Roger Nelson: What is the Meaning of Life?

roger.ARE.2011Excellence Reporter: Dr. Nelson, what is the meaning of life?

Roger Nelson: It sounds like a simple question, meriting a simple answer. And yet, there is such depth as to draw us in, to make us see that in the simplicity there is a great richness. It presents a gift that unfolds and blooms into the moment, and if we accept and engage this gift it becomes a satisfying experience that is a kind of answer, not final, but one which is right for this moment and for the meaning we choose to see in these words.

What first comes to mind is that the meaning of life is love. Starting from this point there are many ways to talk about it because love is a wonderfully complex word. Great poets spend their lives with this one idea. Rumi says to love is to live and to join with the creator. Such words as love will have meaning to the hearer that may differ from the speaker’s intent, because we create meaning from a combination of our inner experiences with what we take in. But I trust that anyone who has somehow come to read these essays is open to the expansive reach of words that harbor deep meaning. Is life equal to love; is love equal to life? Not on your life! We need them both in all their richness in a life full with meaning.

As Alfred Korzybski said at the beginning of systems thinking, language can enlighten and it also can confuse. Important words, he said, deserve subscripts to identify which of several possible meanings they have, and this is particularly true for the words in this question, which are complex and evocative terms. Meaning may be objective and precise, or we may depend on fluid, flexible intuitions and experiences to extract meaning. And in much the same way we know that life is physical and material, but it is unquestionably also spiritual and ephemeral. We know this; it is our direct experience. In our lives, the gap of meaning can be closed by methods as simple as maintaining an intention to understand what the other is saying, and a loving effort to ensure we remain open to each other.

The experiments of the Global Consciousness Project suggest that minds of people everywhere are potentially interconnected. Random data become correlated when events are deeply meaningful and synchronize our thoughts and emotions. These connections sketch unseen dimensions of meaning and life, and they can open us to greater being.

My mind reaches out when I embrace a far-away loved one. It flies across the world and returns an essence that becomes part of me. When I think of the moon and stars, or of the great spirit, or the meaning of life, these things are brought in to become integral to my mind. They are nothing separated, but instead are what is my mind. We can take this as a kind of rule, so that the meaning of life is the living of life. When I have an inspiration, when I perceive the beauty of a dance, when I break out in song, or create a work of art, my heart is filled and my mind reaches out. It leaves its material base and takes in the universe to which it always has belonged. When I love, my being grows larger, it glows with a new light as it shares with another, or appreciates the beauty that is always there but is brought into being and given meaning by my love, my life.


~Roger D. Nelson is the director of the Global Consciousness Project, an international, multi-laboratory collaboration founded in 1997 to study collective consciousness.

Copyright © 2015 Excellence Reporter

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