“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” ~ Jean Paul Sartre
The ability to adapt is the ability to engineer meaning into an otherwise meaningless universe. But ‘meaning’, like all words, is a human concept. It was created through human bias in a universe without a human bias, and it has evolved through countless languages, ideologies, and worldviews up to this moment in time where our understanding of meaning is laced with ambiguity and mystery.
When it comes down to it, meaning means nothing outside the realm of human observation. Without human beings in the universe to reflect upon the concept, our idea of meaning is irrelevant. But so what? Our creation of meaning was a profoundly strategic piece of psychological technology.
We use this psychological technology to leverage our bifurcated experience. Because we are beings torn between knowing and not knowing, between animal instinct and higher reasoning, between base emotion and deep insight, between ignorance and awareness, between life and death.
Indeed, we are the only creature (that we know of) that is excruciatingly aware of its own death. It is because of this last point, above all, that we must be able to construct and inject meaning despite the meaningless universe that surrounds us.
1) Hack the mind of God (beauty):
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” ~ Rumi
The mind of God is the infinite and mysterious interconnectedness of all things. This version of God is beyond good and evil, beyond religion and politics, beyond dogma and petty one-upmanship. It is absolute interdependence. Infinity squared. It is the endless ocean of the mighty cosmos; that which no single wave can explain, but which every wave is an aspect. In this respect it cannot be “known” but it is always “felt.”
Hacking this state of mind is as easy and as difficult as letting go of our ego’s attachment to rigid identity and inflexible boundaries. It’s a deep understanding that nothing in existence is an island. And to the extent that it appears to be, it is nothing more than a useful illusion. It’s useful because we need the illusions of boundaries in order to navigate the universe and in order to create finite meaning despite the infinite meaningless that surrounds us.
Hacking the mind of God is squaring this circle. Where the circle is the infinite interconnectedness between all things (God) and the square is the magic elixir (the meaning) we bring back to the world.
2) Duel with Dualism:
“We should go and proclaim without cease and remind people at every step of what we are: that our capacity for self-delusion has no limits and that anybody who believes anything is mistaken.” ~ Czeslaw Milosz
The mind of Everything holds the heart of Nothingness; the void of Nothingness holds the core of Everything. Wrestling with duality is a sacred dance performed by a being that understands that reality only appears to be dual. Mind is neither separate from, nor greater or lesser than, matter. The same applies to yin and yang, male and female, light and dark, active and passive, motion and stillness.
All matter has wave-particle duality until observed by a conscious observer and then it collapses into a particle. So it goes with our duel with dualism: reality has a mind-body duality until the conscious observer collapses it into a meaningful construct.
How we perceive the world, and how the world is, are never the same thing, and we may never know. It’s a duel because it’s a fight to maintain a healthy space between life and entropy, survival and decay, adaptability and inflexibility. It’s a balancing act.
We create meaning out of the infinite wavefunction of reality in order to leverage our split experience of eternity and mortality, infinity and finitude. We just need to guard against taking our created meanings too seriously and simply be sincere with them, lest we become dogmatic, rigid, nihilistic, and cynical in our worldview.
3) Self-inflicted questioning:
“The self is a house on fire. Get out quickly.” ~ The Buddha
Reality is an enigma. Consciousness, the nature of gravity, dark energy, and why there is something rather than nothing, is a mystery to us all. That’s why the best term for it all is The Great Mystery. And that’s why the greatest tool for creating meaning in our arsenal in an otherwise meaningless universe, is our ability to question things, most specifically the Self.
Self-inflicted questioning is a ruthless interrogation of one’s current disposition or worldview. It’s a penetrating revelation into what’s culturally conditioned and what’s not, what’s influenced by political and religious propaganda and what’s not, and what’s able to stand on its own against an indifferent universe and what is not.
Tough cookie to crack. Difficult knot to untie. And that’s why the self-questioning must be ruthless. Curiosity must be inflicted, despite ourselves, and despite what we think we know about the world and our place in it.
It is only after such brutal questioning that we are truly free to create authentic meaning. Meaning that isn’t hand-me-down, spoon-fed, or enculturated meaning that has been passed down like an old crutch from our forefathers. Meaning that is free from conditioning, brainwashing, and propaganda –or as free as it can be. Meaning that is adaptable and self-overcoming within an ever-changing universe that demands both.
4) Invert tragedy into humor:
“A man finds himself, to his great astonishment, suddenly existing, after thousands of years of non-existence; he lives for a little while, and then, again, comes an equally long period when he must exist no more. The heart rebels against this, and feels that it cannot be true.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Life, as they say, is a joke and then we die. This doesn’t have to be a cynical approach. The most authentic kind of meaning that we can create is the humorous kind that has been dug up from the ashes of tragedy. Sure, life is pain and suffering; but it’s also full of laughter and love.
Sure, we are going to die; but we are alive now. Get busy living or get busy dying, as they say, and we can even use the prospect of dying to fuel our living. Indeed, it is actually the prospect of death, more than anything else, that makes every moment of our lives precious and meaningful.
A meaningful life means living despite the inevitability of death and meaninglessness. Sure, the universe is a giant juggernaut of meaninglessness, but we are meaning-bringing creatures filled with love, joy, and laughter, despite it. We are meaning-inflictors, par excellence, slinging our meaning through the cosmos like David slinging his sling shot at Goliath.
Meaninglessness has no bearing against a creature laden with meaning and living in the moment. It’s like a shield, laid low, daring the gods to strike upon it. Their swords of meaninglessness shatter against our shield of meaning. As Epicurus wisely articulated, “Why should I fear death? If I am, then death is not. If Death is, then I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?”