I’ve been thinking about Michael Drake’s post over at Strange Doctrines on Nihilistic Meaning. As anyone who knows me would suspect, I’m very skeptical of a human life being meaningful in virtue of playing some role in a deity’s big plan. (Indeed, that seems to me a recipe for absurdity.) So I usually fall back on the idea that (as one respondent puts it) life’s value comes from within a life, not in relation to some other person’s plans. So finding happiness, enjoying art, blah blah blah, makes a life meaningful to the person living it.
But then I think about Apollo and Achilles. Apollo, as in the above picture. I know that homo sapiens are merely a gnat’s fart in the big scheme of things, but — pardon me — fuckin’ A! We walked on the moon! In a time when computers used punch-cards! That commands my respect. And I also think of when Achilles was deciding about whether to join the battle at Troy, and Athena (his mom) tells him, basically: you can stay home, and you’ll have a great life loving your children and eating grapes and everything, and you’ll be remembered for a generation or two, and then forgotten entirely; or you can go, die young, and men will sing your song for thousands of years. He decides to go (and Athena was right. Well: she never existed, but Homer was right. Well: Achilles was fictional too, but, bloody hell, it’s the idea I’m after.)
Anyhow, I wonder if my little recipe for micro-meaning (happiness, art, books, friends) is really just a confession that I’m not big enough for Apollo- or Achilles-sized meaning. What if this is the truth: a meaningful life is one that commands species-wide respect, and you ain’t got it in you, bub.
Man, to cosmos: “Do you know who I am?”
Cosmos: “No. Should I?”