The soul longs for meaning, but the body settles for pudding
The search for meaning lies at the essence of being human. Like other non-human beings, we too struggle for existence. Like them, we too are driven by our biological drives to eat, sleep, mate and defend. But we also have at our core a need to make sense of it all: “Why do I exist? Why does anything exist? What is the purpose of it all?”
What usually swallows us is not incomprehension but distraction.
Art, literature, science – these are all ways in which we try to find meaning. Through them, we create islets of comprehension amidst the pervasive ocean of incomprehension that threatens to swallow us. Of course, what usually swallows us is not incomprehension but distraction. Desires for petty pleasures keep us from seeking lofty insights. We sometimes look for meaning, but when we catch sight of pudding, the body drags us towards it and buries us in the oblivion of momentary sensory stimulation.
Pudding of course is a metaphor for all superficial indulgences that keep us from pursuing meaning. The Bible phrases this human vulnerability well: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Our perennial weakness is presently further aggravated by our technology-powered culture of mass distraction.
Perhaps the greatest impetus to seek meaning is the reminder of our mortality: “How can I sit salivating over a pudding when death is swooping down on me relentlessly?” Unfortunately, the culture takes away that impetus too by offering us yet another new-looking pudding: browse a new channel, surf a new site, try a new game. Gita wisdom compares our situation to goats that despite being on a slaughter line stay docile because they are given some grass to munch.
The tragedy of our settling for pudding is that we miss the meaning – and mess the pudding.
The tragedy of our settling for pudding is that we miss the meaning – and mess the pudding. Despite our frenzied pursuit of material sensations, we are increasingly miserable even materially with rising rates of stress, anxiety disorders, depression, addiction and suicide – maladies that animals don’t suffer from.
If we wish to seek meaning, Gita wisdom stands ready to assist us. In fact, it (07.03) welcomes us by lauding us as cutting edge thinkers, one among millions who have had the courage to seek meaning. The Gita explains that our quest for meaning attains fulfillment in love, a love that trumps our mortality. We are at our core undying souls meant for immortal love. And the perfect object for our love is the all-attractive, all-loving Supreme Person, Krishna. All of existence is meant ultimately to prompt us to open ourselves to his love and to offer him our love.
When we learn to love him by practicing bhakti-yoga, the meaning we relish is so fulfilling we can’t but wonder why we settled for pudding for so long.