Many people ponder on the meaning of life, so do I. Since I was young I was bothered by how closely fiction resembles the real world and at the same time how it is fundamentally different.

Though I've always loved stories as the time passed I grew to hate real life more and more. How can that be if almost anything can happen in our fascinating universe? As I came to understand later I hated life because it has plenty of sensory experiences but no plot and no meaning.

Life lacks something that makes fictional story work,the narrative drive. Stories depicted in fiction could happen in real life, but somehow they never do. Real events never follow narrative structures. People are not dragged in adventures, there are no mad geniuses trying to overtake world, nor there are big corporations secret plans , and even if some people say they have adventurous life I dont think any person ever lived through the classic campbells hero journey. Even their"meaningful adventure" is just random life events.

It's pretty hard truth to swallow especially to me who as a kid used to believe that epic movie-like story awaits me and I just need to wait for my calling, it definietely will happen when i turn 10,11,12,13,14... Of course that idea was ridiculous. What even made me believe it could happen?

Fiction creates some kind of an illusion. Illusion of the world incredibly similar to ours, with the same logic and physics but with a touch of an author. Artist who subtly sets up the events and puts them in a correct way to create meaning. Illusion of what world could be like if it had an inherent meaning. Fiction is so realistic, it bought me as a kid and buys me to this day.Almost makes you wish you lived narration dictated life with challenges enemies and morals.Our world and lives are almost like the fictional ones, just without an artist's fingerprint.

Some people say that the god or some universal intelligence designed life, like enormous and infinietly complex story with billions of characters realising one overarching plan .I wonder where they find proof for that. Life is made up of the random events that create no coherrent narrative. When you look closly you can see that the life would be like movies or books if it was designed by some intelligent being. Life lacks this " artistic magic" and therfore is a story without an author. Story that sometimes imitates true meaning,but ultimately is created by collision of random events. This lack of story like qualities in real life that would indicate some mind behind it, is to me the biggest proof that there is no higher deity who created us according to some plan. There is just no God fingerprint. People are pattern making machunes so they pretend to see meaning , but there is none. It makes me crazy sometimes. Is there an artist? An author?The story? And if it is,what this world can tell about him? What do you think?

  • At first we recognize our intelligence, those that have some that is. Soon after we sense our severe limitations and frustration sets in. We know we can observe the world with a certain degree of clarity, but no resounding moments of understanding appear. Our mind is racing so far and so fast that we can't keep up with its leaps and bounds. Have you tried Maiomonades, 'Guide for the Perplexed'? It may not contain the answers that the title suggests it might, but it's a good read.
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    Oct 15, 2020 at 4:05
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1 Answer 1


Story-telling or narrative, is pretty interesting and neglected largely, in philosophy.

I pick out what I see as a few key phrases in your post, to address (this forum asks for one question per post, I am charitably rolling them up into aspects of one question):

"Many people ponder on the meaning of life"

"I hated life because it has plenty of sensory experiences but no plot and no meaning"

"Illusion of what world could be like if it had an inherent meaning"

"Is there an artist? An author? A story?"

Camus described absurdity as experiencing the collision between our human need for externally delivered meaning, and the universe's absolute inability to provide it. When we glimpse the gap, we experience the absurd. Even in this state, we can recognise that there is local, personal meaning. Within the context of our own lives, we might choose things that benefit us, that feel relatively meaningful, compared to our previous ideas, a better heuristic, a more reliable method to examine and approach the world. But somehow, that is not enough. Someone might arrive tomorrow & explain compellingly we have always had it all wrong. So we must each be ready, cooking our own books into the most compelling feast we can make to buy-up everyone else, for fear someone else is eating better.

Kant's 'categorical imperative' arises like this, and the 'golden rule': behave in a way that everyone should behave; do unto others as you would have done to you. This is intersubjectivity, complicating your own mind by imagining yourself in the situation of others. It lets us go beyond instinct, into adjusting our individual behaviour consciously in relation to our social system. Rawl's Theory Of Justice captures this with his idea of a veil of ignorance, where our situations are all swapped around and we don't know where we will end up until the veil is lifted: we would all wish for a 'just' system that judged people 'by the content of their character', and we can understand what justice is using this thought experiment. But why does this make any sense or have any appeal at all? Why do slave-holders ever give up their privilege, voluntarily?

The Dunbar Number shows primate learning capacity correlates strongly to social group size. And learning is founded on mirror-neurons, specialised brain structures that allow us to project ourselves into the bodies of others. Intersubjectivity, is then foundational to sharing techniques, and to social amplification of intelligence; that we call learning, or zooming out further, culture.

