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What is meant by meaning

Updated on December 10, 2012

That is how I meant

What is meaning?

Wherever there is a purpose, there is a meaning. Let us try to identify what exactly is this elusive and often incomprehensible idea, that is called meaning.

Meaning is closely related to proper functioning of an object. If an object functions properly, that is if it is fortunate to serve it's purpose adequately, it achieves meaning. The "Purpose" being the very reason that an object exists at all.

Let us identify and determine the role of meaning within ourselves and within the context of nature and all things that live and thrive. Because, meaning does not even begin to exist elsewhere, until something intelligent takes cognizance of the same with the instrument of intelligence and identifies the universe as something that can be intelligently explained, even when one cannot account for it.

Let's take the example of a bald man and in contrast another man who have waves of lush hair on head.

These items - the comb, hair oil, hair shampoo, hair spray have no meaning for the bald man as he requires none of these aforesaid items as they do not serve any purpose for him.

However, all the aforesaid items serve several utilitarian function for the hairy man.

Therefore why do the hairdressing items of the comb, hair oil, hair shampoo, hair spray exist at all? And if they do, for whom do they exist and how?

What would happen to these items, if for some reason the whole population turned bald?

The answers so far are pretty simple.

The hairdressing items exist only for men with hair.

They exist as there is a demand for such things to exist.

The hairdressing items don't just happen to exist unaccountably, they exist as long they serve a purpose.

If for some reason the whole population turned bald, although the hairdressing items would be able to serve their own purpose of existence , the very absence of hair, make them redundant.

And when made redundant, these items lose meaning for the ones for whom they were once intended.

Our very ability to feel a sort of unprejudiced empathy , to feel ''sorry'' at the very possibility that these ''innocent'' items may no longer exist, for no fault of their own, in a possible future, due to lack of ''hair'' is the essential component of meaning.

Meaning is never a simple reckoning of why and how hairdressing items are not needed as they are, relatively speaking, meaningless.Meaning is never the rudimentary awareness of why and how...but it goes further to evoke a sort of emotional response, and only then meaning becomes meaning.

Proper meaningfulness of intentionality of meaning is aimed to provoke this innocent emotional response.

Given there is no petroleum left to drive motor vehicles, do cars lose their meaning as they are unable to function, or do they yet retain some kind of meaning, or do they simply become ''junk'' and as meaningful as ''junk''?

Does a brand new automobile, fully functional ...look like junk, given there is no petroleum left to run the car?

The very sort of emotional responses this proposed question evoke, is what meaning is fundamentally made up of.

Meaning can be a personal meaning too. The abovementioned car, being an owned vehicle, makes the orientation of meaning ever more personalized, it takes the owner of the car , his emotional attachment to his brand new car into account. As such the scope of meaningfulness broadens and flourishes.Thus there are 2 components of meaning. One, the meaning of an item per se, as long as it is able to function and serve it's purpose, the other...the personal and subjective expression it achieves through historical association, with it's owner/user.

Therefore meaning do not exist in pure rational explanation but mostly meaning flourishes in the emotional realm of invisible connections of living and non living objects., the strength and durability of such invisible connections weaves the network of meaning.

However there is a situation here. The bald men, for all valid reasons, would never feel any profit or loss from the existence or non-existence of hairdressing items, from the purpose meaningfulness and utility of hairdressing items. Thus they would never have any emotions to express at the existence or non-existence of such objects.

The foothold of meaning is thus weakened.Meaning is weakend for the bald man as well as the comb. Neither needs the other. Meaning is unable to make and hold any connections between these two.

Now this lack of context between things, where the very scope of subjective connection or emotional connection is lost, is not meaning but incomprehension or idiocy.

Such a state is meaningful as long as idiocy is meanigful for those who suffer and recommend idiocy.

Given a bald man, who have never seen a comb, he would never understand it's purpose and thius would suffer incomprehension. ( that he might use the comb for another purpose other than it's intended purpose again fetches meaning into the event).

