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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Meaning is a bit like happiness, the more you go looking for it the less you find

- The incomparable Lucy Kellaway

9 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • krm

    Meaning and happiness are internally generated. You don’t find either outside of the self – thus the saying is very true.

  • J

    Meaning is internally generated? I’m not sure. Few people would find a life of isolated monk-like contemplation to be a happy or meaningful one. More likely, meaning (in the woolly sense the article uses it) is something external, but which requires a certain state of mind to benefit from.

    I’m not sure I agree with the point about managers not being do-ers and therefore struggling to find meaning. As a manager what you do is allow other people to work more efficiently. This might not be obvious to either those above or below you, and it’s certainly hard to measure, but it still exists.

  • Few people would find a life of isolated monk-like contemplation to be a happy or meaningful one.

    The writer is obviously discussing the meaning of things external, such as work. This doesn’t make the meaning of it external. A flower is external, the beauty of it is in the eyes of the beholder, i.e. internal.

  • philmillhaven

    A flower is external, the beauty of it is in the eyes of the beholder, i.e. internal.

    Bertrand Russell’s definition of the mind is a good starting point on this question: a mind is something capable of understanding something other than itself. Recent experiments have confirmed the experience of prison camps in the Korean War: solitary confinement plus sensory deprivation drives people nuts. When you cut off all sensory inputs, disorientation and panic soon set in. In no time at all subjects don’t even know whether or not they’re hallucinating.

    Meaning is a stubbornly thankless question and to the extent it’s worth asking at all, the answer seems to be in an interaction between the internal and the external world. In practical terms this means exercising your faculties, in particular your imagination and generally being active. Don’t watch telly, DO something. Don’t just passively read this message, decide what you think about it and test your thoughts in the marketplace of ideas.

    As Jacob Bronowski said in his wonderful TV series: We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not contemplation; the hand is more important than the eye.

  • Phil, I was nodding in agreement, until that last bit. You have to look first at what it is you are grabbing, and after you grab it, you have to look at it again and again to handle it in the best possible way, not to mention to prevent it from slipping away again. The eye and the hand are equally important.

  • bob duckman

    same could be said for freedom.

  • philmillhaven

    The eye and the hand are equally important.

    I agree that the relative importance of the eye versus the hand seems a somewhat unnecessary afterthought when the important distinction is about action versus contemplation. And you’re right that action without any feedback is futile. But the feedback needn’t be specifically sight and I think Bronowski favours the hand because it enables, indeed combines, both action and sensation.

  • I think Bronowski favours the hand because it enables, indeed combines, both action and sensation.

    Maybe he does, but this discussion is not about him, is it:-) And in any case, relying on one’s hands is fine for a blind man, but is it wise not to use one’s eyes if one can?

    Don’t just passively read this message, decide what you think about it and test your thoughts in the marketplace of ideas.

    I agree, but that is not to say “don’t read the message at all, let alone give it any consideration, before leaping into action”. Balance is the key. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “hand-eye coordination”:-)