February 2010


Finishing-up Dan Goleman’s “Social Intelligence” and thought I’d share a couple fascinating studies. First, it seems that couples in love–those who have spent many years together–begin to actually look alike. In strong, healthy relationships as two people interact and loop emotionally, they adopt similar expressions and mannerisms. This constant and parallel flexing/tensing of muscles creates similar patterns of ridges and lines in their faces–and the more alike two people appear, the happier and stronger their past relationship.

I find this sort of thing so charming and intriguing. We really do create and define one another as life goes on. We physically shape one another by our emotional states and feelings. Goleman sites another study that finds in unhappy, long-term marriages, the effects of negativity impact a woman’s health as strongly as factors like smoking or obesity. Being in a bad relationship is like smoking a pack-a-day. Curiously, though, it didn’t hold true for men–men seem to be just as healthy whether in a good relationship or bad. But you know what did factor extremely poorly for a man’s health? Being in no relationship at all.

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The meaning of life is that life is meaningful—on its own.

Our lives are inescapably meaningful, and we, each of us, are little meaning generators…

We are meaningful to ourselves, and we are meaningful to others. When we ask the question, “Is there a meaning to life?” or “What is the meaning of life?” our lives already have meaning. It means something to ask these questions, and even if we shake our fist at the sky, wondering what it’s all for, concluding that life and everything in it is meaningless—well, that’s a meaningful thing…

We are not the play-things of God(s) or the objects of some grand plan—what happens in our lives is not concretely meant to be—there is no cosmic playwright writing us, no Goddess planning our destiny—our futures are not etched in the stars or determined by the position of Pluto as it rises against Neptune in this Age of Aquarius…

And yet everything we do is meaningful—perhaps in ways we’ve never considered. Our actions affect our own lives and our daily decisions spill over into the lives of others–even a sideways glance may be a moment of meaning to a stranger. It is senseless to ask if life has meaning, the question itself is profoundly meaningful—so the answer, then, is always and intensely yes…

It is this overpowering meaningfulness, this overwhelming sense of import that fuels our curiosity. It is why we dissect and why we collect, why we record and why we gaze—it is also why we  make-up gods and demons, why we worship deities and pray to invisible beings. It’s the certainty that life is meaningful without understanding why it is so that convinces us someone else must be in control—that makes us think all this meaning can’t come from just me.

But it does. Your are that meaningful.

This is a blog about that—about the meaning foundational to our human lives. It is also about the discoveries of science and how they impact the way we see ourselves–it is about psychology and neuroscience, about particle physics and evolutionary biology. This is a blog about making sense of our meaning, and about the mistakes we too-often repeat along the way. It is a blog about everything–and I hope you’ll get involved in the discussion.