WHEN NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING

I’m always glad to have a reason to pull this out of my archives and dust it off. It represents years of thought, night-long discussions in college, several obscure philosophy courses and at least one 40-page research paper. How bizarre that now, at long last, I live in a world where everything means nothing. This used to be humor, of a sort. Now, it’s not quite as funny.

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means and too little time doing the stuff we enjoy. I suppose it’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke, or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. Normal, but a waste of time and energy because I’m going to explain everything and you’ll never have to wonder again.

Meaning of life

Learning to accept the randomness of stuff that happens is tough. We want life to make sense. We want order. We want our messes and disasters to be important, meaningful.

I’ve put a good bit of thought into why my life has regularly fallen apart. I know I’m imperfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the scheme of things. Even in my darkest moments I doubt I’m so wicked that The Big Guy has in for me.

Then I had my epiphany.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith by believing in God or if you declare yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no direct proof and for which you will never have proof.

If believing in a loving God makes you feel good, believe it. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the only path (and is antithetical to God — a position with which I disagree) to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

Personally, I don’t know. What makes me smarter than most people is I know I don’t know.

 I KNOW NOTHING. NEITHER DO YOU.

Accepting you know nothing is a big step, so take a deep breath. Your next challenge will be how you can cash in on this new knowledge. What’s the point unless you can awe people with your brilliance — and make a few bucks?

WORDING

You need the right lingo to dazzle your audience. Big words (4 or more syllables) used in the right context can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds to show their admiration.

meaning-of-life3

Big words enhance your likelihood of getting a management position. You can write important books. Have a blog like me and I know you want to be just like me. Big words can take you a long way, if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

EPISTEMOLOGY – IT’S All ABOUT KNOWING

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about, but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything.

Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, software, concepts, and kitchen appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical.

PHENOMENOLOGY IS THE NEW FAITH

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. The same reasoning also proves there is no God. Ah, the joy of it.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation.


Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.


In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that almost everything our current administration has said fits neatly into phenomenology. Since the only thing that matters in phenomenology is someones’ experience, you don’t need facts. Figures. Statistics. You don’t need anything but “I felt it, so it must be true.”

Do you feel it yet?

FOUNT OF WISDOM

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

meanin-of-life-snoopy

There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself which makes it hard to dispute. The only person who is ever convinced by faith is the he/she who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it.


Having more believers or followers doesn’t transform faith into fact.
If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things.
Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists.

So, as it turns out, nothing is what I know and nothing seems like a great place to stay put in this best of all possible worlds. Welcome to my big wide world of nothing.

21 thoughts on “WHEN NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING

  1. acknowledging that sometimes we have no control over what happens and accepting that is to my mind the way to go. S *&t happens as a good friend once told me. Higher power, fate, whatever works to find reason and meaning in when things go awry

    Liked by 1 person

    • It takes a lot of the guilt out of life when you recognize that what is going to happen will — usually — happen, no matter how much harder you tried. That isn’t ALWAYS true. There are things I wish i’d done that MIGHT have changed the world, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t. Not then. Maybe now, but it’s 50 (more?) years later and I’m another version of me.

      I think we all have to be the best person we can be at the time. Perfect? No. Just the best we can be and whoever or whatever or even the big nothing that may or may not be judging us? They/him/her too will just have to live with that.

      I’ve had this conversation with Jesuits and ministers rabbis (a lot of rabbis, one of whom was my text editor because in Israel, merely being a rabbi doesn’t earn a living) and other seriously religious men and women through the years. This is the reality under which they ALL live. Faith is faith, but WE DON’T KNOW. We believe. We hope. We yearn. Unless we are a bit cracked, we can NOT know. Not ever. The atheist and the Pope know the same thing, which is … nothing.

      Judaism does NOT promise Heaven, though many Jews believe it it anyway. Religions cross over and take on each others’ premises. Some Jews believe in the final “day of rising” when we are (finally) called to heaven. Others believe in reincarnation — many of us, actually. And others, some version of heaven, hell, limbo .. and nothing. Many Jews believe in living a good life which is followed by nothing. Believing in God doesn’t guarantee a tomorrow with the Gods.

