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Julian Northbrook

The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?

This is the fundamental question core to religion and science alike.

But I ask you…

Is it really necessary to have meaning?

A little nihilistic perhaps.

But a question worth considering:

Nigel Franks, a biologist specialising in ant behaviour say that a single ant is one of the least sophisticated animals imaginable. It’s stupid. And if you put 100 army ants on a flat surface, they’re still stupid. They’ll just walk around and around in circles until they die of exhaustion. But what happens if you put a MILLION of them together? If you do that, amazing things happen. The group as a whole becomes what some people call a “superorganism” with collective intelligence. Simply put, no single ant has intelligence. But get enough of them together and an incredible level of intelligence emerges.

But here’s the thing – If you scatter the ants, the intelligence dissipates.

You can’t ask where this intelligence went – because in one sense it never existed. It was only ever a part of a network. That is, the illusion on a single intelligent entity where actually it was only ever many parts working together.

Is it so hard to accept that human consciousness maybe the same?

‘cos that’s how your brain works too.

It’s nothing but tiny stupid parts all firing electrical impulses at each other.

Scatter the parts and the network ceases to exist…

… and with it consciousness.

Depressing stuff.

But all the more reason to live the best life you can, now, I’d say.

Embrace pointlessness and keep pushing forward with an ironic sense of purpose.

And if English is a part of that…

… you’d do well to keep pushing on with your English.


P.S. Neither do I think everything we do needs to have purpose if it’s fulfilling in some way. English, included — read my book here.


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