Monday, October 25, 2010


May your wine-filled sardine cans overflow with Cheerios. I found some bottles of home made wine in a closet after moving into this apartment. Apparently, the wine is about ten years old. There was also half a box of cereal in the cupboard. It made the perfect photo op. For a comment on meaning, read below.

Everything is an expression of meaning. Each letter, word or sentence makes up, or exists in a world of symbol and signification. To say life has no meaning is to make a statement containing meaning, which contradicts the concept of no meaning.

   A feeling of being trapped, overwhelmed or in mental or physical pain might cause a person to say life is absurd or meaningless. In this case, to say it is meaningless is to say one doesn’t understand why it’s happening. Why does one have to experience pain and suffering? Why couldn’t life be a bowl of cherries? These are meaningful questions, based on the assumption that one could engage with others in a meaningful discussion. If there were no meaning, there would be no speech or communication of any kind, not even grunts, groans or gestures. OK, I won’t belabor the obvious, except to note how sometimes I’ve been in a state of mind when life feels oppressive and unbearable. However, even such a state of mind is meaningful.

   Even if it’s not possible to understand why there is existence as opposed to not existence, such bewilderment is meaningful. The point of this realization is to note that even during moments of distress or pain, one’s mind is free to go beyond immediate, agonizing details. If the pain gets bad enough, one goes unconscious. The mind plunges into a bardo-like state. When the dentist drilled into my teeth, I closed my eyes and imagined myself wandering through a beautiful landscape and so was able to relax. There are plenty of ways to work with the mind in order to come to terms with suffering. Rich traditions of wisdom exist in every culture.

Through realizing meaning and how meaning is enmeshed with culture, tradition and other people, one might find a way to move beyond confusion. One could pursue the truth and engage in a discussion. The idea of no meaning is based on being blinded by one's situation. In stead of closing down, one could notice the billions of other people on planet earth. One could have compassion and understanding for what others are experiencing, as a way of going beyond one's suffering.

   One’s momentary pain and suffering is a dot in a giant seething ocean of humanity going through various ups and downs on the wheel of life. One’s sand grain identity could be used as a starting point to journey outwards, should one wish to set opinions and self-centered judgments aside, to relax for a moment to look at what’s going on in one’s mind and to explore. Usually, one cringes, closes down, retreats behind thick walls of ego, clenches the jaw, stiffens up and gets stressed, anxious or angry when things become unbearable. It’s more relaxing to let go of opinions and feelings for a moment in order to observe one’s mind and to contemplate existence and to extend compassion to others. Doing so is like leaving a crowded, smelly room in order to step outside into fresh air.

1 comment:

Dr Robert Henry Schwenk said...

John: Very insightful post on "meaning." Your paragraph beginning "Everything is an expression of meaning" was something I never thought of before. Very wise idea. Thanks for your efforts. Keep up the good work.