rule of stupid, rarasaur, meaning of life, 42

Guest Post: RuleOfStupid Explains Life

Please welcome my guest blogger– the angry, philosophical Panda himself– RuleofStupid.  Question his paradoxes, compliment his horses, visit his blog, and pass a little rawr-love his way!  http://ruleofstupid.wordpress.com

Surely the place to show-off is on a guest spot for someone else’s blog?! I can’t think of any better way of showing off than to answer the question, “what is the meaning of life?” and not fall back on Douglas Adams for a disappointing finale. I’m actually going to answer the question!

How awesome is that!

To get there we have to go through a look at language.

We use words as if they actually meant something – but in fact they don’t – although they do! Yay, paradox!

For example, if I say horse, one person may think of a majestic Shire Horse pulling a plough, another will think of a graceful Arab racing to the finish line. Which is right? Neither, I was talking about  a Trojan Horse. (More on this idea here).

The first draft Trojan Horse idea had some bugs to work out
The first draft Trojan Horse idea had some bugs to work out

This happens in part because words have two components, the easy ‘A means B’ part (Horse means X animal) which dictionaries cover, and the cultural connotations (horses=racing, gambling, fox-hunting etc.) which change whenever we actually speak the word (because every person, culture, country has a different idea about horses – and this idea is not static). (More here)

When I say house I may mean home, or I may mean I have a full bingo card. No-one can know which I mean unless they know where I am – unless they have context. Words are dependent on each other for meaning, the words which surround another word change its meaning. (More here)

Context is vital!
Context is vital!

So in this series: squat – bedsit – flat –  house : the house looks like the best deal. But what about: squat – bedsit – house – mansion – palace – castle : now the house is just average. Same word, different connotations.

An even more important truth about language is that words mean nothing outside of language. The word ‘Horse’ only indicates a type of animal because we say so. There’s nothing about the word, the sound, which automatically ties it to a real Horse. It’s only convention.

Language only means something when used with other language users. I could make up my own language, but it would be no use to me because no-one else could understand it. Worse still, since I was the only person who could check what words meant, I couldn’t be sure I was being consistent. Do I mean the same thing today as I meant yesterday? I cannot know as I have no static measure. (More here)

But the reason I’m banging on about words is because people are exactly the same.

Our life has no meaning – although it does!

creepsAs with the different types of horse – who I am will be difficult to pin down. If I say ‘writer’, do I mean poet, journalist or novelist? None – I’m a blogger!

As with dictionaries – you can find the generic idea of me – the ‘A means B’ bit by looking up encyclopaedias and biology textbooks. But my meaning cannot be found outside of my life which is my context.

This is why it is so important to be with people we want to help define us. What is my series? Am I like this: thug – politician – banker – me : – so I look good only because I’m surrounded by bad people? Or am I like this: me – poet – philosopher – author : so I look the least, but I don’t care because I’m surrounded by people who will teach me?

The only people bankers have made happy recently are traffic wardens
The only people bankers have made happy recently are traffic wardens

Once again, just like words, who we are, what we mean is dependent on the people and culture around us. Like it or not you will become defined by, your meaning inflected by, who you are with – so choose with care.

Just as words need context, so do we. While we often call for freedom, it is in fact only in the confines of a culture, or a set of rules, a social grammar, that we can find a genuine freedom. With total liberty – or the right to make up any words we want – there is only misunderstanding and mess. If we insist on being totally ourselves, we will also make ourselves totally alone. The requirement to compromise with our friend, partner, job, culture and so on. is not a loss of self, but the only possibility of a meaningful self.

Our meaning is in our surroundings!
Our meaning is in our surroundings!

Other people are the words which surround us and give us our context, our possibility of meaning. Understanding this we can see why looking after other people is automatically looking after ourselves. We should make our sentence, our phrase, the paragraph of our world as sweet to read as we can, not by being the cleverest or most beautiful word in it, but by helping make the whole phrase beautiful.

Being cruel to people is insane, because we depend on those people for the very meaning of our lives. Make them suffer and our story suffers too.

