The search for meaning ends here …

In the 1990, i was driving through a remote part of Central Australia when we passed a sign, in the middle of a European nowhere, which said "You are now entering Aboriginal land."

There seemed something terribly wrong. The whole broken-range country we had been travelling through was saturated with Dreamings known to the local "indigenous" lawmen.

With all of cosmos subject to Dreaming signification, there could be no false demarcation. What kind of mind-Being-deadedness does it require for such a sign to be taken seriously?

It reminded me of a colour cartoon i once saw (in the 70s) in which two characters are in full flight – cat chases mouse – when a sign whips passed in the background and – suddenly – they are in black and white. They tip-toe back to the sign to read that "Technicolor ends here".

Well, the Age of Reason’s one-sided search for meaning ends here.

If it is accurate to to characterise parts of human life as being shaped by a search for meaning, then we come to a point where we can treat that search – with all its gains and associated costs – as a constricting skin which we must now shed.

Moving from one mode to another —  but what it is next?

Claude Levi-Strauss, the foremost modern anthropologist of our times, summed it up very neatly some years ago during his intellectual debate with Sartre:

"The real question is not whether our endeavour to understand involves a gain or loss of meaning, but whether the meaning we preserve is of more value than that we have been judicious enough to relinquish. In this respect Sartre seems to remember only half of Marx’s and Fried’s combined lesson. They have taught us that man has meaning only on the condition that he view himself as meaningful. So far I agree with Sartre. But it must be added that this meaning is never the right one: superstructures are faulty acts which have made it socially." (Claude Levi-Strauss ‘The Savage Mind’ 1962:253-254)

The search for meaning does not end in a universal meaning, but a realisation that knowledge is always surrounded by a mysterious cosmos.

We can opt to seek finer levels of abstract understanding – a bit like a life style choice – but must also accept that abstract understanding is inherently unstable.

And are there more pressing priorities?

In place of privileged forms of knowledge, an appreciate of allowing coexisting spaces – but never allowing for domination of one by the other.

All the ideologies, the control trips – the vertical metaphors necessary for command structures to operate – an enormous bubble in life’s working through a grand experiment.

Moving right along … and leaving fundamentalists of various trends to conduct their rear guard battles to preserve illusions of privileged  human understanding … we move from a search for meaning to a search for Ways of Being – of getting as right as possible how we relate to our surroundings and to each other.

We can look at the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples with new eyes – there are real lessons to be learnt.


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