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

No Inherent Significance

Exertec Health and Fitness Center, Napa, California, USA

December 12, 2017

"I think, therefore I am." ... René Descartes, Principles Of Philosophy 
"He got it from Aristotle." ...     on Descartes 
"I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think." ... The Moody Blues, In The Beginning 
"They got it from Descartes." ... Laurence Platt on The Moody Blues 
"There is thinking."  ...     improving on Descartes 
"Who you mean when you say 'I' is not you. It's just something that shows up for you." ...     addressing Descartes 
This essay, No Inherent Significance, is the third in a quadrilogy on Significance:
  1. It's Only Significant If I Say So
  2. The Significance - Not What Happened
  3. No Inherent Significance
  4. Consumed By Inherited Significance
in that order.

There's arguably no other realization quite like it. There are things I intuit. There are insights I have. From time to time an enlightenment will blow me away (so to speak) ("an"  enlightenment is like "Enlightenment lite"  or "Enlightenment low-cal":  it's a piece of the big picture but it's not far-reaching enough to catalyze the onset of total transformation). There are breakthrough experiences I have which rock my world. They show up like I open the refrigerator looking for the ketchup, and find myself looking at the entire Grand Canyon in there!  There are notions I happen on which trigger ways of seeing which until then, simply weren't available to me.

And then there's one particular insight which is so pivotal ie it's so essential  that it pierces right through to the very heart of the entire human predicament. It's the realization that there's no inherent significance  to anything - emphasis on inherent. It's that there's no inherent meaning  to anything - again, emphasis on "inherent".

As a codicil to that realization, try this: it's not things  which have inherent significance (they don't: nothing does): rather it's we who are thrown to assign  significance - which is to say it's we who are thrown to assign meaning. By ourselves, we're blind to noticing that life has no significance and no meaning. More than that, we're blind to realizing that any significance and meaning life seems to have, was assigned to it by us. And even more than that, we're loathe to consider that discovering life has no inherent significance and no meaning, isn't fraught with existential angst:  rather, it's a joyful, free, powerful, creative  place to stand.

In and of itself, my thrown-ness to assign significance and meaning, is really proof of (ie it really demonstrates) my ability to create my own interpretations of life and of my circumstances. But where I miss the mark is if I then assume the significance and the meaning I assign / interpret, is the significance and meaning of life. It's not. Life has no inherent significance or meaning except for the significance and meaning I assign to it. That's pivotal. And listen: there's no inherent significance in the fact that life has no inherent significance. Making it significant that life has no inherent significance  is more arrogance.

It's a revelation that changes the whole game, leaving me free to choose (which is to say leaving me free to create) what my life is going to be about.

Consider this: at the root of the problem ie at the heart of the matter, a great deal of the significance and meaning we assign to life begins with (and then becomes inextricably tangled up in) the significance and meaning we assign to who we really are. Any unseen yet fundamental errors in our assumptions of the significance of who we really are, when unnoticed, propagate further errors we make in determining the inherent significance of things. We assume for example (to the point where it's no longer an assumption for us: it's become a fact)  that there's an "I"  in here, a "me" which thinks ... and that this "I" in here receives and processes information (ie it's the "I" in the phrase "I think  ..."). René Descartes constructed his entire thesis on the premise "I  think, therefore I  am" (he got it from Aristotle).

Had Descartes not made "I" significant (ie had he not made "I" into who he is, but rather held "I" as something that simply shows up for him), he may have observed "There is thinking"  instead ... and the derivation of modern philosophy may have taken on a different, more pragmatic, practical, less muddled outlook. My  thesis is simply this: where we human beings contemplating the significance of life got it right the first  time, was when we didn't find it. And we didn't find it because life has no inherent significance. In other words when we didn't find it, we got it:  it doesn't exist. Then we messed things up royally by insisting on searching for it anyway.

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