What is the meaning of all of this? 42! Nope.
Let me try again. Forty-two. Not even when I try to formulate the number in a humorous style of our former president does it seem to be the answer to the question. Yet, in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, this is supposed to be the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. Unfortunately for the reader there is no inclination to what this ultimate question might be. Fortunately, it does not seem to fit here either, for then it would have been a very brief post with a very global and general answer to the question of meaning. And meaning is complex, fluctuating and nuanced.
Meaning has a variety of definitions (which is probably apt for the experience). Meaning can be defined as:
- what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action;
- implied or explicit significance;
- important or worthwhile quality; purpose;
- intended to communicate something that is not directly expressed.
Meaning also has a multitude of synonyms. Thus far it seems like meaning in itself is rather meaningless and that it takes on the meaning of what it is that we intend for it to have. That anything can have meaning or be without meaning. If we choose for it to be the one or the other and it can also be both.
Then what is all of this? Does it feel like the reading of this specific post has been fairly meaningless? Yes, no, maybe? You can decide. All of this refers to whatever it is you want to fill in, but seeing as I am writing this in the context of quarantine and the Covid19 pandemic, “all of this” refers to your experience of the current times. An uncertain time. Not a time of war, but potentially a time of conflict. This conflict can be experienced internally or externally. Most definitely as an anxiety (…an existential anxiety?).
Are these similar experiences to what motivated Viktor E. Frankl to write “Man’s Search for Meaning“?
Meaning, or more frequently in the guise of purpose, is a topic often brought up in therapy. In part it is what motivated me to write this blog post. The therapeutic space and process allows for the creation of meaning. To bring meaning, to make sense of events and/or experiences. To unpack and understand the significance or insignificance of something. Creating meaning is a process of stimulating dialogue. This creation of meaning does not imply that it is set in stone either.
There is a beautiful moment in the film “Inside Out” (2015) where a memory that previously evoked joy and happiness brings up feelings of sadness and anger. This is an example of how the same situation, event, experience, memory etc. can have multiple meanings. And maybe I am doing this process an injustice by limiting it to meaning for it brings with it so much more than just meaning. We can connect to it differently. Whether that is on an intellectual, insightful or emotional level it creates shifts. Shifts bring change. Can it then be said that the creation of meaning has the potential to bring change? And change, or the need to change, is what motivates most of us to engage in therapy, isn’t it?
The deeper meaning of Liff.
Does 42 answer the question to what is the meaning of life? I don’t know what the meaning of life is. But I can give a brief conclusion and definition to the meaning of “Liff”. Liff is a common object or experience for which no word yet exists. If you experience difficulty in finding words to create meaning of “all of this” , I invite you to a therapeutic space where we can create meaning together to potentially facilitate change.