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February 2012

The Crisis of Meaning

I post because I want to be heard.  To be heard is reassurance that I exist.  When I know that I am heard, I know that I am supposed to be content.  So why am I still not content?  What is still missing?

Go to Facebook or Twitter during any second of any day and watch your friends do the same.  I don't need to explain this to you because I know you do it too.  You feel it too.  To post is to scratch an itch -- the relief is temporary and unfulfilling.  To write and record a song is the same thing, only 1,000 times more intense.  To write a book is also the same thing, only 10,000 times more intense than that simple post on Facebook.  Bloggers know it, musicians know it, writers know it...but we do it anyway.  We do it for the simple reason that we wonder whether our lives really have any meaning if we do not succeed at projecting that meaning to the outside world.  We want to know that our lives have extrinsic value.

Our current obsession with becoming famous is also fueled by this same emotion.  If a million people could hear my voice or somehow understand me, that would be better than one person hearing my voice and understanding me, right?  Or what if I could create a product that would be loved by 10's of millions?  Would I finally feel content that I have found meaning?

Ironically, we pretend we don't care about such impractical, unrealistic ideas like "the meaning of life" -- but I think we are fooling ourselves.  I think everyone is concerned with their meaning of life.  Single people often believe that their meaning of life will be revealed when they meet that special someone.  But, even after we have met that special someone, even after we build wonderful lives together, we continue trying to define, validate, somehow possess something as elusive as meaning.

Let's go even further.  We also identify with movements,  institutions, brands, and organizations because we seek meaning.  We are Christian, Hindu, Liberal, Conservative, Green, Harley-Davidson owners, H&M shoppers, Football fans, film buffs, Indie music fans, etc., etc. because we believe that being part of these "clubs" will give our lives meaning in the outside world.  We profess the values of specific movements or industries because we want to believe that, in doing so, we will belong....and in that belonging we will come to know a meaning that lasts longer than scratching an itch.

But does anyone really find their meaning in any of these ways?  So many celebrities have everything any of us could dream of...and yet we watch them go through embarrassing melt-downs before our eyes on reality TV.  They act completely ridiculous.  But, in truth, all of us do.  Could it be any different?

Something is fundamentally broken.  Our lives are being run by corporations.  The only meaning of a corporation is to make a higher profit this quarter than last.  That's it.  So the highest value, at the top of our society, is money-worship.  Not very meaningful.  Everything a corporation does...all the brands, all the sports teams, the media, all the films, all the content, is only there to serve that one purpose.  Our governments are also at the mercy of the financial industry, the oil industry, the defense industry, etc., etc.  So we cannot believe in business and we cannot believe in the State.  Where is the external meaning in this system?

Are we supposed to be naive enough to look for meaning in religion?  You want me to live my life in a silly and unsuccessful attempt to conform to ridiculous stories written by corrupt men thousands of years ago?  Sorry, you've lost me there.  I was talking about the meaning of my life, on Earth, in reality.

I ask again, where is the meaning?  I know this is depressing, but I also know you feel it too.