Friday, October 30, 2009

The Trouble With Meaning In Itself

Of the things I most enjoy, I find meaning in the things themselves thus rendering them ends in themselves. Contrast this to the more typical notion, conscious or not, that the things we do are themselves simply a means to an end.

For example, many aspire to undergo years of schooling and vocational training so they can one day accumulate wealth and renown, something or other. Since I find meaning in knowledge itself, knowledge is the end. In this sense, I have little or no ambition to "use" my knowledge to some further end leaving me struggling with my finances and "making my mark on the world". If only I had ambition and vision to do something more with my knowledge than just enjoying it for its own sake! I believe this speaks to many of the "underachievers" out there.

On the one hand, there seems to be something respectable and "pure" about one who finds meaning in the things themselves as it is clear he is not driven by ulterior motives and other vain pursuits. On the other, it seems incessant "doing" and "performing" is necessary for our very existence (at least a respectable one), with most of these "achievements" motivated primarily by ulterior motives. But of course even one with ulterior motives can be seen as respectable just the same if his vain pursuits compel him to find the cure for cancer, something or other. For what will I, doing nothing but enjoying knowledge in itself, ever do for humanity?

However, as is the case with me and undoubtedly many others, there can be a heavy price to pay for experiencing intrinsic meaning in things: there is often little motivation to go any further as fulfillment is already achieved. How then is one to make a living?

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