Sunday, May 06, 2007

More Meaning (of Life)

I was talking to a couple of my good friends about the Meaning of Life (one of my favorite subjects).

We realize that discussions on the meaning of life are mostly mental masturbation, since it is unlikely that any gedanken experiment will result in a sudden revelation that hasn't already been debated in the history of man and woman kind. But it does seem logical that there are some categories for the answer.

The first answer category is the one picked by so many people that if there were an American Idolizes The Meaning Of Life show where people could text their choice for the winner of Miss Meaning of Life, it would win hands down. I refer, of course, to the religious take...
The Meaning of Life is not for us to know during this lifetime
Only a deity (or deities) know the secret. Only in some afterlife with thrones, judgments, halos, houris, and other fascinating visions will the true meaning of life be revealed.

Well, we all agreed that answer didn't leave much for us poor old fallen humans to do and sucked all the fun out of the debate (and led to other thoughts too depressing for a Friday Happy Hour), so we moved on to category number two...
There is No Meaning of Life.
The Universe is void of meaning, that to ask the question is meaningless, that there is no point to living.

Well, we all agreed that answer sucked too. If there is no point, then there's certainly no point debating it, or even drawing another breath for that matter. Rather than seek out Doc Kervorkian right then, we decided to move on to category number three...
There is a Meaning of Life, and it can be discovered by humans in their lifetime.

Great! Order another round so we can discuss the next step. So what might that meaning be?

The most obvious is the tautology that...
The Meaning of Life is Life
(I've written about this hypothesis before). Life exists to create more life. Life that doesn't create more life, by definition, dies out. So the only life that continues to exist is life that creates more life.

But we found a problem with this concept. Nature red in tooth and claw almost leaves us in the same state as "there is no Meaning of Life." If the only purpose of life is to create more life, then any given individual doesn't matter as long as most are propagating. Consciousness doesn't matter, as it isn't strictly required for the propagation of the species. Creativity, morality, joy - no purpose, other than periodically effective strategies to aid procreation. Mindless fucking is all there is?

(Not that there's anything wrong with mindless fucking sometimes...but *all* of the time? Where does beer and good conversation fit into that model??)

So we came up with a new theory. Sure, procreation is a necessary component of the Meaning of Life, but there is more to it. The Meaning of Life must include the fight against entropy.

Entropy is one of those "laws" of the universe in which a closed system must tend irreversibly toward a more disordered state. If our definition of "universe" is "all of the energy that exists", then the universe must tend toward an equilibrium where energy is uniform throughout - no differences, no structure, no form - nothing.

However, this only applies to a system as a whole. Parts of a system can exhibit high degrees of local non-uniformity. A baby is a great example of this. Any life is a local *decrease* in entropy - an increase in order and complexity. Therefore, part of the Meaning of Life must include "decreasing entropy." All acts of creation are local decreases in entropy.

It's true that purely physical phenomena can create order and complexity. But this happens randomly. Only life - conscious life - can create order and complexity on purpose. Only conscious life can choose to create, to counter entropy in a non-random manner.

This, we decided, must be key to the Meaning of Life, and a reason for conscious thought as embodied in human beings. Our purpose is to Create.
Creation is the Meaning of Life
This is useful. It provides a reason for the existence of life, humans, and consciousness. This leads to the existence of morality as well. Only those who use their life, and their consciousness, to choose to create are the only ones who are fulfilling the Meaning of Life.

This Meaning of Life even leads to a reason for beer and good conversation, for they help to create such wonderful ideas such as this one. It leads to joy as well, for we were quite pleased with ourselves, and thereby motivated to go create some more great ideas.

We looked at what we had done, and it was good.

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