Aspects of the Meaning of Meaning

Two men meet on a desert trail. One is a Trobriand Islander; the other a Roumanian. They wish to barter water for cash with each other, but neither can make himself intelligible to his interlocutor. In this case, the meaning of words and sounds cannot be established without several months or years of intense study. Thus, there is no transaction, and a certain thirsty death for one of the pair, while the other misses a commercial profit he needed to pay off his hernia surgery. Does the lack of meaning of their words mean that an unnecessary tragedy has occurred, and does that tragedy in itself give the situation meaning?

(Here, it should be added, for documentary reasons, that, in the aforementioned case, the Trobriand Islander had been kidnapped as a baby by a troupe of roving Roumanian musicians, which had been touring the South Seas, and he’d been raised in the suburbs of Bucharest, so that he spoke only pure Roumanian, while the Roumanian had emigrated to the Trobriand Islands at the age of 21, and there been almost struck by a bolt of lighting which, landing but a few feet from him, had caused such an electrical shock to his system, that his entire previous life, including his years in Roumania and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Roumanian language and its syntax, were completely wiped out from his memory, so that he was left with only the ability to speak the lip of the Trobriand Islanders. Please never assume!)

Then there is the case of two men who speak the same language and are discussing some vitally important philosophical or personal problem. They exchange many words, which they both understand, and finally arrive at some insight which clarifies the philosophical issue or solves the personal problem in a great psychological catharsis for one or both of the interlocutors. Words have made things pellucidly clear, and the two men feel happy, whereas when they began the dialogue, one or both were in a state of mental turmoil. In this case, meaning between two brains has been established, with positive outcome, unlike the first case.

But standing back from these two men, what does the situation of two men communicating or communing in a philosophical dialogue mean when looked at as an objective act on the earth? Standing back from that dialogue, perhaps observing the whole scene with the eye of Nature which does not understand these men’s language, one can ask, “What is the meaning of that event?” Obviously, from the standpoint of Nature, that event of two men babbling to each other and understanding their words to their philosophical and psychological benefit has just as little meaning as the first case where the two men did not understand each other and suffered tragedy.

And on a larger scale, what would be the meaning of creating an Earth that functioned beautifully, with no violence at all and a pristine environment, all achieved after centuries and millenia of travail and sorrow? Would it have any extraneous meaning to anything if, only a day after achieving this state of global nirvana, the Earth were swallowed in a black hole, and all existence as we know it on this planet were to be sucked away in an instant? What would be the meaning of all that Human effort at reform, destroyed instantaneously by a laughingly meaningless Cosmos?

Y’all understand my meaning?

Hooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! — Silverwolf

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