The Cold, Uncaring Universe as an Inspiring Tale of Hope

I have previously written on the subject of the subjectivity of human existence. In short, we exist from moment to moment as subjective creatures who experience the world in ways dictated by our previous experiences. In spite of the pure subjectivity of our lives, however, believers enjoy invoking the “if the universe has no higher meaning, our lives are completely meaningless” cliché. Needless to say, I disagree with this notion. Our lives have exactly as much meaning as we believe they do—no more, no less. Given current scientific models of the universe, we are left with the conclusion that our universe is finite; one day, it will either cease existing or be reduced to absolute uniformity (ultimate entropy). Does this fact remove all joy and sorrow from our lives? Of course not. We do not experience reality as objective beliefs. Only our experiences matter.

We have no innate purpose. Some believers find this idea terrifying, but it needn’t be. To me, it is sublime liberation. The knowledge that I forge my own meaning gives me the strength to appreciate my interests at a higher level; instead of being merely a distraction from my predestined end, these activities bring me fulfillment. That’s pretty darn nifty, if I do say so myself. (Which I do.)

Here’s some recommended reading for anyone not terribly familiar with this way of thinking.

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Spirituality and the Politics of Language

In today’s language lesson, we’ll be looking at words—specifically the meaning of words. When most people want to find out what a word means, they turn to the dictionary. This is an excellent resource, and it should go without saying that you should turn to it any time you find a word you’re not familiar with, but the definitions you find in the dictionary don’t tell the full story. There is meaning to words beyond these entries.

There are two kinds of meanings to words: denotation and connotation. I suspect more people will have experienced the latter word far more frequently than the former, which is kind of ironic because they will have spent far more time thinking about the former than the latter. Dictionaries are lists of words with their denotational meanings. (See, they both start with d, so you can use that to help you remember the difference if necessary.) Connotation refers to the emotional impact of a word, and even when two people share a mutual denotational definition of a word (as is common when both of them own dictionaries), they may not share the same connotation. Here’s an example:

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