Making Up Meaning
He: You know what really makes me mad? … critics of atheism who say that life must be meaningless if atheism is true. What a load of rubbish!
She: So your life is full of meaning then?
He: It’s not perfect but I’ve got you and Patrick, a decent job, a house, a great car, I enjoy my sport – well, I used to before I hurt my neck, … but yeah, overall, I’m pretty happy.
She: So those are the things that make life meaningful?
He: Well, not just those things but they are really important to me.
She: To be honest Sam, I don’t see those things giving much meaning to life, and to be completely honest, nothing else seems to matter much either.
He: Hey, what is it with you lately? Are you trying to tell me that you are having second thoughts about what you believe or something?
She: No, not at all. Talk about “god” is just so much hot air as far as I am concerned. But your claim to see meaning in this world sounds like just so much romanticised nonsense too.
He: I really don’t know how you can say that Krystal. Look –
She: Hold on a sec: we agree that the universe and everything in it arose completely spontaneously – no supernatural being intentionally brought it into existence for any purpose, right?
He: Yes, yes, of course. And all there is is atoms, interacting according to the laws of physics. So?
She: So??!! How can you see any meaning in the universe given that that is the actual state of things? As you just said, we are nothing but bundles of atoms – highly complex bundles to be sure, but atoms nevertheless – that have happened to come into being, are simply bumping into each other, and all this for no particular purpose!
He: Okay, I fully concede that there is no “ultimate purpose” for my life, or for humanity, or the planet or the universe. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot generate goals and purposes that are genuinely meaningful to me.
She: Like the things you mentioned before I suppose? Well, all I can say is good luck then as you are going to be on your own.
He: And what is that supposed to mean?
She: This may not be the best time to say this, but then again probably no time would be good – you’re going to have to find your “meaning in life” with someone else and somewhere else Sam. I want a divorce and I want you out, today.
He: What?! Why Krystal?
She: You’re a nice enough guy Sam but in the end you are a loser. For a start, you seem to care much more about that dumb job of yours than you do about me.
He: Yeah, well my “dumb job” has got us halfway to owning our home and I put the long hours in because I’m trying to make a difference. If my research pays off then it could mean that malaria could be eliminated.
She: Oh gee, that would be nice I guess: millions of miserable people could then live a few more years in poverty before going into oblivion. Great.
He: I never realised before just how cynical you can be Krystal. But what are you doing with your life that’s so wonderful?
She: You really don’t get it do you? When we die there is nothing – we’re gone forever, never to come back or know another thing, right?
He: Yes, but . . .
She: But what, Sam? It is only by some absolutely incredible fluke that we happen to have come into conscious existence in the first place and then we get only one, single, solitary go on the merry-go-round of life.
He: And I don’t disagree with any of that. But some people get a lousy ride and I think it’s good to try and make it better for at least some of them. Do for others as you would have them do for you, sort of thing.
She: Oh all very noble and maybe it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. But it doesn’t mean that you’re not a fool.
I’ve been thinking about all this. Since we get just the one chance at life I’ve decided to make the most of what time I’ve got left. My motto from now on is: Look out for numero uno – me! And you, I’m not sorry to say, don’t fit into my plans for fun. You can sit in your little lab 24/7 from now on if you like.
He: So tell me, how are you going to afford your new, selfish, hedonistic lifestyle?
She: Hey, by using language like that you’re not trying to make me feel like I’ll be doing something actually “wrong”, are you? Duh, how can atoms – no matter how complexly they are put together – ever be evil?
And don’t worry about how I’ll get by: Alec Mottleigh has plenty of money.
He: You’re moving in with a porno king? Or are you just going to be one of his “stars”?
She: Yes, and maybe. Why not? You’re starting to sound like a religious wowser Sam.
He: I thought we loved each other Krystal.
She: Now there’s a quaint word: “love.” What can it possibly mean to say that two lumps of atoms “love” each other? What’s happened to you? Your normally sharp, analytical mind seems to be turning to sentimental mush.
He: I don’t understand what this is all about Krystal, but no matter whatever else happens, I’m going to keep Patrick.
She: Uh, uh, no deal. No way!
He: But why, why? You’re the one who scoffs at love! Besides it is through Patrick that my genes will be carried on to the next and future generations and I want to make sure he is looked after properly.
She: Well you are just going to have to trust me to do a good job because I am warning you, I will say and do whatever is necessary to ensure I have primary custody of that boy.
I was thinking of not telling you this, but since you want to make an issue of it, I’ve more news for you Sam – Patrick is not your son.
He: I don’t believe you!
She: I wasn’t sure who the father was either so I had it checked and there is no doubt about it, Seamus is the dad.
He: My best friend is the father of my son?
She: I’d say sorry if I was, or if I thought it actually meant anything, but I’m not and I don’t.
And don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’ll be able to have kids with another woman. I had an abortion before I met you and then I had Patrick with Seamus so I don’t think there is anything wrong with my fertility. But there were no children with you and at your age you’ll be fortunate to “pass your genes on” now.
Talk about bad luck.
He: Aaagh! I don’t know what is going on here with you Krystal, but despite everything that you have been saying I still believe that I can create meaning for my life.
She: Yeah, sure you can Sam. You just keep telling yourself that as you sit hunched over your bench all day and again when you come home to a cold, empty house.
Then one day, sooner or later, you’ll be lying there, probably heirless, taking your last breathes, and you can say to yourself, maybe I helped a few, maybe many, bundles of atoms to retain consciousness for a little bit longer. whoohoo
No Sam, when things are sweet we may be able to delude ourselves into thinking that our unintended existence on this rock floating through an uncaring universe has some meaning, but please spare me from your bleatings.
He: No, no, no Krystal, I’m sure I can, I’m really sure I can make up meaning for my life.