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"Meaning and Purpose"

“The secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for.”
— Dostoyevsky [1821-81]

First published on the WMail Philosophy Newsletter Volume IV Issue #34 in August 2003,
then revised & reissued in July 2009 as WM Essay #91 on the Dateline Chamesa blog.

        Virtually nothing that most people do is from Free Choice. The Culture-Structure has pre-programmed you all since birth to be a mindless cog in the machinery of Consumerism. Your primary desires are Materialistic or Hedonistic, collapsed into a false merger with Survival.
        Like over-populated lemmings, the societies of Planet Earth charge toward the precipice, never stopping to Reason, to Choose, to seek the guidance of one's Self – much less guidance from Silence. If you do attempt any such contemplation, you will be pushed aside or trampled by the mindless mob behind you.

        The Universe is Existential; the Culture-Structure of Mankind is not. A plethora (love that word!) of False Meaning is crammed into every subservient individual, which is the supreme False Purpose of each and every local segment of the Culture-Structure. This False Purpose is to keep you running the proverbial treadmill, the Rat Race. And as Lily Tomlin has pointed out: "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."

        The first requirement of becoming a Free Individual is setting aside ALL of the (False) Meaning that was forced upon you by the Culture-Structure, of the Culture-Structure and for the Culture-Structure. All of it, each and every, one at a time, now and forever.
        This is not to say that you should reject all such meaning, for that is merely knee-jerk resistance. Refusing to pay taxes, refusing to marry and-or propagate, refusing to participate in the marketplace or the election process – these are negative actions and such re-action merely gives the same power away as does blindly obeying the dictates of the Culture-Structure. You play the game by refusing to play the game: switching to 'not that' is not any different.

        What has to take place is giving up Meaning itself. All Meaning. The existential act of choosing 'No Meaning' is the eye of the needle thru which you – all Mankind – must go. Not easy, but Life is not easy, nor standing as an Individual against the (False) Meaning machine that is the Culture-Structure.
        Besides, how easy is your life now, going along with the Culture-Structure? You have no Self, no Choice, no Satisfaction in life, Life is empty of real Meaning while you agree to and settle for the False Meaning that the Culture-Structure is built on.

v                    v

        A simple methodology for setting aside all False Meaning is to live from the context of Empowerment. When you stand on Empowerment, you cannot act from False Meaning, the two realms are mutually exclusive – just as the self-generated context of Love displaces Hatred, and just as the self-generated context of Purpose displaces Hope.
        For some of you, this can be a memorable day, The Day when you threw off the shackles of False Meaning. For others, it will be an on-going struggle to discover another damn False Meaning and turn loose of it – by standing in Empowerment and maintaining each new opening, and then searching for another False Meaning, an on-going search.
        What becomes available after the commitment to existential Self-hood [No Meaning] is that you can then begin to construct Freely-Chosen Meaning and Purpose. You will then call the shots in your Life as an Individual using Reason, which to the extent that you invoke it, will displace the silly and dis-empowering anti-Reason [False] Meaning provided by the Culture-Structure.
v                    v

        The Universe provides no a priori inherent Meaning for Life. The quest for the Official Meaning of Life is a distraction, so that you and all Mankind have no access to Power.
        All this False Meaning that you inherited was made up. If some Official Meaning actually existed, then why has the Culture-Structure not located it? Folks have been pretending to look for the Official Meaning of Life since Mankind first walked upright, so where the hell is it??
        The good news and the bad news is that no such Official Meaning of Life exists. Bad news for the Oligarchy when this knowledge becomes widespread, because all the meaningless crap – the treadmill, the rat race – that drives ancient & modern societies becomes visibly meaning-LESS!
        The good news is that Meaning, like Wealth, can only be created by the Individual. Meaning exists only because you say so: If you parrot some inherited False Meaning, then nothing is created. But notice the pressure from the Culture-Structure to lend credence to 'benefits' of you committing to their False Meanings: if you had no inherent Power, then why would they brainwash you to do their bidding?
        ONLY an Individual can create Meaning, and it is as simple as speaking that Meaning into existence.
        The other good news is that you surrendered your natural right to create Meaning by parroting all those empty False Meanings of the Culture-Structure – money, fame, 'fun', status, security – none of which have or will produce a satisfying Life. But if you once surrendered it, all you have to do to regain your Power is to say "No more!".

