In this weekly column I will be ranting about something I might find interesting or important from the week as I have lived it. This week is more rumination than narrative, and I imagine there will be plenty of both in columns to come. I hope you enjoy some of the things I write in this space throughout the semester, and I beg of you not to take it too seriously.
The other day, while sitting around the dinner table, the topic of existence came up. It started with the retelling of a question asked to a classroom: “Do you think you are conscious right now?” My immediate reaction to this question in class was yes, and that it was a silly thing to ask. The answer is yes, until the question is posed. In the same way that someone becomes unsure how to breathe naturally when he is asked how to breathe. The whole time it could have easily been said that everyone sitting in the class was conscious.
Consciousness was not taken so simply at the dinner table either. Types of consciousness such as awareness, being awake, and being alive were taken into account and a general stagnation on the topic withheld any progress towards an answer. A table full of critical thinkers thought themselves to a standstill on the question of their consciousness.
Often the things that are assumed in every action of one’s life are the hardest to describe. Breathing, consciousness and existence are all necessary for one to get out of bed, to eat, walk to class. It is silly to question whether we are conscious, or if we exist. What we should be asking is; “what does it mean?”
So, I ask; “what is the meaning of existence?” Which will not have a concrete answer and so is all the more valuable to pursue. In pursuing this question I would want to start with reflecting on what it is we can be assured of in our lives.
In life there are the needs of water, food, shelter and rest. There is also the constraint of mortality and the addition of company. We can control, to an extent, all of these things except our mortality. If these are the things we will be doing for the rest of our lives, why not do them well and in good company?
If we take as an assumption our existence, then water, food, shelter, rest and company become the basis of this existence we call life. They are not the meaning of existence, but the activities that surround them are whence meaning comes. To have a meaningful life, it would seem, we should take the time to do them well and in good company. Here it is good to note two things. First, that these are aspects of our existence that can be controlled, they may be the only things we can control. Second, that rest in this statement means more than sleep. It is also fun, play, laughter, song: things just as essential to life as shelter.