Thus it can also be understood that this emotional and subjective orientation of meaning is not ubiquitous and all pervasive.

I am of the opinion that we live in a world which weakens this very foothold of meaning. We live in a world which lacks meaning, possibly because we never linger and persevere on the immanent meaning of things or our connectedness to the thing long enough...that is, we never seem to incubate the egg of meaning long enough to let it hatch.

We are at the mercy of an invasion of idiocy as we continuously jettison meaning by never attending to it properly. We hardly seem to pay proper and enough attention to anything, including ourselves. And when proper attention is not paid, nothing is understood and digested.

Thus we do not serve our proper purpose by not letting things serve their purpose properly. We never achieve dignity as we do not let the objects we use and keep achieve dignity.

We go for exchanges, upgrades, reselling too often....Instead of repairing..

If our own bodies sudenly become unable to repair itself, immunize itself from diseases...what would happen to our bodies? and ultimately ourselves? We would become corpses in no time!!

Meaning is suffering massive erosion. And there is no merit to turning bald and blinking incomprehensibly at combs, shampoos and hair oil.


Suppose I am able to hear properly. My auditory powers are functioning properly. I am able to hear. Suddenly, there is a temporary suspension of my auditory faculties. I am not able to hear anything for 5 minutes, even though the usual sounds and auditory vibrations continue to occur as usual. After 5 minutes I regain my powers, as suddenly as I lost them. I am able to hear again.

With respect to myself, as an entity endowed with auditory faculties, those 5 minutes of temporary suspension of the same an be simply understood as one of ''meaninglessness'', considering I am wilfully avoiding to describe the experience as one of ''panic'' or ''dread''.

A deafness which is meaningless, given that ordinarily I am aware of the ability of my own powers to hear and aware that everyone have the power to hear.

For five minutes the outside world suspended it's aural communication with myself and I was left without aural meaning of the world.

Furthermore,when I regained my auditory powers I chose to create some music by playing a musical instrument and listened intently to the strains of the tune I started to play.

By choosing to play some music on my own I chose to work, that is, invest my energies towards construction of something intelligible and rational. By choosing to listen to the tunes I played, I comprehended the whole idea - the ideological expression of music which was liable to expression as sound waves as well as written notations, but music did not simply remain music on paper as musicl notations. The cause of music went further as I chose to play the music, that is, as I chose to ''work''. Finally the consummation of the whole event culminated in my own ability to listen to the music and cause aural participation.

Yet those 5 minutes with temporary suspension of my auditory powers, meant that had I been playing the same music while I was deaf, it would certainly have meant something that I would not be able to comprehend properly.

Maybe someone else who chose to listen to what I did, that is play music,would...but not myself.

Thus I deduce, that meaning of things, events is not merely the event of how and when they occur, through ourselves, to ourselves and by ourselves.

Meaning is basically how something is understood or comprehended.

Meaning also encompasses, pleasure, relatedness and steadfastedness to one's own particpation with events.

Because a particular event is more pleasurable than another, because a particular event helps to relate more, helps to engage more, because a particular event has achieved rootedness for it's participant - we say that is definitely more meaningful than another event without the same attributes or without the same intensity or degree of the same attibutes.

Say, reading a book or writing the same book for another reader.

Say, believing in God, praying to God, and keeping faith and behaving charitably.

A simply mathematical problem, when performed manually, pleases the one who successfully solves the problem with the amount of effort that went into it's operation. Even when the answer is not found, it dissappoints the one who made the effort with equal vehemence.

This emotional aspect of being rather pleased at the outcome or rather displeased at the failure is the essence of meaning.

But when one performs the same operation with a electronic calculator within the fraction of a second, one can say that it meant very little, as one still has ample time in hand and no real effort to make and one can perform thousands of similar operation in the same time that it takes to perform one such sum, manually.

But that is exactly where we are at. We live in a world of technology where technology replaces real effort and denies real pleasure or real pain and denies the reality of true emotional entanglement with our world.

But more on it some other day.


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