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Monday, February 27, 2017

Work, Meaning, etc.

Through this article on FT, I stumbled into a rabbit hole and just barely pulled myself out before sinking a whole evening into reading more and more lateral links on this subject.

Does work have meaning? What a can of worms. If yes, what is it and why is it so obscure? If no, why work beyond the poverty level?

Of course, on the most fundamental level, the purpose --- if not meaning --- of work is survival. Survival of the self and our genes. It's simple.

But then it got more and more complicated.

Just like "happiness," the word "meaning" should send a shiver down anyone's spine. Both are so chronically abused by cliches and wishful thinking and propaganda that they have by now lost all meaning.

When economists barged into the happiness business, all hell has broken loose. The problem is that economists do not see individuals when they think about people. So intent are they in seeking universal theories about the world and, worse, people, that they would never stoop to the level of individual persons and observe their similarities and differences --- some external and some internal, some constant and some ever-changing. And yet, without taking the interperson and intraperson complexities into consideration, the search for a universal theory of meaning or solution to happiness is doomed.

Post Script: Actually, the whole point of this post is that all the talk about "meaning" --- as in the meaning of work, the meaning of life, blah blah blah --- reminds of me Harari's assertion that almost everything that binds human society together is fiction: morality, religion, human rights, and money.

Or I prefer to quote GRRM:

"Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.”
“So power is a mummer’s trick?”
“A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill.”

It applies to the modern concept of "meaning" just as well. Meaning is what one assigns to it. No more and no less. There, GRRM has solved the existential question for ya.

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