Are You Significant?

August 1, 2022 Cognitive Insights No Comments

No, you’re not. Please keep reading.

Sorry for giving you this starter’s kick.

The meaning of being significant

The term comes from the Latin: signum + facere = making a sign or mark. The wish for significance is about putting one’s mark on something, thus being important, influential, meaningful.

The meaning of being significant is the meaning of being deeply meaningful. Such a self-referencing concept (OKAY, while shoveling depth inside) shows this can be challenging ― as indeed, it is to many, if not all, people. This looks like an inherent challenge of being human.

The main problem is that the yearning for significance (deep meaningfulness) is symbolic. Therefore, it risks acting like a big black hole demanding ever more stuff to swallow. It’s never enough ― as in the case of a Roman emperor ordering giant statues or, more recently, Putin wanting to ‘remake the glory of Russia’ (or anything grand enough in his present mindset).

This is also about me

Of course, everyone includes me. That makes me keenly aware of the poignancy of the starter’s kick, rest for sure.

As all people, and as you, I also try to be significant. Looking at the AURELIS project, I’m giving it my best shot. Even so, I have moments of doubt just like anyone else who doesn’t spend a life in hiding.

Where does this come from?

For such matters, we should look at the origin of life ― the shift from pure matter to living matter. This is also the shift from an evolution-toward-sheer-chaos (entropy) to a bubble in which chaos-as-goal has been replaced by the opposite. Life exists within this bubble, not outside of it. This means that meaningfulness (opposite to chaos) also only exists within this bubble.

Looking into the universe with an even stronger telescope will not show us meaningfulness within pure matter. That is because the concept itself is a bubble concept. Moreover, unfortunately, the hypothesis that ‘the whole universe is alive’ doesn’t fit any sensible definition of life. We are meaningfully stuck in the bubble.

Social media

Why does anyone want to be ‘liked’ on any platform? In view of the above, you may already have a hunch.

Social media gives everyone a personal chance to make a mark, even if it is but in a moment of significance. Of course, there is then also the dream of becoming influential, a social media ‘influencer.’ This is the modern social median dream of many, consciously or not. Even so, like many dreams, it’s fleeting. It’s also symbolic.

From insignificance to burnout

Does burnout come from working too hard for too long?

Or does working this way come from the feeling that this is necessary for being significant? If this doesn’t deliver on its promise after much self-neglecting hard work, one can get into a crisis of significance.

Does burnout come from the underlying feeling of insignificance that hits hard when seeming bottomless also after working hard and long? This may show the same association but with a different causation.

Don’t give people work just like that. Give them meaningful work ― or even better, any meaningful occupation, anything that makes one feel needed.

Give Putin something else to do, as long as he finds it deeply meaningful ― writing a philosophical memoire perhaps?

The other side of the symbolic

Above, I portrayed the symbolic as a black hole. One can reverse the image, making its infinite surroundings symbolic too. Having done so, one can see that in order to satisfyingly fill a symbol, one ‘only’ needs another symbol.

Concretely, that can be much or very little, as long as it ‘means so much to me personally.’

The all-too-human problem

We can consciously think about things that were never meant to be consciously thought about. For instance, unlike any animal, we can think about immortality while remaining mortal for life. This way, death becomes frightening ― symbolically, remember.

Our thinking doesn’t fit with our being.

Two final rescues

One is even more challenging than the other:

  • Significance is symbolic, therefore granted ― more significantly, granted by a symbolizer. Your crucial symbolizer is you. You can grant significance to yourself. Easy? Not quite. Moreover, this can easily lead to self-aggrandizement. The second rescue is the better one.
  • This rescue is ego-transcending but not ego-neglecting. It is related to Compassion, basically, in a feeling of intrinsic overlap with one or many others. ‘You’ are significant because ‘you’ overlap endlessly in time and place.

As said, none of both is straightforward. Nevertheless, we can revisit the answer to the title’s question.

You are significant.

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