Nicolae Tanase: Paul, what is the meaning of life?
Paul Levy: What is the meaning of life? Is this a trick question? As the great physicist Niels Bohr said, “The meaning of life is this, that it has no meaning to say that life has no meaning.” This brings up the related question: what does it mean to say that life does have meaning—i.e., what is the meaning of meaning, and what does this tell us about ourselves?
I have just finished writing a book on quantum physics – and in my research was struck by some of the greatest physicists pointing out that it is more important to ask the right question than to find the right answer. The question arises in my mind – is asking what is the meaning of life the right question?
The advent of quantum physics has helped to shed light on the nature, genesis and meaning of meaning. In quantum theory, similar to the materialists who think of all meaning as merely being projections of the mind, meaning is seen as coming from the mind. Rather than, as the materialists do, “degrading” meaning (thinking that all meaning is “merely subjective”), however, the quantum viewpoint interprets the fact that all meaning arises within the mind as the reason to “promote” the mind to be the creative arbiter of meaning.
Instead of being an anthropocentric delusion, an example of human hubris and self-aggrandizement of cosmic proportions, recognizing that the mind is the source of meaning is a clear-sighted realization of our place and function in the cosmos. Meaning is never found separate from—and is always to be found within—a cognizant field of awareness. Meaning never comes from outside, but always emerges from within. Meaning has no meaning unless it is meaning to a mind; meaning is based on awareness. Being that the meaning of our world, our experiences and our very life itself originates within our own minds is to say that meaning belongs to ourselves. We are the ultimate author-ity when it comes to meaning—we are “meaning generators.”
Quantum physics has empirically proved, beyond the slightest shred of a doubt, that there is no such thing as objective reality, which is to say that it has revealed the intrinsic interconnectedness between the seemingly outer world with our inner consciousness, which is to say that the two—the outer and the inner—are a joint co-operative venture. To say this differently: the seemingly outer world possesses an interior aspect that is linked to and continuous with human subjectivity. Instead of thinking that all meaning is merely subjective, or that meaning objectively inheres in the outer world, quantum physics is revealing that it is the mind’s task to create/discover meaning via its ongoing interaction with the world—a world which, just like a dream, is not separate from our own consciousness.
It is incredibly hard for human beings to bear experiences that are bereft of meaning. In the very act of interpreting and placing meaning on the universe, we are, rather than passively observing or describing a universe that is outside of ourselves, playing a participatory role in calling forth and co-creating the universe. To say this differently—the perception of a new meaning is a creative act. We are creative beings at our core, and meaning is one of the chief currencies for the expression of our creative nature.
If by simply—and seriously—inquiring into the question “What is the meaning of life?” we see through the illusory separation between the outer world and our own inner consciousness, as well as realize our role as co-creators with the universe itself, it makes me think that this certainly sounds like the right question.
Or maybe I’m just dreaming.
~Paul Levy, a pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father (Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013), The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (Authorhouse, 2006), and The Quantum Revelation: A Modern-Day Spiritual Treasure (soon to be published). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections.
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