humor, language, philosophy, photography

Don’t Sweat the Meaning of Life

Your life and mine are not arbitrary symbols used by a third party to communicate with a fourth party.  Don’t let sweating “the meaning of life” interfere with living.
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While pondering “the meaning of food” is rare, pondering “the meaning of life” is common.  Deservedly?  Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

§1: Colors

Meanings are tricky.  Colors provide a simpler way to explore some of the relevant ideas.

§1.1: What Color is the Number Six?

The question heading this subsection is nonsense.  Many different kinds of thing have colors, but numbers don’t.  Making sense is harder than just having sensible-looking syntax.

One of the ways that philosophy made substantial progress in the past century was the realization that some “deep” questions could be as nonsensical as the one heading of this subsection.  Determining which ones are really deep will take a while.  Nonsensical questions may sometimes be failed attempts to pose serious questions that would be more tractable with better wording, so some nonsense may deserve more sympathy than the heading of this subsection.

§1.2: What Color is the US Flag?

Flags do have colors, but the question heading this subsection is still nonsense.  The US flag is red, white, and blue.  While mostly red, the Chinese flag also has some yellow.  How many nations have flags of just one color?

Nobody is silly enough to speak of “the” color of a nation’s flag, but people often do fall into the trap of speaking of “the” thingamajig when there are in fact several relevant thingamajigs.  I posted 4 varied examples (and there are many more).

It does make sense to say that white is the color of the stars in the US flag, that green is the color of the fake foliage in my Xmas wreath, and so on.  But look at the ribbon on my wreath:

closer_crop_840x485

The color I see at any place on the ribbon is intricately context-dependent.  Where is the light coming from?  Where am I standing?  While the solid red ribbons on other wreaths are easier to describe, my iridescent ribbon is prettier to see.

§2: Words

Mole

© tunedin123 | 123RF Stock Photo
(Image has been cropped.)

The word mole has utterly different meanings in chemistry, dermatology, and espionage.  Even if we suppose it makes sense to attribute a meaning to life, pondering “the” meaning of life may still be like pondering “the” color of the US flag, “the” color of an iridescent ribbon, or “the” meaning of mole.

Like mathematical notations (and many hand gestures), words are arbitrary symbols with enough consensus about what they mean to support use in communication.  Who uses life to say what to whom?

I posted 4 imagined responses by an old Yankee to a novice philosopher’s bloviations; one of the responses is

Wehrds need meanings; life don’t.

§3: How to Live

Your life and mine are not arbitrary symbols used by a third party to communicate with a fourth party.  Maybe some concerns about “the meaning of life” are poorly worded concerns about how to live.  Preferring the workable to the grandiose, I go with a simple short list:

  • Try to have some fun.
  • Try to do more good than harm.
  • Don’t sweat “the meaning” of it all.
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flowers, haiku, humor, love, philosophy, photography

Gift of Silence

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Words ~ Pic and a Word Challenge

As Susie left home to start a new life with Dale, her mother watched and wondered.  Would the mixed marriage work?

Aware that sharing her worries would be unwelcome and unheeded, Mama let her words of warning remain unspoken and unheard.

susie-dale-mama_840x598

Wisely,  Mama kept silent despite having words to say.  Unwisely, some people run afoul of Wittgenstein’s Laws by breaking silence despite not having any sensible words to say.

Memo to Mystics
|Unless you can grab
|bubbles, you cannot put your
|wisdom into words.

soap-bubbles

growing old, haiku, humor, philosophy

Old Age is a Mixed Bag

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Carpe Diem Weekend Meditation #61
a new feature for the weekend … introduction

calls for Japanese-style poetry inspired by an excerpt from Plato.  (An excerpt from the excerpt appears below.)  Yet again, classical literature says something complex and important, while leaving much for later generations to discover and say.  For now, I will shut up after 2 haiku.

Plato-CDHK

“… the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life.”

“… when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many.”

“… for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.”

“… I rather suspect that people … think that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your happy disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well known to be a great comforter.”

Fond Memories
|Nostalgia for
|what never was (nor could have been):
|old man dreams of sex.
|
Still Standing
|Mellow curmudgeon
|shrugs off fate and stands proudly
|paradoxical.
humor, philosophy, photography

Novice Philosopher Meets Old Yankee

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The novice bloviates.  Maybe people he has not met yet will try to set him straight.  They might say pretty much what the Yankee says, while making the points in ways that are gentler, longer, and subtler.  But not as funny.

… Why are we here? …

‘Cuz wer nawt theyah.

… What is the meaning of life? …

Wehrds need meanings; life don’t.