      Oh, yeah, I put a LOT of time into this. A huge piece of my life.

      But the Bible? The Tanach? Even the Halacha? Fir that matter … Hindu reading? Native American? There are no answers. Really none. There are hopes and beliefs, but no promises.

      They say NOTHING about who or what or if we are anything after death. Not anything at all.

      Jesus was a Jew of the Hillel school and everything he said was very much in line with what that group of Jews believed. That other things crept in there that were Hellene (and other things too)? That was the way the world was back then. It was a fascinating time to be alive and I think if I could pick a time to go back into the past, that would be where I’d go. Because so much of what and who we are now started then.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you Marilyn for sharing your words I so agree. My behavior reflects my values not bargaining chip with God I feel. The people who are shocked when “bad things happen to good people” I always feel a bit sorry for. We do our best to be good people, be kibd, be thoughtful of others, but to my mind it is no guarantee of bad fate befalling one. And the other way around too, the no goodniks that always seem to come out on top…. who knows? I have learned over the years first hand the contradictions that people live with..so pious and righteous hurt their behavior speaks otherwise. Call me a cynic….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We think very much alike in many ways! 🙂

    We part company at the part starting at epistemology on down. Unless i’m taking you way too literally there?

    From my perspective all -ology’s are simply a framework or a method of studying a given topic – they have no meaning in and of themselves (or the word itself).

    When it comes to what we actually KNOW – then, as you say, none of us really knows anything and the wisest people ‘know’ this. Knowing something relies upon a set of fundamental underlying assumptions that cannot be proven but are believed as truth or ‘facts’. Some things may be significantly more probable than others to the extent that they may be largely relied upon, but nothing we know of is 100% certain, Certainty can only be achieved to the extent that whatever logic you use to prove it and any underlying assumptions you hold as being ‘true’ in proving them are agreed by all concerned. But it still doesn’t mean it is absolutely certain for example, if previously unknown information comes to light.

    You are probably quite right about: We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means and too little time doing the stuff we enjoy…

    In fact, i’m certain of it 🙂

    love

    Liked by 1 person

    • I spend YEARS thinking about this stuff. Years. Years of college and many years after college and only as I rolled into senior-ness, I realized — just like those things they try to sell us on TV. You know, the things that core apples, chop nuts, and will whip the hell out of that batter you’re making, not to mention doubling as a fly-fishing rod? When everything does “everything,” it effectively does nothing.

      I use this as a concept when i buy appliances and other technical stuff.

      I have a rice maker. It costs me twice what a rice makers usually cost. Why? Not because it does everything but because it does ONE thing absolutely brilliantly: it makes rice. My previous machines would also cook you oatmeal, bake a cake, become a slow cooker and on and on and on. But as a rice maker? None of them were was as good as they should be.

      This one came from Japan and it does nothing but make rice incredibly well. Better than the oriental restaurants and now I buy really excellent rice, too. In case I should ever decide I need to make sushi, that is.

      My cameras take pictures. They don’t also make telephone calls, send texts, emails, play music and and and. Sure I have a smartphone. It’s my emergency when I don’t have any other way to call phone, but it isn’t a hand-held computer, either. Because as a telephone it totally sucks and as a computer, it’s TOO FREAKING SMALL. And the sound coming out of it is crap.

      Yes, this is serious, but no, it isn’t. It is me being me which is exactly as serious as you want to take it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Talking about the meaning of life always makes me think of that movie City Slickers where Billy Crystal’s character is searching for the meaning of life, and Jack Palance holds up one finger. Billy gets all excited only to find out that it is one thing, but it is unique to each person. Still makes me smile thinking about it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I seemed to have missed this one somewhere, or perhaps was busy doing meaningful housework. I am not the philosophical type, probably far too logical. I am not a believer, what I see I believe and sometimes I wish it did not see so much. However, I am a child of nature, because nature does what it does and I like it. I never even through about stuff during my growing up years, just did it. I have my opinions, and others have other opinions and I am now too old and tired to bother.

    Like

  5. This is a really cool post! Although I disagree a little with your point that phenomenology can be used to prove the existence of God on the basis that “it must be true because I felt it” – could you say a little more on that? Thanks! 😁

    Like

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