Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Empty And Meaningless V

Napa Valley, California, USA

January 31, 2020

"Life is empty and meaningless." ... Jean-Paul Sartre
"Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless." ... 
This essay, Empty And Meaningless V, is the fifth in a septology inspired by the distinction Empty And Meaningless:

If you take it on ie if you stand in Werner Erhard's "Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless", what do you see? What do you get? What's it like for you? What does life, the world, and the universe look like when you take on and look at them from its extraordinary perspective?

We could compile quite an extensive library of books, tapes, and videos if we recorded even a small random group of people, sharing all the ways "Life is empty and meaningless, and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless" shows up for them / occurs for them, and speaks to them, and what it means to them (look: even though "... what it means  to them" isn't really useful in a conversation for transformation, in this  particular conversation it's good enough for jazz).

And it would be a much, much  larger collection if we recorded even an average sized erudite, educated, intelligent group found on any average sized college campus expressing their opinions, debates, arguments, "Yeah but"s, "How 'bout"s, and "What if?"s in response to Werner's assertion. They would just keep coming ... until we ran out of our allotted time (and recording media). Academics usually have a lot  to say about it. And so they should. Intellectually (for starters) it's very  provocative.

What exactly is  it about the extraordinary qualification "... and it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless" which Werner suffixes onto existentialism's "Life is empty and meaningless" that makes it so ground-breaking, so breakthrough, so transformational? What is it exactly that makes it not just "a" but arguably the  go-to distinction in any Self-respecting individual's transformational rich body of distinctions? Distinctions are constituted in language. Which one is constituted here?

Unscrutinized and misconstrued, "Life is empty and meaningless" bewails that life has no meaning. By itself, it's a breeding ground rife for ennui and purposelessness and other existential malaises. What's not front and center in this bewailment is that it's we who are meaning-making machines. And when a meaning-making machine is unable to discern meaning, it first experiences the situation as unbearably abhorrent, then it attempts to make more meaning to remediate that there's no meaning.

Now suffix the qualification "It's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless" onto "Life is empty and meaningless.". You've just done an end run  around the tyranny of there being no meaning when we crave meaning, by discovering that having no meaning is, in and of itself, meaningless. The meaning-making machine is confronted, its siege is blown, we're revealed to be both the source of whatever meaning we assume to be out there, as well of the stunning possibility of it having no meaning that there's no meaning. Life just is  this way. There's no meaning. Any meaning there is, is just meaning we added  to life. It didn't come with Life itself.

The trouble is not in there's no meaning. The trouble is in insisting there's gotta  be meaning in the face of there's really none. But it's empty and meaningless that it's empty and meaningless. So you can let it go. A new space in which who we're being as meaning-making machines, becomes enlivened. When you catch yourself being a meaning-making machine, you can (maybe for the first time) truly create. Meaning isn't inherent in life. It's we, at our own peril, who overlook that it's man-made.

A friend of mine is a counselor whose offering is "to help people find meaning in their lives, when they can't find it for themselves". I jest with him, asking "Why mess with them when they got it right the first time?". It's a tricky joke to master. Misdelivered, it only adds more meaning and significance rather than reveal there's none.

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