Saturday, March 2, 2013

Information and Meaning

We have all seen this situation numerous times. We are sitting among friends talking about some subject when someone asks a question to which no one has the answer. Soon, someone pulls out their phone and googles the question (yes, I did just use the verb form of Google; language is always changing). A few seconds later we have the information. Information is ubiquitous. What is not as available is meaning. Alister McGrath has said,
We live in an age when the growth of the Internet has made it easier than ever to gain access to information and accumulate knowledge. But information is not the same as meaning, nor is knowledge identical with wisdom. Many feel engulfed in a tsunami of facts, in which we can find no meaning.1
He speaks of the glut of information and the dearth of meaning.
. . . we cannot make sense of the "shower of facts" with which we are bombarded. There seems to be "no loom to weave it into fabric." . . . . we find ourselves living on the brink of incoherence and meaninglessness. Meaning seems to have been withheld from us - if there is any meaning to be found at all.
Many find the thought of a meaningless world to be unbearable. If there is no meaning, then there is no point in life.2
Those of us who claim to have found meaning find that our hope is sometimes called into question. People ask us how we can possibly believe in such meta-narratives when "all of them are power structures of control." Of course, that last phrase is the proclamation of another meta-narrative.

For my part, I don't ever plan to give up the search for meaning. This is the ultimate "Holy Grail." The quest is as important as the result. There is still hope at the end of the journey if we are willing to engage the question. Yet many have given up the quest choosing instead to medicate themselves with their prescription of choice. They withdraw from the world and from questions of meaning. They fill their lives with entertainment, isolation, depressants, and mood boosters. Perhaps the real problem for the average person is not that the universe might be meaningless but that "the universe might turn out to have a purpose of which he does not approve."3

1 (McGrath 2011, Kindle Loc 91)
2 (McGrath 2011, Kindle Loc 91)
3 (McGrath 2011, Kindle Loc 112)

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