Adding Meaning

Not gonna lie, but this started out as a filler entry because I haven’t blogged in about two months. That’s fitting, for reasons that you’re about to find out about.

This was one of my more successful “Artist Way” page exercises, starting off with a question, and then just writing automatically and seeing where it goes, even if completely contradicts things I’ve said before.

Then again, maybe what comes automatically is what I actually think to be true than a hundred conscious deliberations I can conjure at will.


Why do people assign great meaning to things in life? Why do some people and not others do that? I think it comes with making a habit of looking at the big picture, because when you really do see the BIG picture, you find yourself looking at precisely….nothing.

That’s it. Nothing. There’s nothing significant or meaningful in the big picture. At the widest possible scope of life that human eyes and human minds and human hearts can detect, there’s absolutely no evidence that life’s anything but a blank canvas onto which randomness smears itself from corner to corner.

But there’s a quality about human identity that cannot process that meaninglessness, can’t take it. For some, it feels like a life threat, as imminent as a knifepoint at the throat, as existential as a predator lurking beyond the camplight in the dark. The big picture awareness can suck, because it takes you away from the now, makes whatever task or ritual or relationship or exercise seem pointless because from that place of awareness, it is. All of it is.

A few people can press through life with that awareness, can accept the meaninglessness, that dull ache in the middle of you, yearning for more, knowing there isn’t anything left in the buffet. You grow up, you fall in love, you make money, you travel, you have kids of your own, do a few amazing things in life, gain people, lose people, enjoy the socially-approved achievements of economy and religion and advertising and intellectualism…. all the while never satisfying that ache, and never bothering to. You just live and die in the harbor without ever pressing the horizon again, accepting whatever the tide brings in.

There’s a difference, though, between acceptance of the big picture and integrating it into your life, because the grand scheme exists in the smallest work task, the most invisible pixel of a wordslinger’s prose in progress, the tiniest drop of coffee, the littlest glint of sweat on sunkissed skin, the dull ache for the mere promise of someone miles away.

None of it has any meaning, but for some of us, that’s unacceptable at a cellular level. It feels like a life threat, and we have to eliminate it. And we do that by assigning meaning to everything around us, inside us, even the things beyond the horizon that are impossible for us to see on our own terms.

Creating meaning where there is none may be the only way we survive at all. But once the meaning’s there, it’s there. And we can go about our days doing more than just surviving.

(Written to Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful“).


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