there?) – let me know. Like, Share or comment and may the force be with you!
Until next time remember – this world sucks! But there is a meaning. Know what I mean?