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Why seeking meaning is counter-productive

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Things often seem to be chaotic and not following any script. They seem to be random in order and not following earlier patterns or indications. But this motivates us to become driven and charged to change the circumstances instead of making friends with the uncertainty and making their plans and expectations more fluid. Fluidity is a very valuable feature for humans. If this feature is absent, they have no way of adapting t0 the ways of the world.

Humans vacillate between being focussed and driven and being random automatons. They are either full of plans and strategies 0r with none. Sometimes they flow-along too and take it one day at a time but this is rare. It comes from experience of how wasteful our drive is. Our drive is like a motorcycle against a brick wall at the speed of eighty. It leads to the dullening 0f our spirit and will just lead to exhaustion and desolation.

When we seek meaning we are saying that we are simplistic people satisfied quickly by simple stories. Meaning is a simple story. And to lap it up is to not have a questioning mind — a mind that is curious and wants to know more.

Meaning is a construct that is very appealing to those who lack internal drive. Drive is not accentuated by meaning or purpose. They are actually inversely proportional — the more internal drive you have, the less external narrative or meaning you need.

So if you want to become a more focussed and charged practitioner, you aren’t going to be aided by a pursuit of meaning-making logic, even if your pursuit actually works out. Factors that strengthen your internal drive are more likely to help.

What are these factors that strengthen your internal drive? These factors are personal in nature and have more to do with the core personhood. Being emotionally stable and not being in a state of yearning. Being content with one’s current situation in life. Being curious enough to learn something new and explore an area we are not familiar with. Learning from the lives of native Americans[1] — stay away from the things defined in society to have monetary value and resist the materialisation of the concept of ‘quality of life’. In their description of Native American societies, generosity is often articulated as the foremost virtue. There is no circulation of goodwill in a transactional society and a circulation of goodwill is very much necessary to sustain a society.

Meaning of life is more satisfyingly framed by immaterial possessions and accomplishments than material ones. Immaterial possessions are often unverifiable, unquantifiable and it is should not be possible to display them socially. The circulation of goodwill that this text talks about previously is an example of an immaterial quality that is only visible on being exchanged. Goodwill does not mean anything if it is not circulated.

But what about the expression of more socially negative tendencies? Negative sentiments can be articulated sometimes as ones not connected to the circuits of goodwill. There is a dual strategy to deal with these emotions. One — they need to be acknowledged and listened to. Two — they need to be recognised ad an environmental and situational expression of realities and not an expression of personal narrative.

Given enough time and enough acknowledgement of a non-pushy kind, soon these negative emotions get tired and shrivelled. Then a kind calm will takes over that does not seek to prove anything to anybody.

[1]: As narrated in “The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity” by David Graeber and David Wengrow

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