Our brains are predisposed to find meaning in our lives. We are so invested in it that we will do unreasonable things to create meaning where it is not, such as jump to conclusions, believe without facts, exercise faith in people and ideas…and more.
We can’t abide living without meaning. Personal and tribal identities, religions, histories, war stories, myths and heroes all help us satisfy this demanding thirst for meaning.
I propose that the most meaningless thing we ever experience is the loss of a loved one. To see this person’s lifeless body is to look in the face of meaninglessness.
The passing of a cherished tradition, or seeing the fatal flaw in an established belief rocks our world, just like the death of a loved one. The passing of something that held meaning for us defies our very self-understanding and our sense of relatedness, just like death. And so we struggle to keep the faith, nurture what had comforted us, and force it to live. We will ignore the truth and refuse to let it die.
And so it is that we cannot easily look at the subject of death with new eyes or evaluate the flawed meanings we have ascribed to death and dying. We will read scriptures, say comforting words, say prayers and accomplish a rite. But by not looking at the reality of its utter meaninglessness, we commit the ultimate irrational act. We say, “The face of meaninglessness (death) has meaning.”