If we put our naturalistic thinking hats on for a moment, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that there is no objective meaning to our being. We are temporally and spatially insignificant. Not just us, but even our galaxy and everything we can conceptualise and ever possibly comprehend.
But, I am continually surprised by the abundance of subjective meaning which is present in the experience of being a human being.
To approach in ascending abstraction, sense experience is delightful and cheeky. The heat of the sun on your skin can be so pleasant or overbearing, the wind on your skin makes you feel free or bare, your breath a reminder of stress or a keeper of peace. Sensation is so rich and there is so much to explore about being at the level of sensation, even with our eyes closed.
After this, humans are social animals with the capacity of scale, culture. We can run, hitting the ground, fast. Or grapple with friends, do pull ups and use our bodies because that’s what they’re for. To sustain ourselves we eat food but we’ve also as a species turned food into this beautiful art of sharing. We create all sorts to share with eachother; story, art, music, poetry. It is what is most human.
We are a part of an ecosystem. A physical ecosystem, the Earth, which we should safeguard, cherish, experience and be in constant awe of. And the ecosystem of ideas which permeates human conciousness, which should also be experienced, cherished and safeguarded. In either case, some notion of a family unit seems like the essential building block for this ecosystem and the binding force of this ecosystem, love in all of its forms.
Then there is the cosmos, the vast unknown and inspiring transcendent. It reminds us that we are an impossibility, that for us to exist, enough carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus had to be around eachother from stellar decay to form molecules that formed fairly cyclic reactions that produced larger molecules till you get proteins, then cells. Then a cell eats another cell by accident and the first nucleus forms, and bam that’s life. Then millenia of evolution and the human emerges decimating other related species and creating techonology and large scale society. This is us. This is being.
An impossibility in the nothing.
And so what is the point of it all? All of the above and more. To be as authentically as possible on every level of abstraction. Yeah, that’s it.
Ok so with that said, what meaning do I find in my life? Well we can go down the list.
Scientifically, I think thermodynamics is the most fundamental analysis tool humans have come up with and I want to sharpen it, hone it and use it to find new understandings in our theory of knowledge, computation. If I could do this in the opposite direction too then it would really be something.
I am good at getting people to work in an organised way towards a common ambitious goal, dealing with risk and raising capital. Because of this, I think I have a duty to do science in a way which leads to tangible innovation with tangible human benefit and economic gain. Done right, I’ll be able to do science in a sustainable way, without having to run after grants and also accumulate enough wealth to really make a difference. Especially to the evolution of my homeland, Malta. In this sense, I hope to be an effective altruist.
On a more personal level, I want to experience as much of the human canon as possible. In terms of music, art, literature, food and all the other beautiful passions we’ve created to share with eachother. To see as much of the Earth as I can. I want to run and grapple and make use of my body. I want to meditate and remember that I am nothing. I want to be a great friend and to be of service. To make people smile and amuse them, maybe get them to think about something differently or to introduce them to some music they’ve never heard.
In the limit, I’d love to be able to share this meaning with another individual that wants to grow with me. I’d love to have children and to be able to give to them and have them give to society.
All of this is my meaning. I hope that you can find some meaning too in your lived experience reader, there’s such an abundance around.