Empty And Meaningless, And Meaning-Making Machines
in that order.
I am indebted to Paul "Bookworm" Stone who inspired this conversation.
Punctuation has the power to shift worlds. We all know punctuation is
mostly imperceptible. It's the minutiae-in-the-background shaping the
emphasis and the inflection of everything we read. But to call it
world-shifting? Punctuation? Really? Isn't that an overly
grandiose, bold, brash statement Laurence?
what is is what is not is not is that it it is
Mouseover text to punctuate (works best with Chrome).
the title of this essay:
Empty And Meaningless, And Meaning-Making Machines.
He was peering over my shoulder at my laptop screen as I typed. At
first it was awkward / borderline inappropriate, but I allowed him.
"Shouldn't it be ' Empty Empty,
And Meaningless, And Meaning-Making Machines'?" he finally spoke,
adding that lowly
"No" I said gently, turning to
him, "it's not that. That would be something entirely different.". He
said nothing, pursing his lips. I asked him "What do you do?". "I help
my clients find meaning in their lives" he said ("A-Ha!" I
thought, "Houston! We have connection!").
me" I said jovially, "Tell me why you do it. What called you to that
take on it, is this: if they haven't found meaning in their lives, then
they've already realized one of the great profundities there is to
realize: that life itself is really meaningless. Why denigrate
that for them?".
If there's one thing I've learned from the myriads of my mistakes and
the mass of my mis-steps in my
conversations for transformation
with people, it's that people will listen "jovial" more openly and more
generously than they'll listen "confronting" and / or "challenging".
The look that crossed his face told me he'd suddenly realized he hadn't
merely perchance intruded into the
space of just another
typing on a laptop. Something beckoning to him was just out of his
reach. He'd quickly realized I wasn't what
"a guy in a diner"
about meaning (in this case, a guy in a coffee shop about meaning).
"Before we continue, let's get back to that actually-not-missing comma:
there aren't three distinctions: there are only two" I said. "It's not
empty ... and ... meaningless ... and ...
meaning-making machines (three). It's only 'empty and
meaningless' (the one) ... and ... meaning-making machines
He looked puzzled. "Life is empty and meaningless" I continued. "That's
what your clients have already
But they don't get it yet. So they try to find meaning.".
"Yes, and that's where I come in. I work with them to help them find
meaning" he said. "But look: there ... is ...
no ... meaning" I pressed gently, jovially,
"... and they already suspect that. And there are very few things more
profound to get than there is no meaning ie that life is empty and
meaningless. Life is empty and meaningless. And they can't find
meaning? They've realized there's no meaning? Bingo! They
see it. How profound is that!".
His eyes widened to nearly the size of saucers. "The
is" I continued "people are meaning-making machines. But wait!"
(he'd opened his mouth to interrupt me), "We're not just meaning-making
machines. We're meaning-making machines
in the face
life is empty and meaningless. So there ... is ... no ... meaning ...
yet we're compelled to make meaning. That's our predicament.
Transformation (and if not transformation, then at least
starts with the willingness to be
the source of the space
/ the context in which both can co-exist ie to have it be
rather than a predicament.".
Life is empty and meaningless. Any meaning there is, is meaning we
make. We're spring-loaded to make meaning when there's none. That's
not bad, good, worse, or better. It's that we don't hang out there
much. We're thrown to make meaning. Being with "Life is empty and
meaningless" is an