Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to Add Meaning to Life, Part 1

This will be the first of a series that I'll write on a sporadic basis. I've been intrigued with the idea of adding meaning to life since becoming a non-theist, since most theists*, whether they realize it or not, don't have that option.

Think about it. If a perfect God created the world and assigned objective truth to it all, then that truth in and of itself would be perfect. Nothing you or I could add would make it more perfect, and trying to do so would actually be doubting God, since we thought we could do better.

For those saying that God foreknew what meaning they would assign and assigned it Himself, this doesn't solve the problem. Try bringing flowers to your significant other and telling them they have no meaning at all from you, that it's only from God, and if they don't want to sin they shouldn't give any additional meaning to the flowers either. (You might also want to book a hotel room for the night before trying this little experiment, as you're likely to need a place to sleep)

So it's only apart from this worldview, of a perfect God and objective truth, that we can truly value things and give them meaning. Granted that meaning might only be relevant to you, or some things might develop shared meaning, where lots of us assign similar meaning and value to something, but we can still create meaning, like an artist.

Even an artist has to write a grocery list or sometimes doodles while on the phone, and in the same way most of us have built our experience creating meaning in mundane ways. We think about the look someone gave us in an elevator, or form an opinion of the driver who cut us off. We look around the house and decide it needs cleaning, or a new piece of art, or that it's cold.

We have a cup of hot chocolate, telling ourselves that it was the best cup of hot chocolate *ever* with a sigh tacked on for good measure. We smile thinking about someone we love and the time spent with them.

So we have the basic skills to create meaning down pat, and lots of experience, and yet so often we're still doodling by the phone rather than creating masterpieces. How do we change that?

I'll discuss that in Part 2, in the meantime, you might want to start by being more deliberate in how you think about things, and realize when the meaning you give something might be based on inaccurate or incomplete information. While you practice that, I'll give this some more thought, so that you'll be able to feel good about making the time to read the next post. :)

* I know there are Open Theists and some others who see God as something other than perfect, and as a result his Creation has room for improvement as well. Feel free to read along and glean what you might from this topic, perhaps you'll have some interesting insights to share as well.

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