Meaning and the Stuff We Made Up
A few weeks back a good friend asked me to provide a couple of lines about the meaning of life.
As I was attempting to answer the question, I started thinking about what life is and what meaning is.
Looking into a lot of the stuff we place so much importance on today, I realized that all of these things (and more) are made up. We take such things for granted; we’re willing to defend them as absolute truths.
But we forget that this stuff was simply made up by our ancestors. We continue to use it and build on it by choice.
Why remind ourselves of what we made up?
So why am I sharing this with you today? Does it matter if we made up something or not?
I feel when we remind ourselves of how things evolved and why we follow them, we can:
- Choose differently: Creating something was by choice, so we can choose to create something else.
- Stop biased abuse: We can stop using what we made up as a tool to judge, discriminate, and persecute others. It’s all made up.
- Take things lightly: We don’t have to take such things so seriously that we’re willing to fight to the death for them.
- Be more flexible: What we made up is not gospel. As we take things more lightly, we can welcome change with an open mind and a light heart.
- Unmake what doesn’t work: Just like we made stuff up, we can unmake it and create a new thing or eliminate it all together.
- Broaden our perspective: And look for other possible meanings and other points of view that differ from what we’re used to.
- Embrace not knowing: We don’t know a whole lot about meaning, and we just make it as we go along. So we’re likely to make mistakes and change our minds. And that is okay. It’s better than sticking to what doesn’t work.
Things that we made up
Here is my list of significant things that we’ve made up so far. Look for other stuff you can add to the list.
Names and lineage: We made up family names, names, titles, and all sorts of identification forms. The first Homo sapiens did not have names, or titles.
Language: Every language out there was made up by a group of people to facilitate communication. Then we created rules and grammar. And we started having experts.
Countries, borders, flags, nationalism, and patriotism: None of the countries we know of today existed a few hundred years back the way they’re drawn on maps and defined by borders today. Their existence represents no more than a flash in time compared to the age of our planet of 4.5 billion years.
Ethnicities and race: Black, white, or any other color doesn’t mean different. We all have the same organs, blood types, same needs, and same ways of satisfying those needs. We all get sick, feel scared, and go to the bathroom.
Religious beliefs: Religion is accused of causing a lot of bloodshed in our world. But if we look deeper at the issue, it’s not the sacred texts that perpetuated the violence. It’s the meaning and beliefs (mind constructs) created around these texts.
Look at every religion out there and you will see different interpretations of the same words. The interpretations (meanings) and what follows are made up.
Most religious texts contain enduring wisdom that promotes love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. The focus on the antiquated violent parts is a biased choice by humans—which can be unchosen.
Possessions: We are born without anything and we die without taking anything with us. At one point, no one owned a piece of land or an animal or a house or anything else.
Every thing that comes after “my” is made up. We collectively made it up.
Education: We created what knowledge is required, and how to pass it on. Some people made up the books and the curriculum. We continue to use the same basis and change it a bit every now and then.
Economy and wealth: Every financial theory and every method of exchanging value is made up. Money is made up. Assigning value to any object is made up. Socialism, capitalism, communism, or whatever “ism” is made up.
Customs and traditions: All rituals of any type are made up—weddings, funerals, marriage, what we wear, how we should act, what’s feminine, what’s masculine, how adults should behave, how kids should behave, what’s appropriate to say and do.
All are made up, followed by consensus, and vary by locality.
Government and leadership: Every form of governing and every political party is made up. Some people define themselves by their political affiliation and vehemently oppose any other view.
Laws and statutes are made up as well.
Reality: What we perceive as reality may not be the only one. We all interpret events the way we think we experience them. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only reality.
Physicists and cosmologists are still searching for answers. As far as I can tell, nothing about our reality can be taken as an absolute.
Knowing that we made stuff up doesn’t mean we have to stop creating or using what we inherited from our ancestors. Such knowing serves as a reminder not to get too caught up in what we’ve created.
Look at any extreme views and they can only be attributed to taking things way too seriously.
We can use what’s made up to improve our lives and help each other out. And we can stop using such made up stuff as weapons of separation, exploitation, and subjugation.
We are not the countries we live in, or the economies we support, or the degrees, or the names, education, or anything else attributed to our identity.
If we drop our attachment to the made up stuff, we won’t have much to fight over. And maybe then we’ll realize that we’re part of an expansive consciousness that cannot be bound by words or meaning. And that remains the mystery of all mysteries.