        You all have no idea how to create Meaning. What is required to create Meaning is giving up all the inherited False Meaning and stand in existential Nothing, or 'No Meaning'. From there, the Individual Self can invent Created Meaning – Freely-Chosen Meaning and Purpose.
        One way to clarify this process is to choose freely to create Empowerment. Standing in Empowerment, the Meaning that you create will not be False.

        So even if what you create seems to appear the same as before, you will be in an entirely different ballgame. Take 'family', for example: the inherited False Meaning of 'family' has no Power, things don't work, grudges persist, the concept comes with a ton of baggage – mothers are such a way, fathers & sons & daughters are this way, relatives are like this or that. What the Culture-Structure provides as Family is a messy soap opera – surf across the cable channels and the news – or some pseudo-deal like "Father Knows Best" which is delivered in the context 'not real'.
        But the Freely-Chosen Meaning of Family is fresh and clean when invented from No-Meaning. What you create from there has no baggage, you can create Family as it should be: Family as Love, as Communication, as Warmth, as Laughter, as Contribution – down the generations past & present.

        The other good news is that once you invent yourself as a Free Individual, nobody can take it away from you. They can kill you for it, but they can never take it from you. In point of fact, the Culture-Structure is designed so that you all surrender Meaning & Power on-goingly: Stop giving it away, halt the surrender of the Self, and you will retain all the inherent Natural Power that you can possibly need. While you create and maintain Freely-Chosen Meaning and Purpose, nobody can take it away – no way, no how!
        Your Self-hood cannot be taken away. The only reason that you lost it was because the Culture-Structure cheated you by offering their False Meaning in its place. All you had to do in return was to surrender your Power . . .
        All that is necessary to recover your Power as an Individual is to Stand AS an Individual from this time forth. The Individual can then throw off the shackles of False Meaning by the mere existential Act of Will of saying so, and then inventing freely: creating bright and shiny new Meaning, which cannot be taken away.

v                    v
        During the Summer that this essay was created, I was party to a one-on-one conversation on this subject (in the context of homework from a Landmark Education seminar). And when the other person asked "Why bother?", my ad hoc response went over quite well. In writing it down later to append to this essay, it evolved into a poem. (I don't try to be a poet, but I never argue with my muse.)

the world takes no notice
as I strap on my rusty armor
(that chafes at every joint)
and clamber up to sit upon
the skittish steed
that is my Purpose

the windmill takes no notice
as I lower my wobbly lance
and jab my spurs against the flanks
of my tired and wheezing mount
and point myself hell-bent toward the looming giant

the world may take no notice
or if it sees, not care
but for a moment or two
my Purpose is my Self

and for a moment or two
my Life is such
that I feel the wind upon my face

v                    v

        How you will know that you got this done, that you have chosen a Meaning that is sufficiently challenging, is that your new Freely-Chosen Meaning sings in your veins, and when you are In Action per your Stand In The Matter, you will experience the sharp thrill of the wind upon your face – and experience that you are empowered.

        How you will know that your new Freely-Chosen Meaning will provide Power is that only YOU can get this job done, and that the outcome is not certain, that if you do not take this on, to completion, then it will not happen.
        Save the whales? World peace? Other people are doing something about these matters, though much more needs to happen. But what about that book or invention that you've been thinking about for years, that you 'put on the back burner', what about that? Or what about doubling the reading scores at the school that your kids go to? Or what about organizing your neighborhood to replace the blight of poverty with the presence of Pride – those are big enough Meanings that you will have to generate Power, by empowering others.
        Said another way, your new Freely-Chosen Meaning isn't big enough unless it requires you to give it away to others.
        The bigger your commitment, and the more daunting it may seem at first, the more that will be required of you, the more empowerment your commitment will generate, and the less you need care about the rancid, not-working False Values of the Culture-Structure – standing in Empowerment, your choices will empower others, and the satisfaction in your accomplishment increases accordingly.

