EVERYTHING. NOTHING. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? – Marilyn Armstrong

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. These days, it’s not quite as funny as it used to be but to be fair, nothing is as funny as it used to be. The world is a lot more bizarre without being truly funny. As a result, we laugh as much as we can, but it’s not nearly enough.

Who knows when they will take that away, too?

Personally, I think we spend far much time trying to figure out what life means while spending too little time doing things we enjoy. I suppose it’s normal to wonder if the reason you’re sick, broke, or miserable is because of something you did, should have done, meant to do but forgot. I suppose it’s normal for we sort-of-normal people, but completely out-of-the-box for a lot of folks who are (apparently) running the world.

As far as I can figure it, they are the way they are because (a) they know they are going to hell, but a deal is a deal, or (b) they’ve never wasted a brain cell on thought.

Regardless, brooding about eternity is a huge waste of time and energy. More so, because I’m going to explain it all — right here. You will never have to wonder again.

Meaning of life


RANDOMNESS

Learning to accept the randomness of stuff that happens is tough. We want life to make sense. We want organization and order. We want our messes and disasters to be important, meaningful. We need to learn from them because someone told us that God gives us hard times so we will grow and learn from it.

Are we learning? Is the world teaching everybody something?

I’ve put a good bit of thought into why my life has fallen apart so many times over the years. I know I’m imperfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the greater scheme of things. Even in my darkest moments, I doubt I’m bad enough for The Big Guy to have it in for me.

Then I had an 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. But not knowing might make me smarter than most people because 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?


IT’S ALL ABOUT THE 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 laughter which isn’t usually the outcome you were looking for.


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 believe it, so it must be true.” Or, conversely, “I don’t believe it, so it can’t be true.”

Fortunately, I don’t believe it. Any of it.


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. For that matter, we could believe Star Trek is real and any day now, the ship will beam us up.

HOWEVER – This doesn’t mean that there aren’t an awful lot of people roaming the earth who believe the damnedest things. Flat Earthers. Republicans. People who believe Fox News is the only real news. Unlike me, they know something. Ask them. They will be delighted to tell you.

Me? I know nothing and these days, it seems like the perfect thing in which to believe. It is my mental sweet spot in this best of all possible worlds.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

14 thoughts on “EVERYTHING. NOTHING. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. I think everyone should believe what they want as long as it causes no harm to others and doesn’t involve sending people to war. Sadly, these days, these are surprisingly common issues. A lot of personal beliefs really DO cause harm to others and someone is always trying to start yet one more war, like we don’t have enough of them already.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You said it. “All I know is that I don’t know.” Me too. That’s why I try to remember to insert “in my opinion” or “as I see things” in my posts that deal with stuff that needs verification or proof or faith. I don’t know if I agree with the meme that you used about faith, but again, what do I know? There’s a great movie “What the $#!@ do I know?” which deals with your subject matter today. It promotes the premise that if we believe strongly enough, ANYTHING is possible. Something about brain synapses and how we make connections in our brains. It’s weird science perhaps. I’m reblogging your post because I find it fascinating and I’m betting a lot of other people will too. Dust more of these off, if you’ve got them tucked away. They are worth a read and a re-read IMHO.

    Like

    1. This is a favorite post of mine, though I wind up rewriting it — at least a bit — each time. But that’s because the world keeps changing and I keep changing with it. Personally, I think change is normal and refusing to change is weird. You may WANT everything to stay the same, but it won’t.

      I’m pretty sure I knew a lot more when I was a lot younger. The older I get, the less I know. All the things I was sure could not happen are happening or have happened or are about to happen. And my wishes notwithstanding, I don’t see things ever going back to whatever it was I thought was “normal.” A little bit closer to normal would be nice, though 😀

      Like

  2. All very true. What seems like a hundred years ago (and it nearly is), I came to the conclusion that I knew nothing and everything would come as a surprise. Life is an adventure,and we deal with it with what we have on hand. In the last year, I’ve studied animal communication and have arrived at the conclusion that they know a lot more than I ever will.

    Like

    1. Funny how we all discover that we really don’t know any of the things we were sure we knew. Youth is very “knowing.” The older I get, the less sure i am of just about anything.

      Our dogs DEFINITELY talk to each other. Without words. If they are barking, I think that’s doggy yelling.

      Like

    1. Well, as humor, I agree. But I’ve learned a lot by listening to other people. I am still learning. I’m always open to other ideas. Not all of them turn out perfectly, but most of the time when someone I know recommends something or throws me an idea? It turns out to be a good one.

      Like

  3. It’s only my opinion, but i think you are on exactly the right theme here!

    I can define the real problem in a very simple sentence:

    “Human curiosity exceeds our capacity to comprehend fully!”

    We are finite beings living in an infinte universe (as far as we can presently tell) and while potentially quite big our imaginations and understanding will forever be too small to know anything completely, so we compromise and try to make approximations that can fit inside of our brains which produces fundamental errors in our conclusions.

    In the end the only thing we have to fall back on are a few basic beliefs, unprovable ideas, upon which to build what we think we ‘know’ and can prove to our own satisfactions.

    Yep – i’ve wasted waaaaayy too much time on the subject. :-)… and will probably waste a lot more yet. 😉

    Like

Talk to me!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.