What happens when an irrestible force meets an immovable object?

We lehrn who was lyin’: the fellah sellin’ a fawhrs or the fellah sellin’ an awbject.
Hmmm.  Coulda been both.

Certainty is not exclusive to math and logic.
For example, no squirrel can get past the baffle on my bird feeder.

Ehyah??

squirrel_840x636

 

haiku, language, philosophy, photography

AKA Blue-Green (or Cyan or …)

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Teal, Aqua, Seafoam or Turquoise

blue-green_840x666

What would I say is “the” color of the cloth in my image?  Even more than with other colors, how it looks depends on lighting and surroundings.  This pretty color is a visual metaphor: relationships mean more than intrinsic properties.

Colorful Plain English
|Inkjets squirt cyan;
|some poets sing of turquoise.
|I just see blue-green.

For most purposes, I prefer blue-green (and 2 variations on it) over the other names.  Anybody who knows what blue and green mean can guess what blue-green means.  Those who need more choices for naming colors like this can put blue-green between bluish green (AKA aqua) and greenish blue (AKA turquoise).  The 3 names I prefer are all clearer than names like aqua about where they lie on the range from just plain blue to just plain green.

Nerdy 😉 Note

Need still more choices?  Use Red|Green|Blue coordinates.  The 256x256x256 possible values for the RGB coordinates of a color can make more distinctions than U will ever need.

For example, the image below is a detail from the image above, with little yellow circles around 2 spots on the cloth, one relatively bright and another relatively dark.  Most spots on the cloth have [R|G|B] between the bright spot’s [45|223|226] and the dark spot’s [0|48|86].

blue-green_crop_upsize_mark_crop_840x131

If U like one of those colors enough to want it as a text or background color, U can use the corresponding hexadecimal code (#2DDFE2 or #003056) in an HTML style sheet.  Explicit hex codes avoid the bother of remembering the sometimes flaky conventional names for web colors.

Hex codes also provide flexibility.  Colors rarely look the way one expects when picking a color by pointing to it in another context, as I noticed when I used colors from an image to add a haiku to the image and then to write text referring to parts of the haiku.  Bumping coordinates up or down can adjust colors to look good in actual use.

humor, mundane miracle, philosophy, photography, science

Partially Reflected Light

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As the natural light outdoors fades, a mundane miracle occurs.  Tho I have no supernatural powers, I create light and see that it is good.  There is much to celebrate in the simple act of flipping a switch, and the resulting light provides many other mundane miracles to ponder.

Light ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #133

Before I close the curtains, a pine tree across the lawn is still visible thru the window.  Conversely, a bird roosting in the pine could see the light fixture I have just turned on.  Most of the light that my fixture throws toward the window goes right thru the glass, harmless and unharmed.  My fist could not do that.

It gets better.

Some of the light that hits the window is reflected back.  I see my fixture as a ghostly sphere, apparently hovering between me and the pine.  Hmmm.  Consider a single photon among the zillions that whiz from my fixture toward the window.  How does it decide whether to continue on toward the pine or bounce back toward me?

globe-pine-1_840x840

I know.  Photons are mindless particles that do not decide anything.  They just do whatever a divinely perfect knowledge of physics would say they do, and a humanly possible imperfect knowledge of physics is rather good at saying what big groups of them do.

By far the best current human knowledge says that what a single photon does is unpredictable.  Not just unpredictable because we do not know all the details about the laws of nature or how the photon is moving or what is in the glass where the photon hits it.  Not just unpredictable because exact calculations are not feasible. Intrinsically unpredictable!  On a photon-by-photon basis, even divinely perfect knowledge of the rules and the current situation does not determine what will happen in the next picosecond.  Even God must wait and see.

Dunno whether I will succeed in posting more about intrinsic unpredictability and its consequences.  (Don’t hold your breath.)  Without wrangling equations, a great deal can be still be said about the quantum physics behind partially reflected light and its wider implications.  See pages 173-176 of the excellent book Dice World by Brian Clegg (or web pages like the one U can visit by clicking here, if U do not have the book handy).

 

humor, philosophy, photography

Ecclesi-ICE-tes

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Time ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #131

I want to add another line that starts with “A time to” in the Bible passage Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  The new line could be anywhere in the series.

To every thing there is a season,
     and a time to
         every purpose under the heaven:

A time to freeze and a time to melt;
     a time to be rigid, and a time to be fluid;

icicle-bright_840x1086

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

While I could not resist giving this post a silly title, I do respect the yin/yang wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and have already proposed a related serious addition to the “A time to” lines.  Those who have seen and liked yet another addition are welcome to comment with a line and/or a link.