        This Working Minds Philosophy of Empowerment thing is what I have taken on, and it won't get done unless I generate a far greater reach, get a huge conversation started, put billboards along the freeways here and there, get written up in Time Magazine or be interviewed by Oprah – like that.
        The central Meaning and Purpose of the Working Minds Philosophy of Empowerment is the Fulfillment of Mankind's Potential; in order to do anything about that I must ongoingly get off my butt and fulfill MY potential, which automatically requires that I enroll legions of others in fulfilling THEIR potential. Tough job, but there is no better Life than living into a Future that requires your Self to push the proverbial envelope, to expand beyond your comfort zone, to risk possible failure, to Put Your Life On The Line for a Freely-Chosen Meaning and Purpose.

        Once you generate and maintain momentum in such empowering activities – in each and every area of your Life – then there can be no turning back.
        Your Life has Freely-Chosen Meaning!, and the Oligarchy has lost another mindless minion – you are free!

        Once you are empowered – once you empower your Self – nobody can take it away.

        Just step off the treadmill of the Culture-Structure and you will be free.

v                    v

        Choosing such a Meaning and Purpose is, however, the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Good intentions may not carry you very far, as you probably know from discussions with people who seriously intend to lose that fifty pounds, they are really working on it, they read diet books and workout books, and they really intend to get to the gym more often, and so on.
        What gets in the way is your False Mind, which is designed to keep you from fulfilling any of your dreams, for if you did, then you would realize that you indeed have the Power to do so, and you will tell others, and the Culture-Structure and the Oligarchy wants you all unhealthy in mind and body, and too damn tired to rise up in rebellion.

        How you have Power is to give it away. How you have Love is you give it away. How you fulfill your Meaning and Purpose is to make yourself Accountable to people around you, to put your Word out that, by damn, you are going to hike the Continental Divide, or turn the local river from a sewer into a recreation area for generations to come, or become the first Olympic athlete from your little town. A valid Meaning & Purpose is risky, takes hard work, requires the involvement of others, and if you don't get up off your ass and DO IT, it will not get done.
        When people are up to Something Important, they need someone to keep them on track, to remind them of their Stated Commitment (their Word), and to push them to their limit, and even beyond. In athletics, this will be a coach. A good coach looks at what the athlete's strengths and weaknesses are, and then works around the bad habits and builds up the muscles or skills that will make the difference in the game. This is also what is needed in preparation for combat, a category in which I include the dangerous Corporate Wars that pervade each and every office building or factory.
        You must become it, this Freely-Chosen Meaning & Purpose, physically and mentally and spiritually. You are the only weapon that you have – keep it sharp, keep it ready, keep in practice.

        Any Freely-Chosen Meaning & Purpose will die, it will disappear, it will fade away, without constant maintenance. If you have it tattooed on your arm, that too will fade away, or at best be soon forgotten. Central to the realization of whatever Meaning & Purpose you have chosen for yourself is generating it on a daily basis. What other good ideas were once really important to you? Joining a rock band? Trekking across America or Europe? Writing that novel or learning to paint? Making that independent movie with your college friends?
        Whatever was there for you, when the world was bright and shiny, before the Culture-Structure beat you into submission, those dreams went to the same place that your Meaning & Purpose will go unless you prevent that disappearance by the hard work that it takes to thwart the Little Voise In Your Head – the ever-present False Mind – by making yourself the Source of that Meaning & Purpose.
        The Self-Help Industry is no better than the Instant Diet Industry or the Six-Pack Abs Just Like On TV Industry – they sell you gear and it sits behind the couch or in the garage until the next time you move.
        Strengthening your Working Mind does not work that way. And in fact, except for reading the essays on the website, and for purchasing the forthcoming "Working Minds: A Philosophy of Empowerment" text, there is no cost involved. The real cost is that you have to buck the False Mind, rebel against the Culture-Structure, and eventually dismantle the Oligarcvhy to return Power to the People. When you do this in your own case, then the Oligarchy has one less slave groveling for table scraps.

