Do you listen to Richard Herring‘s Leicester Square Theatre Podcasts?
I was listening to the John Lloyd one the other day and a few things struck me …
By the way, this post has nothing to do with scriptwriting. Sorry.
A few things struck me.
1) John Lloyd is really, really clever as well as really, really funny and really, really talented.
2) The bastard.
3) I wish I’d known Douglas Adams.
Nothing particularly Earth-shattering there. Sorry. Again.
During the podcast, the conversation meandered on to the subject of the meaning of life, with comedic results. I too have an opinion and despite no one either asking or caring, I thought I’d share it.
Basically, I’m with Deep Thought on this one – I don’t understand the question.
“What is the meaning of life?”
What does that actually mean?
Why do people think life has a meaning? Why should life have a meaning? What meaning could life possibly have? I don’t even really understand what the answer could be, let alone is. Tuesday? Eat your greens? Cheats never prosper?
If you phrase it as “Why are we here?” then the answer becomes obvious – because your (biological) parents fucked. Successfully.
Or a nice lab-tech somewhere squirted the right bits into a petri dish at the right time.
Which may well have been a Tuesday.
At this point people usually get upset with me and start shouting.
But why do people think there should be a meaning to life?
The answer always seems to be “well, there must be. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
So … life must have a meaning because otherwise it wouldn’t have a meaning?
What evidence is there that there’s meaning to (what appears to be) a random muddle of contradictory and frequently inexplicable events?
What plan or destiny or point could possibly encompass billions of stars, thousands of galaxies or even the billions of souls on just this planet who have been, are or will be alive?
To produce enough people to fill all the continents from edge to edge? To achieve a goodness rating of 12.7? To place a dried plum on the top of Mount Ararat on the second Friday of 2047?
Presumably if you believe there’s a plan or a point or a meaning then you believe there’s a time when that will be achieved and we can all just stop living?
Does that make sense?
Or am I confusing meaning with goal?
What does meaning mean in this context? End result? Purpose? Description?
Someone once told me we were all endlessly reincarnated so we can experience every aspect of life before … doing something else. Somewhere happy. Or happier.
So life is just some kind of pastime for the eternally bored?
Also … how can you possibly know that without just making it up? That’s not a theory you can test, it’s just something you randomly decided to believe in.
You don’t know, you’re just guessing.
It’s true that we, as a species, have no real idea how the universe began or how life began or even how it continues to exist. Not really.
Some people may tell you this God or that God kicked the whole thing off – but that, to me, is as silly as the Big Bang theory.*
Not the TV show, the actual theory.
It seems to me that all of the Gods I’ve heard of so far (and I’ll happily admit I’ve only researched a tiny fraction of them) were just invented to explain things which people didn’t understand. “Why is the sky blue?” Because it’s God’s favourite colour. “Why does the rain fall?” Because the Rain God scraped his knee and is a bit weepy about the whole thing. “Why do my knees bend one way and not the other?” Seriously, if you don’t shut the fuck up and eat your Frosties I’m going to make damn sure your knees bend every fucking which way imaginable.
The God thing is another area where people spend quite a lot of time trying to rationalise and make sense of something which appears to have been completely made up.
Do I know for certain there are no Gods?
No, of course not. In the same way I don’t know for certain there’s not a tattoo in the middle of my back which is invisible when looked at by strangers, cameras or in a mirror.
It might be there … but where did the idea it might come from in the first place?
I just plucked that reference out of thin air. Should we now spend the rest of our time on the planet arguing about whether or not I’m right?
No, of course not. I just made it up, it’s up to me to prove it exists. You can just go about your business until I succeed.
I feel the same about Gods and the meaning of life. The problems which first led to the God hypothesis appear to be either easily explicable or currently unexplained. It’s fine to not know things. It’s fine to try and find out. It seems odd to me to just make up stuff to explain it without bothering to find any evidence to back it up.
So the meaning of life – is there one?
Probably not. Why should there be? Is there any actual reason to go around assuming there must be one other than you wish there were one?
Is there a meaning of tables? Or a meaning of telephones? These things have a function and a use … but a meaning?
Does life have to have a meaning? Other than the one you choose to ascribe to your own? Is it possible you’re just feeling a bit down and lonely and want to feel special, needed and loved?
Would it help to look to your friends and relatives for that and just get on with doing something you enjoy?
Searching for the origin of all things, the moment of creation, seems useful and interesting … but assuming there then must have been a point to it all seems a bit … well … presumptuous.
It seems likely there was a beginning, but there may not have been. It does seem likely, to me; but that there was a point or a meaning? Or even an intention? I just don’t see why there should be one. Or needs to be one. Or even could be one.
Where did the idea come from that there is A MEANING to discover? Why does anyone think there should be one? Once that’s answered, maybe the meaning will become clear?
If there is one.
Or maybe I should just spend John Lloyd’s prescribed three years of hard study to find it out for myself?
*Measuring something for a tiny fraction of time (a few decades) and then extrapolating for billions of years is just silly. If you measured the size of someone’s heart for a fraction of a second, you may well come to the conclusion it was expanding. Assuming it has always been expanding and all the matter in the heart began in one massless, timeless place seems to be a step too far.
Or at least, it does to me.
It’s all very well espousing the theory and finding the maths to back it up … but does it make sense? Is assuming something always behaved the same as it’s behaving now sensible?
Another question asked on the RHLSTP podcast was “why don’t we remember being two?” I think that’s because memories are actually stories, not records of real events. We don’t remember the actual thing, we just remember the stories we tell ourselves about those things. As babies, we have no language to tell ourselves stories – so we don’t remember what happened.
Mind you, that theory makes no sense if you think about it too much and there’s a strong possibility I just made it up.