Making the Most of Our Limits
Meaning is the pole around which our lives and identities revolve, and we’ll go to great lengths to defend it and define it in ways that work for us. And what would we do without it? Thanks to our trillions of synaptic clefts, the distance all that sensory data needs to travel, the complicated processes which alter the precise details of sensory data we receive, as well as the time it takes to process and perceive it, and finally our patchy understandings of what’s really going on, our grasp of the world around us will forever be partial. But if it all means something to us, we’re cool. Just as we shorten objective conceptual/temporal distance with hearsay or guesstimates based on past experience, meaning fills in subjective gaps, so we can get on with living our lives. We don’t have to have all the details to make sense of stuff and act on it. Good enough is… good enough.
You don’t have to see every detail of a brigantine bearing down on you in the 17th century Mediterranean to know you’d better prepare for battle.
In fact, it’s more than good enough. That process of plugging the gaps of what we cannot possibly know is perhaps the main thing that makes life worth living. Think about it… Our world is much richer when we fabricate and embellish, making the experiences our own. It’s all very well and good to have all the facts straight about what makes the weather clear one minute, then stormy the next. And it’s fine, knowing how much you have to do to put your house in order after the birthday party the night before. But that objective knowledge doesn’t motivate you to make the most of a bright, sunny day. That comes from the meaning you find by putting all that together and envisioning a potential future that isn’t yet reality.