        The method is very simple: You speak your Meaning & Purpose into the world. Tell someone every day what your Freely-Chosen Meaning & Purpose IS, you know, the thirty second elevator speech. Tell strangers, tell your intimates (over and over), send emails, post on blogs, put your Meaning & Purpose up on MySpace or Facebook, and be rigorous in reading and responding to all comments, suggestions & put-downs.
        How you will generate the actuality of your Meaning & Purpose is to make it into an on-going conversation. When you find someone who wants to work with you, set aside your ego and spend time with them to work something out. Really, if you do the best job at such generation, someone will actually take over some aspect of the project and do the whole thing them-selves. If you want to be an Olympic athlete, let someone else raise the funds, perhaps for a whole team from your town or school. Get partners to train with, let someone act as your coach.
        The 'Rocky' movies captured audiences by the use of standardized myths (such as described by Joseph Campbell [1904-87]), one of which was that Rocky Balboa gave a chance to the worn-out trainer Mickey (portrayed by Burgess Meredith, nominated for an Oscar). Audiences may not have known what Rocky gave Mickey, but the same action in real life does produce a similar result – Rocky gave Power to Mickey, gave him the job of coaching Rocky, and though the public seldom does the same, they knew in their hearts exactly what the deal was, if only someone would show them the way to taking on The Champ, that sure looks like a Grand Way To Live.
        The myth resonates because it works, and that is why the Culture-Structure works so hard to keep you tired and ignorant and devoid of Meaning in your Life. Once you take on a Freely-Chosen Meaning & Purpose, the Oligarchy and the Culture-Structure, and their internal agent the False Mind, will lose control over your Life and your Body and your Soul. How you know that you have broken their control over you is that your Life starts working, at first in small ways, but then there will be those events such as when Rocky Balboa made it to the top of the steps, which led to Rocky whupping Apollo Creed, which led to Sylvseter Stallone buying all the art that he wants from the money from his acting and directing career.
        Each Meaning & Purpose that you choose (you can have more than one) remains alive only to the extent that you spoke with someone about it on any given day. Forget for a few days? That Meaning & Purpose is dead. BUT you have only to restart the conversation, to call someone up and tell them, to make another coaching appointment, to get real weird and Talk In The Elevator! and tell the world that you have a Meaning & Purpose and that it is happening, because you said so, and then thank them for listening.
        Action is the strongest communication. While speaking is an action, everyone knows the saying that 'Talk is cheap'. So part of what is necessary in generating a conversation for and about your Meaning & Purpose is to make yourself Accountable. Spouses or other family members are good for this. Make a pact to lose twenty pounds each. Enroll in the same gym and make sure that you both go. Find other aspiring athletes or artists or writers and surround yourself with Fellows. Such groups already exist, around many topics and activities, but you can make a big difference by adding the conversation for Meaning & Purpose. Slaves to the Culture-Structure will blather on about the impossibility of Meaning & Purpose, but that is just the natural resistance of the game, such as the Nautilus or Pilates equipment or the weight room – the best exercise includes resistance. Just don't back down, keep running up the Rocky steps, direct attention to your Fellows and their progress and accomplishments, and ignore the slaves of the Oligarchy.

        Find something for your Life that takes work, is risky as all get-out, and that will be something that delivers the feeling of The Wind In Your Face – and no one can ever take each such accomplishment away from you.

[copyright 2003 & 2009 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

The preceding is excerpted from Chapter Nine of my forthcoming book, "Working Minds: A Philosophy of Empowerment".

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