Is there anything unmeaningful?

It largely depends if there’s anything meaningful.

I’m pretty sure meaningful is an fairly meaningless term. Can something be full of meaning? Are certain things bloated with meaning, whilst others are empty apart from tiny dregs? What is meaning in the first place, and how does something possess it?

I largely suspect it’s a matter of perspective.

Even these words here, rows of symbols lined up against each other. Even the spaces in between. It’s all been given meaning. We agree, as a community of people in need to communication, to accept that each of these letters, spaces and punctuation marks has a defined element beyond the mere symbol. We agree that when put together in the right order, those elements form something grander. Ideas and objects, and the links in between.

And so I can tell you that I can hear the whistle of a train guard outside my window. The thrum of traffic. The distant bark of a dog. And so forth.

That all means something to you. You can imagine those sounds. You can build up an idea of what my aural environment is like.

And I could tell you that I don’t know what love is, really, deep down, but I know that I want it and try my best to pour it out at every opportunity.

And that probably means something too.

But it’s all just words that have been assigned some kind of meaning by collective or individual decision. We’ve agreed that love is that thing they talk about in RomComs. Or maybe God is Love.

Even when there’s disagreement, there’s projection. The meaning comes from us, not from the object itself. And love isn’t even an object. It’s an abstract idea. Not existing remotely beyond the meaning that we ascribe to it, the weight of that term. The heaviness of the word, so powerful in its use and lack of use.

It is full of meanings. But we put them all there.

I often refer to a short story of Nabokov’s called ‘Terror’ in which the protagonist steps out of a car and is, for a brief moment, struck by a world in which all the things around him are meaningless somethings. He can’t recognise the trees, houses or even faces around him as what they are, they are blanks. Meaningless.

Because the meaning in things come from within, it is possible to lose it. Everything is unmeaningful, except insofar as we choose to fill it up.

But we do have this power, to assign meaning to everything. A chance glance from a stranger or a piece of prose by a very clever Russian.

The tree becomes part of our relationship with trees throughout our lives. Our connection to nature, filled with the details of whatever botany we’ve been taught.

That meaning comes from within us, gives us a unique opportunity to, if we are fluid, change the world.

Starting with the things you look at every day.

Make them anything.

What happens?

Illustration by Kat.


About Alex Ava

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Questions by Clair, Special Guest Illustrations. Bookmark the permalink.

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