The meaning of “meaning”

I have always had a hard time understanding concepts like “the meaning of life” and the “search for meaning.” In my fifth decade of life, I now hold a rule of thumb that if I encounter someone who appears to take these or similarly-described concepts serious, then with a probability exceeding 0.99 I have encountered an intellect so vague and cloudy that productive or even entertaining engagement therewith is impossible.

Nonetheless in the spirit of fairness I’ll try my hand at a definition of “meaning” when applied outside of its primary and useful context (that is, when it isn’t applied to sentences, signs, signals, predictive events, etc.). It is this: “meaning” is something that the speaker alleges that if you have it, then somehow in spite of the fact that your life contains a large (perhaps even vast) balance of misery over happiness (as by far most human lives that go on for long enough do), you will somehow not be sorry about the fact of your ever having come into existence.

Not that I think that there is “meaning” any more than there are leprechauns, of course.

5 thoughts on “The meaning of “meaning”

  1. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I mean by “meaning of life,” but I can tell you that I suffer daily from its nonexistence.

  2. I would posit that this “meaning” would instead be something that provides so much happiness that the balance no longer falls on the side of misery. Not that I believe it exists, but (as a conditional of retaining sanity and refraining from ending my life) I choose to entertain the possibility that I may yet create such a thing, and actively work towards the fulfillment of that possibility.

    Though I find escapism sometimes comes close; primarily in the form of fantasy role-playing games. There seems to be little functional difference between the memory of real and imagined experiences, from what I can tell. Thus if my memories of imagined sheer awesomeness outweigh my memories of real suffering, I feel I will have come as close to “winning” as any human can.

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