Meaning isn’t anything like Santa. For though we all outgrow our belief in the man with reindeer few ever realize that the message of meaning is at best wishful thinking. I won’t call it a lie, as the myths have persisted so long and through so many generations as to take on the atmosphere of bedrock truth. Meaning implies purpose, reason and an answer to the question of why we are here. Every answer humans have yet devised is a guess, hunch or suspicion at worst while the best among us are periodically able to muster something approaching a theory. None are fully credible or able to pass muster with anything more than a percentage of the human population. Those who do believe often readily give up the function of reason as an offering and sacrifice for the sense of peace and security so desperately received. This human tradition wears like blinders passed from parent to child and acts as a prescription against critical thinking. That we continue to suffer this crippling bias on our children, in an age of free and ready inquiry, is a mystery and challenge I wish to address and offer suggestion toward remedy.
Lost and empty are the natural human condition. Lost as our bodies are destined for decay and empty as there is nothing but husk left over after the electricity of life has drained. Adults, adolescents and some children even are frequently stricken upon perceiving these facts, as they have been trained since they could crawl that a worthy life has direction and meaning. Understandably such individuals sometimes claw for purpose with desperation and a willingness to suspend reason, moving through life from one false sanctuary to another while exposing their vulnerable parts to charlatans they so eagerly wish to trust.
The old ways made sense in the time before reasoned inquiry began to unlock the real secrets of nature. Early human society required structure, order, rules and a common purpose to align the goals and energies of the group. Myth, superstition and religion gave the leaders who controlled the stories credibility. A sense of purpose calmed and motivated the masses. At that time those who devised such stories likely believed their own tales as no methods then existed to demonstrate otherwise. Humanity’s earliest social institutions then were seated on the myth that human life must have purpose.
The explorers have all returned empty handed. The methodology of scientific inquiry is a tool like no other. Armed with critical thinking our species has opened and peered into so many mechanisms of nature, allowing us to better understand, control and harness the energy of natural phenomena. Ever eager for real evidence of human purpose the students of science have sought validation amidst the cogs of nature. Finding nothing conclusive some abandon their better thinking and make claim that the wonder of nature is proof enough that the universe and our lives follow the course of a great Plan. Old ways die hard…
Children can handle the truth and are in fact better prepared than most adults to accept and live amidst the austere landscape of a universe devoid of evident meaning. Lies which are believed may quell (for a while) the frightened mind, while truth which is accepted forms a powerful and long-lasting foundation upon which great edifices of reality may be constructed. Such individuals gain formidable power when further trained to regard their own error as less a fault of character or failing of intellect but instead as an expected and quite natural consequence of the imperfect march towards truth. Witness the critical thinker: a human less quelled by comforting stories and more empowered by an encouraged curiosity, sound methodology of thought and acceptance of their own periodic fallibility.
It’s time for a new mythos and nature provides the perfect theme and setting for the next generation of storytellers. There are three fundamental truths which all children should be taught: Energy, Law and Change. Energy is the stuff of the universe (matter being frozen energy) while Law provide governance and Change (time) puts the whole affair into action. These three fundamentals are beautifully and amply demonstrated in the phenomena of the Cycle. Cyclic activity is everywhere in nature demonstrating the three fundamental truths in myriad and fascinating ways. The old fables of purpose must be put aside and replaced by wondrous and well told, stories, anecdotes and legend derived from the cycles and patterns of the natural world. Adventuresome heroes questing for truth and finding fulfillment and joy in the process of discovery and understanding, without undue concern or regard for any larger meaning or grand objective in life. A generation or two into such a paradigm and humanity will become more at ease with the stark reality of being while simultaneously better enjoying life and finding fulfillment though the pursuit of factual understanding.