Humans are animals who share characteristics and traits with the other animals in our mutual existence. One of the identifying characteristics of humans is that we have created a mental universe of innumerable mental forms of existence with which we are as intently involved as we are with the material world. One of the most prevalent characteristics of the human mind is that it seeks and creates meaning out of the continual flow of life which, on its own, simply exists. However, no traits, whether human or non-human, occur in the same way or to the same degree in all individuals. Fear, joy, risk-taking, rationality and the millions of other large and small characteristics found in human beings and other animals, arise and are expressed across a range from minimal to intense.
Of course, all people and animals seek pleasure. In fact the urge to create meaning is itself a form of pleasure. Those with the inner hunger for meaning derive intense delight in finding patterns which can be arranged to correspond to a set of meaningful ideas.
At the high range of the urge toward constructing meaning are those driven by an insatiable felt need to make every thing and every moment meaningful in some way. They are reluctant to proceed with any activity or project unless they can construct some meaningful context for it.
Most of us are in the middle somewhere: meaning is one of the many important qualities of a good life, good experience, good relationship, just not the only good thing. Meaning and significance amplify experienced reality; meaning confers a brilliance to life. When we add love to the experiences of sex, children, work and death, we are investing these natural aspects of life with meaning. When we augment the purely raw experience of life with ideas of beauty, truth, sacredness, we are creating meaning which exponentially increases the level of pleasure in that experience. Meaning is a quality which heightens the value of other qualities of life.
The idea of the sacred is not referring to religion or religious experience. The sacred is the experience of the highest and most brilliant aspect of our humanity.
The person who risks or sacrifices their life to save others is a sacred being and we treat them as such. Those who walk away from a comfortable life to live and work among the disenfranchised, destitute, marginalized, and rejected, are sacred. Artists, writers, musicians, dancers awaken in us a sense of the sacred aspect of life; show us the beauty in what we discard as “ugly;” show us the wonderful that surrounds us, unnoticed. They awaken in us a conscious awareness of the sacredness of life, of existence, and of everything; they give it meaning.
The transformation of meaning to hope in the next post.
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