As for the meaning of life? The only way your life can have meaning is if it doesn’t have any meaning ‘built in’. That’s what’s scary and beautiful about being alive – the only meaning your life has is the one you dare to give it. So the question is not ‘why are we here’, but ‘what are we going to do about it?’ – and that’s down to you 😀

_____________________________

Now that you love RuleOfStupid as much as I do, check out his blog for philosophy, poetry, and heaping doses of humor.  If I were you, I’d start here:

35 thoughts on “Guest Post: RuleOfStupid Explains Life

  1. And to give you a little more “transitory meaning” for words, you mention “horse” (or especially “horses”), and I think about how much power a car engine puts out! But that’s the curse of being a gearhead/petrolhead. 😀
    I would word your conclusion just slightly differently – our lives are as much defined by others as they are ourselves. I think more highly of the person, who has little, giving of what they have including their time, than of the millionaire who sends out checks. His aid DOES more, but it doesn’t make him generous or a humanitarian if he only gives a small percentage of his wealth. I’d rate a person more highly by the callouses on his hands than the size of his bank account! (But then again, given my recent history, I gotta say I’m a bit biased. 😉 )

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    1. I agree John, about people being “inter-defining”. Whoever is generous – I think that as long as money is central to our lives in the way it is, we will struggle to live compassionately. Which is what makes the generosity of the ‘poor’ more meaningful, as it is often not money that’s given?
      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

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  2. “If we insist on being totally ourselves, we will also make ourselves totally alone. The requirement to compromise with our friend, partner, job, culture and so on is not a loss of self, but the only possibility of a meaningful self.” = Yes, in the pursuit of anything, from individualism to success, we oft lose sight of meaning. This is a powerful reminder to think a little deeper and live a little bigger.

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  3. Interesting read. I like it and am looking over your blog for even more great insight. I agree totally that words are just abstract sounds meaningless without our intent. I have also been trying to decide what to do about life, so any suggestions, I’ll gladly give it a go. Thank you for the guest blog. Hey, that Panda Icon looks pissed off. Have a great day .

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    1. Thanks Jonathan. There’s a self-help section on my blog (though not all entirely serious!) – but inspiration comes from strange places 😉
      Good luck directing your life! (and thanks for following btw)

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  4. Thank you Rawr for your Guest Speaker. Well written Mr. P….If we insist on being totally ourselves, we will also make ourselves totally alone. The requirement to compromise with our friend, partner, job, culture and so on. is not a loss of self, but the only possibility of a meaningful self.
    Comprise in any situation with any human being is part and parcel of our every day life. It can ‘rein’ us in when required, teach us that others do matter and not be be self absorbed. 🙂

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  5. Hurrah!!! Great post, Panda, and it looks quite lovely here, if I do say so myself! 🙂 There’s a lot of beautiful philosophies worked in here– my favorite being how we are all connected and so the suffering of one is the suffering at all– and hopefully that applies the same when turned around. The happiness of one is the happiness of all! 😀 I’ve never before heard it described with the idea that we’re a word in the midst of a larger sentence, or phrase– how eloquent!

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    1. Thank you Rara.
      You made it feel like you were honoured to have my company, I felt honoured to be invited – A wonderful host indeed 😀
      I hope you’re enjoying your break.

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  6. An obvious and logical concept. But I worry because of the number of people I know and meet who can hardly define themselves. They struggle over school, career, family and who they are in that context. Many just shrug and take a seat in front of the TV.
    The meaning of life is the pathway to personal happiness. And it seems that so many people have no clue where to start.
    Unhappy people become angry people. *see our current social issues.
    But as society fluctuates with the ‘lost’, we the ‘stable’ (horse reference intended) are required to adapt to help, hinder or flex to the masses.
    For me it feels like the ocean keeps moving and I have to continually tread water to stay on my path.

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    1. I think if we accept ourselves as part of a context, we can focus on what is around us, not what’s inside us. It’s impossible to be objective and clear when being self-analytical, but we are more able to do so if looking out and helping others. In bettering our context we better, and define, ourselves automatically?
      Culture offers paths to happiness – our culture (to me) lies, offering TV, money, work, cars etc. which is why we struggle, because we do what the script says but don’t get the happiness promised. But some true paths are on offer, though they require sometimes even larger efforts.
      I think the movement of the ocean is a pre-requisite to the possibility of having meaningful lives. If it was static, our meaning would be fixed. No-one said it was easy!!
      Thanks for the thoughtful response Grayson. 😀

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  7. Thanks for the brilliant guest post, I enjoyed it that much I had to go and take a look and ended up reading all of the tips for blogging. So funny. And I followed, not in the way you described on your tips! Believe me, I’m genuine. *now where did I put that ski mask. shit* 😉

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    1. Hehe, I saw your ‘like-prints’ across my posts – now you are equipped to rule over the blog-o-sphere!
      Glad you enjoyed them, and sorry about the shit in your ski-mask – that must have been nasty! 😈

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  8. I kind of felt like the main character in Ishmael, but instead of a gorilla teaching me the meaning of life, it was a panda. That was one bad/good/cool/hot post about language and life, Panda. Love everything about it, except for my place in the series: me-panda-rarasaur-God.

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  9. well done…especially like the reminder about being cruel to one another and ourselves as well…comes back eventually, probably in a very destructive way. ❤

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