Do you choose to drink your morning coffee out of a Styrofoam cup?
To cure the feeling that are lives are in some ways “flattened” we need a dose of objective Reality.
We have this idea that meaning is in the mind–the individual mind. The logic being: It has to be, because it can’t be anywhere else.
We start with this premise and are forced to the conclusion. But what if the premise is all wrong.
Meanings are External
The Greeks used to think meaning was external–in creation–in the logos. Judeo-Christianity also taught that meaning was external–it’s source is in the transcendent God.
In the recent past, we made a couple of turns in our thinking and end up assuming that meaning lies within us as individuals–meaning, indeed reality, is subjective–this is subjectivism.
It’s as hard to disprove this foundational assumption as it is to prove it, but we can look at where this view takes us in the end, and perhaps draw some conclusions.
The Mug Matters
Do you choose to drink your morning coffee our of a Styrofoam cup? I don’t know anyone who would. The coffee itself doesn’t taste any different, but the experience is, for some reason, inferior. It sucks to drink coffee out of Styrofoam. My grandfather, it is said, refused to drink coffee out of a clear-class cup–I’m with him, but glass is better than the paper cups we get from Starbucks and nothing is as good as a ceramic one. This may be a universal experience.
I think tea drinkers are even more aware of this principle–the mug matters.
There is meaning in the mug.
I don’t subjectively decide one vessel is superior to the other for the consumption of hot beverages, it’s an objective truth and it lies in the mug itself.
The objective qualities that make one mug superior to another is not simply a matter of practical considerations, although these are important. If the vessel it too large, or the walls too thin, the beverage will cool too quickly.
There is inherent value in the mug itself that most enhances the consumption of its contents. This has to do with blending of a host of qualities, not the least of which is tactile. That point at which its physicality encounters my own. A mug is more than a mug, the physical thing, in the same way, although perhaps to a lesser degree, that I am more than a physical thing.
The mug is magic?
If the mug is just a mug, then the drinker is just a drinker. When we devalue the world of objects, we also devalue ourselves.
When the world is flattened, we become flattened.
If you sense that you are more than a resource, that a thing that has value beyond its utility, then perhaps you are in no immediate danger of the modern malaise. If you want immunity, start by seeing the inherent value in your coffee cup.
So part of the cure for the modern malaise is the recovery of objective reality.
Read a related post here. It’s about onions.