Adventures : Zeph Tales (21)

The Meaning of Meaning

Zeph doesn’t consider himself a very ‘deep’ person. But he recognises that he contemplates on stuff more than most. While some feel that being asked ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is annoying enough, Zeph asks things like, ‘What is the meaning of “meaning”?’ Often, he doesn’t understand why others don’t see its importance. But this doesn’t make him the aggressor in discussions. It only makes him aware of others’ refusal to understand his point. (Or is it just ignorance?) In asking, he also gets to see his own lack of understanding, which is what prompted him to ask questions, to be bothered by them in the first place. The following is an online chat he (Z) had with Naw (N).

N: You write too vaguely!
Z: What do you mean? Your comment is too vague. Give me an example.
N: An example is that you philosophise abstractly on things of ‘arbitrary’ meaning like life, God, Enlightenment and stuff.
Z: But I don’t find what I write vague. It has a sharpening effect on me. Can you give me a clearer picture of what you mean?
N: There’s the part on finding the meaning of ‘meaning’. What was that? How does it relate to real life?
Z: You don’t find the question meaningful?
N: I don’t.
Z: Why?
N: What’s it got to do with me? Meaning IS meaning! Why split hairs?
Z: You mean you know the meaning of ‘meaning’? Such that it needn’t be further looked into?
N: I believe so.
Z: I have not realised the meaning of ‘meaning’. Can you share?
N: Meaning IS meaning! That’s it!
Z: Can you be more specific? Wouldn’t that make ‘life’ mean nothing more than ‘life’?
N: That IS specific! What more do you want?
Z: You think too vaguely!

How can two people be so sure that each is more sure than the other? Who is right and who is wrong? Or are there different rights and wrongs for different people as long as we fail to see the same truth in the same way? As a saying goes, ‘There are usually three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth.’ We all fall short of the direct perception of truth because we all see the world through shades of ignorance and bias, tinted to different degrees. Disagreements between most of us occur when we fail to see through each other’s shades. Spiritual cultivation is a matter of removing these shades, and to help others do the same.

Only one who has removed his shades can see how dark his and others’ shades really were and are. Only he can share the truth that he sees directly. Only he can teach about the world as seen without shades. Only he can teach most of us how to remove these shades once and for all. We call him the Buddha, the Awakened One, the fully enlightened one, the bearer of perfect compassion and wisdom, who is so kind as to tell us about the pain of seeing through the shades, about what causes it, the shades right before us on our noses, the bliss of ‘shadelessness’ and the way to shadowless light of truth! (The Four Noble Truths: suffering, cause of suffering, end of suffering and the path to the end of suffering.) Zeph doesn’t wear shades. He doesn’t see the need to shield his eyes from the world or its true colours. It’s seldom too bright – just don’t stare at the sun! If the brightness of the sun represents the total truth, he suspects he’s not ready for it yet. Maybe that’s why he has the invisible shades of ignorance on – undetected… even by himself.

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