The Art of f****ing up the Meaning of things

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Yes, if you picked this article from the ocean of titles in the homepage it means that you are one of us, the ones who can’t stop thinking about the ‘meaning’: the meaning of gestures, the meaning of colors, the meaning of that sentence, of that book/film/artwork, the meaning of your life.

To make it a clear statement, this is a shout to finally get rid of some inner-meaning research and start finding some solid thoughts instead. Finding meaning involves research of course, otherwise Plato, Nietzsche and Sartre wouldn’t have survived through their work till today, but it should also involve action. And this is where Philosophy blends with Sociology. As Zygmut Bauman wrote:

“Questioning the ostensibly unquestionable premises of our way of life is arguably the most urgent of services we owe our fellow humans and ourselves. ” 
Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences

All perfectly correct, but this process of continuous questioning involves some downsides as well. So let’s list the main issues each of us has encountered when over-thinking and over-looking for THE Meaning:

  1. You feel stocked. Not enough genius to grasp reality, and not enough talented compared to the other successful human examples you are surrounded by.
  2. You become social media addicted. And a passive user. As we mainly work and research in front of a screen it is very hard not to fall in the temptation of looking at other peoples lives when the existential anxiety attacks you.
  3. You tend to be paranoid in your social relationships. Whether it’s with your partner texts or your friends’ behaviour.
  4. You look for engaged and meaningful culture but you find only shallow and market-oriented Art.

And here’s few simple lessons, that helped me getting through uncertain times and might help you finding peace of mind:

  1. Forget,the “pursuit of happiness”: that’s a sloganeering justification for incessant consumerism work-eat-buy and repeat. “Happiness needs one-upmanship” says Bauman.
  2. Universe is so vast you don’t actually make a difference in the macro, but you can have a big impact in the micro. Ask you parents.
  3. When you accept that you cannot understand everything, you understand everything. The human condition is limited, but with an unlimited ego. This clash can be a total disaster but it can also push you to enjoy the moment. Just look out of the window or take a moment to observe your metro-neighbours: Isn’t there something interesting to see?
  4. If Art seems shallow to you it’s because actually, as Gertrude Stein put it, “Art purpose is to fill the emptiness of existence”. If you feel your life it’s empty of meaning Art itself won’t help much. If you reverse the formula instead it might work, at least as for an instant of beauty

You might have understood by now, that the meaning we search for carries the paradox of knowing that we won’t be able to find it but at the same time that looking for it is the deepest sense of human existence. Told so, the pendulum between boredom and pain that Nietzsche was describing as the human life common status, might today be more a swing between mind knowledge and material limitations.

You can read more about much deeper Bauman thoughts here, and also spend 12 minutes of your time to watch the tragic-hilarious animated short “THE MEANING OF LIFE” by DON HERTZFELDT. And remember: With or without a meaning, you are not alone.

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