How to Deal With A Crisis of Meaning


It can be painfully easy to hit what we call a crisis of meaning. It can be painfully easy to hit what we call a crisis of meaning. In these moments we feel the following: What I am doing makes no sense. I am not contributing to anything. I am living day to day repeating things for a logic I just don’t understand. At such points, it can help to step back, and consider something we don’t usually address. What is the meaning of existence for the species as a whole? What is the underlying narrative logic for the mess, full starts, occasional progress, and fitful path of human history? The 200 thousand year old history of Homo Sapiens. By this we of course don’t mean a God given meaning. We mean a logic that drives human behaviour at its best. The most generous interpretation of what knits human action, when it isn’t driven by evil motives. Here we can make the following rather bold declarations: There are four drivers of meaning in the human race. Firstly, to continue the species. Secondly, to master our minds – understand ourselves. Thirdly, to master our environment – increasing our command over it through knowledge, control of resources, and reduction of the role of accident and misfortune. And fourthly, the increase of our satisfaction. These vast headings help to explain a lot of our day to day activity. Take the human drive of continuing the species. Which explains parenting, courtship, love. Take mastering our minds, and understanding ourselves. That explains philosophy, psychology, education, even media. Mastering the environment. That explains business, defense, science, architecture. And as for our quest for happiness, this explains religion, culture, art. It is because of our need to master the environment that we store up capital. It is because we are collectively engaged in continuing the species that we become parents. It is in order to reduce the role of random accidents that we have science. Crucially these four drives are vast collective movements. And no one human ever makes more than a tiny contribution to any of them. From a sufficient distance, even the so called ‘great names’, Shakespeare and Newton, Eistein and John F Kennedy. Only ever add a little bit to the unfolding river of humanity. The greatest might adjust its course by a millimetre. Naturally, in relation to the mighty goals of humanity, each of us is puny, and therefore measuring our contribution individually is bound to leave us defeated. We shouldn’t be doing this. We should think that we are but temporary actors of a species with broadly collective goals. Though our goals can feel very personal to us, when for example we’re building up our own business, we’re just partaking in the species will to master the environment and husband resources for a while. The history of humanity unfolds in time. We only ever make our contribution at one moment. And the changing circumstances mean that our achievements do risk seeming absurd at another point in time. A very important nobleman in 14th century England is mere dust now. We remember almost no human who lived in the 11th century. Almost nothing stands out in the whole of 9th century. All those people who lived and died are as nothing. This is similar to what will happen to us today. We can tell by looking backwards and anticipating forwards that very little of what we do could conceivably have much of an impact. Nevertheless, we can, at best, see ourselves as making a contribution to the goals of humankind. Maybe over a lifetime we’ll collect a few resources. We’ll understand a few bits of the puzzle of the mind. We’ll have children, who’ll have children, who’ll have children. We’ll alleviate the suffering of a few other people. It won’t be much on its own. But we shouldn’t measure it on its own. That is the sickness of individualism. We have to measure it against the broad stream of what humanity is up to. In James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, there is a charming moment where Stephen Deadalus who’s nine years old and central character writes his name on a geography book on a way to position him in space. He begins, Stephen Dedalus, Class of Elements, Clangauces Wood College Sallins, County Kildare, Ireland, Europe, the World, the Universe. All of us exist in these kind of multiple dimensions. The immediate, the class we’re in, our name. And the grand, within the universe. We need to do a version of this positioning exercise, except we are not looking for geographical positioning, we are looking for purpose positioning. None of us is going to make a huge contribution to the history of the meaning of the species. We will just tinker with one or two elements. We’ll have kids, we will make a bit of money, we will understand one or two things. So we have to take species pride. And reconcile ourselves to our smallness in the larger scheme. But it can still help us to know that a connection exists between what we are up to and what the grand story of humanity means. If today you made some money, that’s connected to humanity attempting to master its environment. If today you looked after some children you’ll have furthered in a tiny way the survivor of the species. If today you taught someone something, you’ll have continued our attempt to understand the human condition. If today you tied up the house, you helped to make life be slightly less random and accident prone. What we call being depressed means not being able to find oneself on the grid of meaning. Not being able to plot one’s own coordinates on the map of the meaning of humanity. But if we look the right way, everything can be connected. One is almost always in some way helping to continue and enhance the project of our species. We just need to get better at spotting meaning. At narrating the meaning of ones life in relation to the meaning of the whole species. We publish new, thought provoking films every week. Be sure to subscribe to our channel, and take a look at more that we have to offer at the link on your screen now.

100 thoughts on “How to Deal With A Crisis of Meaning

  1. Except for one thing… Humanity isn't going to make it. Either natural calamity or our own malfeasance will eliminate us within 1000 years or even less. Thinking I might make it a teeny bit better (doubtful) for whoever is here the last 100 years or so isn't much comfort. Looking at the bigger picture makes it worse, not better.

