“And he knows what he knows like the trees do” – Buffy Ste. Marie
You have to start with the basics. Build a platform, a ground, on which everything else is based; to which everything else refers. If art is to have meaning in life, then life has to mean something. So you have to start with – the meaning of life. Of course, in one way or another, everyone gives their own life meaning…or not. My view is – this existential meaning should always come from each individual. But that is probably so rare as to be almost never.
The facticity, as Sartre would say, is that our genetics make us like our parents, and our parents teach us to be like them, whether they intend to or not. Our schools and churches train us to think and behave in a prescribed manner. And then we imitate the behaviors of our friends and the cool people we see on TV and movies. Basically this is all we are – a composite of genetics, learning, training, and imitating and that’s a sad lot of little or nothing.
Thus we have no clue as to the meaning of life – yet we do. Somehow we perceive it unconsciously. The artist – poet – writer is aware of this. It is their stock and trade and I’ll not insult their intelligence by telling them what they already know. But there are things I’ll say for general consideration. Not to tell you, just to ask you to consider making up your own mind.
The basics, the meaning of life comes from what we know. As children we know almost everything. The value of people, of play, of being happy, joyous, free, though this depends on our surroundings, our facticity. Children can know nothing but fear and misery if they are being deprived of everything good and decent, if that happens to be their environment and carefully note – that would be a purely man-made environment – the wars of Darfur, Chechnya, Palestine, etc. There is nothing natural about that – it is what man has wrought upon his children. But that’s an aside, albeit an essential one.
Whatever we don’t know as children, we learn through the various mediums of knowledge acquisition. And most of these seem incredibly trivial and meaningless – school, church, peer imitation, public media. Garbage basically – the blind leading the blind – lemmings jumping to certain death.
So what else is there? While we know almost everything from experiencing the wonder and curiosity of being a child, the one thing left to learn is puberty. That is our second great teacher in life. It comes a time when we see the other as essential to our existence, perhaps more important than self – a very real understanding that we can’t live without the other. In fact, without the other, we’d rather not live at all.
And where does this knowledge come from? The ground, the essential teacher is nature.