Re: The meaning of Life

Gregory Houston (
Mon, 10 Feb 1997 02:59:15 -0600

John K Clark wrote:

> >To you, meaning is value.
> Not so. The soap operas on TV have meaning to me, but they have zero value
> to me.

I feel a need to either argue or clarify this point. Value is intrinisic
to meaning. Something without value is meaningless, and there is nothing
meaningful without value. You say that soap operas on TV have meaning to
you, but zero value to you. My argument is, if you did not value soap
operas then you would not expend the energy necessary to give them
meaning. We ignore what we do not value. Its a natural part of our
perceptual process. If I do not value a noise in the room I am in, then
it becomes ambient, attentuated, and I thus expend little to no energy
on percieving it. If I do not value a persons opinion or the prospect of
debating it, then I will ignore them entirely. I am not going to waist
energy on them. I think the difficulty here is that we often only think
of value in positive terms, but our values create a continuum from good
to bad, like to dislike. Your value for soap operas is perhaps very low,
but you do value them, or the thought of them would not ever cross your
mind. You certainly would not correlate meaning with them if you did not
value them to some degree.

The only things we do not associate value with are those things which we
are indifferent to. As soon as anything catches our focus and interest,
we begin to dynamically associate value and meaning with it. This
includes things which we find repulsive or threatening.

Buddhists are particularly apt at indifference. Their religion requires
that they overcome the "illusion" of value and meaning [because "life is
suffering"] so that they can cease to re-incarnate.

Existentialists are also so apt. Except they have taken it beyond
Buddhism to the point where there is not even meaning in the lack of
meaning. Existentialism taken to the extreme becomes paralysis. If posed
with the question, "To be or not to be?", an existentialist cannot
answer either way, because neither matters, and thus both are
meaningless. Few people remain existential for very long, and fewer yet
claim they ever were. Most people realize how futile it is to attempt to
live without value or meaning. So from the existential realization that
their is no intrinsic meaning or value in life, an existentialist will
usually come to the conclusion that it is their responsiblity to create
value and thus meaning.

Something is only as meaningful as we appreciate it. Life is meaningless
when we are incapable of appreciating it. To the degree that we can
appreciate things is to the degree in which we can create meaning.

The depth of our ability to appreciate also mirrors the depth to which
we are able to create meaning. If a person is only able to appreciate
things as either weak or strong, that person is not going to be capable
of creating much meaning about things. We would consider this person
shallow. They are not employing a significant number of ways to judge
the value of something. However, a person who can percieve things as
weak and strong, ugly and beautiful, and worthy and worthless will be
able to create that much more meaning for things. A person who can then
take these dichotomies and differentiate finer and finer transitions
between them will be still more capable of creating a refined sense of
meaning for something. We might call the latter person a connoisseur.

For me, ecstasy qua self-epiphany is "The meaning [and purpose] of
Life", it is the climax of being. It is for the sole purpose of
achieving novel, more complex, and more subtle forms of ecstasy that I
wish to attain immortality. However, if I did not value myself and how I
can make myself feel, then It would be meaningless for me to seek
immortality. Ecstasy, my self, and Life would be meaningless to me
without pleasure, my most primal sense for determing value.

Gregory Houston
Connoisseur of Consciousness