I can tell Comic Con is going on, because suddenly the interwebs is full of leaked superhero movie trailers, gleeful enthusiastic fans, and transcripts of celebrity nerd panels. In this one, Joss Whedon gets asked that simple question, “What is the meaning of life?”, and he starts out well, but then screws up.
“You think I’m not going to, but I’m going to answer that. The world is a random and meaningless terifying place and then we all—spoiler alert—die.
Yes. There is no “meaning” of life. Grasp that, and a whole lot of things make sense. But stop! Don’t mess it up!
Most critters are designed not to know that. We are designed, uniquely, to transcend that, and to understand that—I can quote myself—a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.”
Dang. He had to ruin it with nonsense about “design” and human exceptionalism. When you talk about design, you are implicitly implying a meaning: that we have a purpose, which is to transcend the fundamental reality of the universe. We don’t have that purpose, and we don’t transcend anything — some of us are just really good at deluding ourselves into believing that we do.
I don’t escape the random, meaningless nature of the universe, or accept it any better than a dog getting hit by a car, or a rabbit getting mauled by a dog. In fact, I don’t see any difference between how a dog and a human respond to confronting the tragic indifference of existence at all. Except that we talk a heck of a lot more about it.
Whedon added that “the main function of a the human brain, the primary instinct, is storytelling. Memory is storyelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and to distort, but we [also] learn to tell a story about ourselves.”
He’s right about the imperfection of memory, but leave it to a professional storyteller to try and tell us a story about how the main function of the human brain is storytelling.