The problem with language lies in association. I mean, association is the essence of language–we associate a pattern of sound with something tangible or something abstract. We generally see language as symbolic, which it can be, but symbolism doesn’t really capture the full extent of what language does.
Language is something that has written itself into the way our body is wired. If someone shouts “STOP” at you while you’re running, you won’t think about what they said and then weigh the pros and cons of whether you should stop or not. Instead, your ear drum passes along the auditory information from the environment to your brain, where it’s processed by a few different areas, mainly in areas localized around Wernicke’s Area along the cerebral cortex, up in yo’ occipotal lobe (neuroscientists and psychologists feel free to correct me). Your amygdala jumps in at some point, recognizes this specific signal (sound waves turned into a series of releases and uptakes of ions in your brain) and lets parts know that they need to chill out. [And this is only a rough, quick summary. Remember, you didn't mediate any of this].
But yet, language is the key to higher level thinking. I think, therefore I am. Unfortunately, language has gotten us into a recent bout of trouble that involves quite a bit of self-privilege.
When we see almost any form of life, we see a will to live. An ant certainly is not carrying out cognitive processes on a scale even close to ours, yet not only does it not think about the meaning of life, or whether it should live, it still does everything in it’s power to stay alive and to promote the continuation of its colony. After a dog has her pups, she brings them anywhere, and offers up her milk at almost any whine from one of her pups. We do not demand she offer up an explanation for why she feels the need to provide sustenance to her offspring, she simply does.
But, when a person looks at their life, looks at their neighbor, and looks at human culture, they demand to know: what is the meaning of life? Who or What is God? Why are we here?
This is almost self-referential thinking. We think that because we think, and the animals don’t, we must be inherently different in such a way that our existence has a meaning. It’s not surprising, every thought and every word we trade in cultural exchange has currency and meaning behind it. It flows rather easily to say that I am worth something and that something has intrinsic meaning to the universe. How selfish!
The most surprising phenomenon is when you let someone in on the “secret”. They’re astonished to think there are people who go about their life without any pretense, without any meaning. I came to college wanting to understand how life works, and I’ve gotten far more than I bargained for. There is no meaning to life, and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Such a revelation should help humanity as a whole. I imagine most wars would stop. People would probably give more the poor. We’d be more focused on education.
I promise, we would not lose our sense of morality. Animals have no bible, they have no moral standard, and yet they do not murder and rape their neighbor (okay, well, some do). Even if some do, we understand that we’re “happier” when it doesn’t happen. So maybe there is a meaning to life, and what it is is that we evolved certain characteristics that allow us to flourish, to love, and to grow.
So stop being so obstinate about having meaning for yourself. You are a blip in the life of this universe, and it doesn’t care about you. Skip church and read Camus instead. Forget lent and eat out at B-Dubs every Friday. Drop the poster’s and let the families mourn in peace. Drop your sense of self-worth and let the gays marry, abolish the absurd immigration process, and cook casserole for your neighbor. Forget the worship and dance to Mika instead.
A wager of a new kind my friends.