The meaningfulness or meaninglessness of anything is a highly subjective concept. What means something for one, may not mean a thing for another. So, whether we talk about the meaning of life or of an event or of any given thing – it all depends upon the subjective interpretation thereof. There can be a rare few objective interpretations of this.
While abstract painting and modern art expound volumes for an art lover, they may be mere meaningless blurs of lines and a mishmash of colours for another.
While the symphony of music and dance forms may add sur (tune/ intonation), taal (tempo) and lay (rhythm) to every moment of living for many, they may just be incoherent cacophony for several others.
A week on a luxury cruise ship may be the definition of ‘the most meaningful holiday ever’ for someone, whereas, it may be an asinine wastage of resources for another.
Over the ages, the meaningfulness and meaninglessness of things have intrigued the human mind and they continue to do so even today for those who care to pause and ponder.
The Existentialist, Victor Frankl who was a Holocaust survivor writes thus –
“Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.”
We are born, we live and we die. In the course of our life span, we study, work, forge relationships, pursue passions, fight for our rights, struggle to fulfill our responsibilities, desire for pleasure, aspire for power or are simply pushed and pulled by ebb and flow of the tides of life. Is there any meaning to it all or is it a meaningless saga of random cosmic probability? Or is it a mega melodrama orchestrated by some unknown incomprehensible power?
Renowned philosophers of the world have delved deep into this mystery and have propounded some of the famous theories on this subject. We have Naturalism, Supernaturalism, Nihilism, Stoicism, Cynicism and many such isms attempting to extend meaning to certain things and captioning them as ‘meaningful’ and to detach meaning from certain others rendering them ‘meaningless’.
Going by the subjective interpretation of events what all seem of no significance to me, give me no sense of purpose, fail to engage my interest and do not motivate me to any extent are those that are meaningless. I can say this looking at the limited purview of my world, my interests and my purposes and those of a significant few (if I expand my latitude of acceptance). This holds true for every individual.
With this understanding, each of us can chug along the course of life. We can enjoy each pleasure and defy each pain and define our goals.
But what about the big picture – visualising ourselves as teeny tiny dots in the vast cosmos? What holds meaning and what is meaningless, then?
I am reminded of the wise words of King Solomon of Israel who was famed to be the wisest and the richest king of his times, so much so that kings and queens of other kingdoms used to visit him to see for themselves the splendor of his wealth and the brilliance of his wisdom. Having accomplished all that his heart desired, having acquired all that he aspired to, having indulged in all possible pleasures that the human heart can yearn for, he wrote thus –
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity.”
Though there is meaning in all that we say and do, there isn’t much meaning in the precision of things and events when we look at it all from the perspective of the big picture of the entire universe.
For example, whether you were wearing red or white or blue on the day you received a particular good news may be meaningful for you, but if examined from the perspective of the whole cosmos, it is meaningless.
So yes, while attaching meaning to our lives and life events keeps us hooked and going, the big canvas matters as well!