We get very hung-up on language. But many songbirds birds have as complex verbal song structures. Humans communicate as much or more with gaze and gesture as words. This horrific record remains of an early language-deprivation experiment:

"foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which he took to have been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments." - The Twelve Calamities of Emperor Frederick II, by Salimbene di Adam, 13thC

Among the tool using dolphins, it's female dolphins that use a sponge to protect the beaks while scouring ricks for shellfish, & pass the skill along the female line. Orcas & elephants are matriarchal, where deep knowledge of waterholes & landscape resources and feeding tactics are crucial. There is an interpretation of Jason & The Argonauts that it's really a story of a trading journey, learning techniques from dying cloth with indigo (Circe) to a kind of gold-panning (King Peluas's fleece). And Australian aboriginal stories & Irish Tuatha ne Danaan & Norse stories, have been interpreted as recording 'deep history', extreme climate like comets & the bronze age-collapse in story form. Our closest relatives chimpanzees differ from the next closest the gorillas, in needing a coalition to rule the troop, no one individual is strong enough. This is especially true for females, who by excluding aggressive males from the whole community can still powerfully enforce social rules, while needing to be more mutually-supporting, and having better access to developing brains (chimpanzee learning is far more across generations then between, as they lack the noise-sophistication hominids got when two chromosomes fused, and muscle-loss made space for neural tissue, and a higher palate). Language has been suggested to be a kind of 'advanced social grooming', maintaining social cohesion & relationships, with increasing efficiency. So we might picture storytelling as arising in a context of social learning about how to resist eg tyrants, aggressors, free-riders. And social learning of technologies like cloth-dying or food processing (fire), as preserved in stories of the most socially cohesive/sophisticated in-group, exercising it's power by revealing additional layers of meaning to the stories to 'initiates' (off-setting power demands to reveal the stories). So storytelling as a way to counterbalance individual power, with collective learning and insight. Especially, deeper or more intense understanding of collective knowledge, as requiring conforming to social norms or meeting other requirements, to cross thresholds to receive deeper insights, including by insights from personal development - that us the 'hero's journey' as requiring psychological development, maturation, sophistication, to deepen insight.

Suggesting there should be one meaning to life, or one plot to it all, is like saying there should be one output of evolution. Meanings & their context, are like an ecosystem, collaboratively developing a set of tools. Like evolution, some can survive through a punctuation in the equilibrium. Are they better? Dinosaurs or trilobytes survived, until they didn't. A humble edge-case might provide a key insight for a whole new ecosystem, like the photoelectric effect leading to quantum mechanics, a system of ideas resilient in far more situations.

We highlight the mutations, the ideas, as separate from the story. But they never are. Every mutant had to survive, to leave a more resilient versatile lineage. In the world of memes meaning is like this, not individual meanings but the meme-complex, interpretation of history + predictor of the future. A competitor complex that replicates more is better; until some comet, some disruption, shows it was less resilient.

There is no inherent meaning, any more than there is an inherently better DNA sequence for the future. There is only better, and the hope conditions won't change too rapidly to adapt, and bridge a new story that can encompass them and what was learned on the way.

A story is not made successful by it's author. It is successful because it speaks to it's audience, enough to be remembered, transmitted. It is ego, hubris, to think the author really matters, any more than which cell first began multicellular life. A great change needed an instance, but also an atmosphere, a moment or zeitgeist. A great story is not just about it's author, it's about that lesson of an author that means the bullshit they survived isn't needed anymore, there is a new system of abstractions making it obsolete.

Intersubjectivity requires subjectivity. But in our stories, we try to gather up what will matter to more than just ourselves. That is what being an author is. There are no rules for meaning, for writing a great story, only rules-of-thumb, heuristics. And more often than not a great story breaks the rules, in some clever way, deepening the system in some self reference. You inherited nearly all of your intelligence; if you can pass it on a little better, a little deeper, enriched with a trace of what you learned, know that is all anyone can do. Don't fixate on the author, or even the audience, but gladden your heart when for a moment you find, a story has you gripped -

  • Three 'thoughts', first, if Spinoza is right and the power of our mind is as nearly unlimited as it is nearly impossible to discover and control, (see, last two lines in his "Ethics"), and it's unlimited capability comes from it not truly being tethered to the body to which it is united, then one's life will appear a dull show waiting for the author, (or maybe Godot). Another way to face up to this conundrum is to see the difference between, 'Have a great day! and, 'Make it a great day!' Finally this, 'Someone with ambition can 't be stopped, Someone without it can't get started'. Excelsior!
    – user37981
    Oct 15, 2020 at 3:53
  • @CharlesMSaunders: "all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets an hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury: signifying, nothing"
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 15, 2020 at 4:01
  • All that intelligence... and still no meaning?
    – user37981
    Oct 15, 2020 at 16:54

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