The meaning of Meaning

Yes, this sounds somewhat redundant. It’s like defining the word definition. When we talk about meaning, we expect something magical to happen in our brains. What does that mean?

There are so many facets to the word. First of all, it’s associated with linking items to words, sentences to processes. Yes, meaning is a linking word. It links a combination of sounds to what they represent in our physical world and their image in our minds. But that’s far from all.

Our brain works somewhat like the internet in respect to linking. The link chains are potentially as long as the distance from the earth to the moon – the length of all the neurons in our brain together. But wait. There’s more. Our brain isn’t a string. It’s more like a fuzzy plain folded into itself, so let’s say it’s a net of links as large as the Pacific Ocean. But then, this Pacific Ocean is folded unto itself, so L.A. and Tokyo are not necessarily at opposite ends. The individual folding layers are anatomically distinguishable, but axions cross those lines and suddenly Melbourne, Tokyo, Santiago de Chile, L.A. and Vancouver are having a tea party. Why am I talking about the brain’s anatomy in geographical terms when I want to be talking about something as abstract as the word Meaning? Because your brain can make sense of it. There is no Meaning without an entity to make sense of it, and our brains are the currently best known sense makers. Admittedly, some brains are better than others. So, to a cat’s brain, accounting means nothing, because it doesn’t have the ability to make sense of it. Well, in that respect my brain is not far ahead of the cat’s brain. I can add and muliply and stuff like that really good, but accounting is much more than that. Luckily, the brain also is extremely plastical. Today it’s Melbourne and Anchorage hugging, but tomorrow, if it needs be, Tokyo will squeeze in between. So, my brain could learn to make sense of accounting, given proper motivation and practice. I’m afraid kitty’s brain doesn’t have that degree of plasticity or processing power. Not until professor Farnsworth decides to give kitty a thinking machine. No, seriously, I wouldn’t wish accounting on any creature under the Sky. It’s God’s punishment for us humans, since agricultural machines took care of his primary plan to make us suffer, and narcotics took care of the backup. Oh, right, thanks for reminding me that I don’t believe in the old man with the beard in the sky anymore. He just doesn’t make sense to me, so I don’t derive the meaning of my life from his (alleged) existence. That’s what it means to be an atheist, to my mind. I think there are other people who don’t derive the meaning of their lives from God, but believe that he exists. What about those people? What meaning does God have to them? Don’t misunderstand me: this is not a judgment. But why pray to an entity that makes less sense to you than a bank account? I’m not saying that religious people should forego worldly pursuits and enjoying themselves, but if they’re raking in millions of Euros while their employees can barely sustain their families, well that just doesn’t sound like a person who derives their meaning of life from traditional religion. So, before I said religious people, and now I am emphasizing the traditional aspect in religion. Why am I doing that?

When you read religious, then most of you think of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the three big monotheistic religions. Of course, if you are a cultural anthropologist, you will immediately question this implication. Traditional religion makes this explicit. While “religion” and “traditional religion” mean the same to most people, in the cultural sciences, that is quite a distinction. So, the common meaning differs from the scientific meaning. This has little to do with individual intelligence. Of course, if you do understand that difference, you must have the mental capacity for academic achievement, but there are so many academic disciplines, and you can’t be an expert in everything. So not understanding the difference is not a reliable indicator for stupidity and/or lack of education. People who don’t realize this will still try to make you feel stupid because they know something about a specific topic which you don’t. They probably have issues with their self esteem. I know that because I was similar once.

So much about the word meaning, abd what it means. If you think i’ve left out something essential, you know how to comment.


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