Tuesday, August 24, 2010
What Do You Think
“A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” - Robert Frost
A jigsaw piece cannot think. As such, the meaning of a jigsaw piece's existence can only be assessed externally. For most of us, such a meaning is largely found in its part in the completion of a jigsaw puzzle.
A squirrel can think, to a certain extent. However, it does not think beyond foraging for the next winter. This leads many of us to conclude that a squirrel's existence only carries as much meaning as its survival past the next famine. Certainly the squirrel has not yet posed (nor will it ever be able to) itself the question, "What is the meaning of my existence?" As such it cannot offer any more attractive an answer to the questions of being and meaning.
A human being can think for himself. He is a veritable sandbox - with the capacity to entertain multiple possibilities for self-determination, the human being is infinite in meaning. Everything he wills to mean, will mean; everything he dismisses, wanes. An external effort to impose meaning on something or someone essentially self-directed would be as futile as my childhood attempts to make my neighbour's dog meow.
The usual question, then, becomes somewhat incongruous. What is the meaning of life, we ask, hoping for analogies to specimens of little or no mental capacity. We'd probably be better off asking about the meaning of Starcraft.
Is there any value to labeling things "good" or "bad", then, when logically we define our own purposes, values and meaning? Outside of antisocial suicidal tribes, it is probably good to value life and to treat people well. But most else is borderland. This barren waste, devoid of presumption and free of the weight of yesterdays, would best be navigated with calm exposition. As we describe our worlds to one another, listening as patiently as we might speak, we could perhaps grow to rediscover the idyll of a Pangaea once lost.
I've said my piece; now's the turn for yours. As best as we can, let us try to finish the puzzle. I'm sure we'll all fit.