Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on February 6, 2014

"What is the meaning of life?" a question familiar to all of us. What does life mean? As Bill Clinton might say, that depends on the meaning of "meaning," but please don't take this discussion simply as an exercise in linguistics. According to the dictionary, "meaning" is seldom anything in itself, but instead intends, conveys, indicates, shows, etc. In other words, meaning always points beyond itself. That’s the whole idea. "Meaning" is a simple reference, a label or pointer that points beyond itself, but to where? And this is where it gets interesting.

Words (and for that matter all language) are just labels or pointers, simple references – referrals. They refer us to what they mean. They point beyond themselves. And all our words (every one of them) depend on the sense they make, and sense is always, well, sensual. It involves the senses. If what I say in words is making sense, I am putting you in touch with your senses. That's what common sense is all about. We share it. Words are pointers beyond themselves, but they have to make sense. And sense is always an experience. We sense the meaning. That is key. It's an experience.

In reality, meaning is always a reference to something sensual, to having an experience, rather than anything in itself. Individual words point and have meaning. We can add more meaning through context, by arranging words, one against the other, to accent our intention. Many words used at once can result in a jumble of meanings, unless we can skillfully arrange them, like a school of fish, to all point in the direction we intend.

So, meaning points beyond itself to an experience we may have. It refers us to that. It points it out to us. All words have to make sense to register, and sense is always an experience, feeling, and the like. If a word fails to make sense, we say it is just nonsense. It makes no sense. For us to get it, every word or thought has to make some kind of sense. We have to sense it, feel it.

The above concept is worth contemplating, so let me repeat. All language, all words, are nothing in themselves other than labels (references) that point at or toward what they mean. "Meaning" itself is just the pointing and ultimately what is being pointed at; meaning points or refers us to the sense of it, which by definition always is an experience we can have. Otherwise, it's nonsense.

So, when we say "what does life mean?" or "what is the meaning of life?" the answer has always to be something that makes sense, as in an experience that we must each have for ourselves. We have to go live it (sense it) and see!

Very refined or abstract language may be lofty or high, but in the last analysis it still has to make at least enough sense or we can't follow it. The sense of words is the carrot that makes it possible to follow a line of thought. In other words, language and thought always beckons us toward the sense world, toward an experience of what it means or points at. It is up to us to jump in. No one can live life for us. The meaning of life can only be found in an experience, by living it.

With constant thoughts and words, we are surrounded by pointers pointing at an experience we are being referred to and can have. Our personal teachers or gurus point to the nature of the mind and put us in touch with it so that it finally makes sense. And every thought we think or word that is spoken has to do the same, make sense, so that our life can make sense. Shakespeare said it perfectly when he said "To be, or not to be."

What I am sharing here may sound like wordplay, but if you will work with this concept you will find that it bears rich rewards.