So what if all of life is absurd? Does a cat care whether he has ultimate meaning in life? Does a dog know that she will die and be no more? Of course, the answer seems to be an overwhelming “no!” So why should we humans even care?
Perhaps my reading of Sellars and Russell are influencing me here, but I have come to realize that objects have no meaning without relations. In the same vein, subjects have no meaning except as objects in relation to other subjects either.
S relates to O — OR simply, aRb where ‘a’ is a subject and ‘b’ is an object or other subject (honestly, we seem to treat all subjects besides our own Self as objects).
It’s idiotic to claim that we “make” our own meaning. That’s like digging yourself out of a hole. It’s the wrong tool and the wrong direction. Meaning is a social belief about objects and how we relate to them. To one woman, her child is the most precious object in the world. To another, her child is to her. The subjective world builds meaning based upon relations.
Take for example my son’s attachment to his blanket. At this time, just before his 3rd birthday, that blanket means the world to him. The subject is Sam and he relates to the object, his blanket, in a variety of ways. The most important relationship is how that blanket holds meaning for him. That relationship is based as much on the facts about the blanket as his personal interaction has been with it.
So what about the “meaning of human life?” Well, there is no “meaning” so get that idea out of your head. Meaning comes as much from others as from ourselves, but neither exceeds the other as far as I can tell. So as we experience relations with other subjects and objects, we maintain meaning in our life. I say maintain because meaning 1) changes and 2) fades. Anyone who has ever had a favorite dish served to him or her repeatedly knows this. This doesn’t mean that the dish never had great meaning for us, only that it lost is grandeur as it was perpetually served. Life may actually require change and new experiences in order to maintain happiness with it. But that’s another topic.
Embracing absurdity also has a positive aspect that is at the heart of Buddhist philosophy: a recognition of the impermanence of all things and the fruitlessness of trying to hold on. I’ll take this up in part 3.