Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Meaning Your Soul

Meaning is the power of attention,
And the attention doesn’t have to be
Magnificent, collective, curated,

Or sustained. Attention is valuable,
But it’s not a resource, not endangered.
Whatever it is in other species,

Among symbolically minded humans
It’s a sort of spinneret of meaning,
And it will make meanings, wanted or not.

This seems to have an adaptive function—
Meaning’s special for humans, and is tied,
Almost invisibly, to all structures

Involved in the species’ outbreak success.
But meaning’s more than a special trick,
More than echolocation, webbing, flight—

Whatever it does for modern humans,
All busy making it by attending
To whatever captures their attention,

Meaning is ontologically unique.
In a universe in which everything,
Even pure information, is conserved,

Meaning comes into being from nothing
And to nothing returns—it can be lost,
Genuinely lost, more lost than the light

A black hole swallows that somehow persists.
Meaning is the only thing that exists
That doesn’t continue as something else.

When humans speak fretfully of their souls,
Struggling to hold immaterial real,
They mean the meanings that attention brings.

When people speak of soul as profound core,
As essential, immortal, transcendent,
They’re clutching exactly what no one holds,

What can and will go for good, but also
What mere attention, while memory serves,
Keeps making from nothing—and more, and more.

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