  2. The drop is an individual but within the ocean there is only a terrifying oneness. The principle is the same for the human-being, within humanity. Yet we willingly fool ourselves with the myth of individuality.

  3. Being proud of this species? Colaborate in his goals? did you clean your glasses School of Life? So comformist and pathetic this video…

  4. Are you having a crisis of meaning? We have an opportunity that can help you remember why you do what you do, all while helping others. http://volunteerinvest.org/

  5. If Life is inherently meaningless then how am I to feel anything “meaningful” knowing it’s just another illusion?

  6. I feel l don't have any role in my life, l live the same day. Over ,how i can finde my meaning . I am not marriage . I dont. Workr.. l live😣😣😣

  7. thank you. this is the guide i have been desperately looking for. i hope i had saw this earlier

  8. "The school of life" I just want you next to me in every second/step/choice/thought in my life

  9. the existance of a cooker or a teacher will be deemed useless in a century, they will be forgotten, by far. Einstein or Hawking will never be forgotten, despite the fact that, the former did mess up the humanity with his offer a bit ,didn't he?? are they not considered superior human beings?? unfortunately, I can't understand…

  10. Why should everything have to mean something else?  That's the attitude of a schizophrenic.

  11. Life is boring, repetitive ,dull and above all its painful to live one more day.morning doesn't bring joy once its used to do.

  12. That's just the point all of those motivations are meaningless in themselves there is no objective standard by which to judge them.

    We can't help but toil endlessly and then we die.

  13. How do you prove what you say? Without proof, is it not equally valid to claim the universe is at my service?

  14. Life is magic ya dig ? I watch Wes Anderson films and I get a fire in my belly, it makes me feel, it makes me wanna produce my own movies and share my messages like he does. Sure I see other movies and stuff but they don’t excite me as much as Wes does.

    You have to find what makes you feel. Something that makes you want to physically go out and do ( or stay at home whatever you want ) 100x things to attempt to master, 7 billion stories to hear from real people and your telling me lying in bed be scared of human connection or failure is worth telling your self your safe ?
    No one cares for your safety but your mom and you. Fuck grand Devine purpose and be your own god. When we are learning something new, something we understand that is the magic. The desire to master it until we do is where we can purpose. You are your purpose YOU do this so you can feel.
    So
    You
    Can
    Feel.

    Everyone’s thing in life most the time is to be alone. To feel someone else and share in our suffering of what could have been.
    We need to listen to what we feel and not what we see.

    Take some risks, blast some music and think about it.

  15. This is like the atheist's definition of the meaning of life..and it's depressing. No wonder nihilism is so rampant these days.

  16. I ran through alot of comments in my mind for this video and none of them came even close to "dealing" with an existential crisis seriously i think i now have it along with a severe depression .. i get your point and all but u really need to change the title 😑

  17. Ok, it's about the meaning of your life again, but the meaning of your life to whom? To other people? Why should you care about what your life means to other people? To God? What if he just creates you for fun? To the universe? The universe doesn't give a shit. Asking about the meaning of life is just absurd. Simply put, your life means everything to you. Without it, there is no you to question anything's meaning to start with. If you are asking yourself about the meaning of your life, it's probably because you are not happy with your current situation. Focus on how you should change that instead, and that's how you deal with an existential crisis.

  18. The comment thread for this video is as vast as the Universe – meaning that my comment to your meaningless comment to this video has absolutely no meaning… But strangely enough, I can still find a certain thread of meaning in all of this. Ciao!

  19. In this period I am used to observing the absurdity of the reality,we born only to die . Of course there are some fun activity to enjoy but I am too focus on the precarious position of humans.i develop this crysis not becouse failings in jobs or in life but only by mastering my knowledge,why being so curios and rational give us these delusions

  20. I just want to make sure other species survive. Humanity has made a mess of this planet.

  21. "You don't matter. Now slave away in the fields for the good of the collective. "

  22. Thanks for this! It really got me to reflect on my thoughts and feelings and how i personally regards meaning.
    You really put it into good perspective when you panned outwards from person and focused on the specie level 🙂

  23. Is there really any point to be alive if there are no afterlife? I mean everything will going to dissapear from existence: all history of mankind, every information, humankind and all the life because of the loss of energy in galaxy all stars will burn out eventually and then great darkness will consume everything so if there is no afterlife nothing will forever exist so every single human life is pointless because it will eventually be forgotten and removed from every information. Also people can only live to 300 years if we invented the pills that would stop aging because human memory can only have about 300 years of memories and when a person have no more room for memories he stops thinking.

  24. “Jesus is the way the truth and the life.”
    You’re relationship with Him is the ONLY thing that can truly fill you up and save you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. “Come as you are.”

  25. What happens when you realize if all the humans disappeared it wouldn’t matter because there would be nobody left to care

  26. Yeah tell this bull shit to 100.000.000 cihadis whose all satstifaction comes from being part of their holy cemaat and they want to turn the world to islam. One purpose. Nothing more. Yet except they are wanne be killers, they are HAPPY and not LOST in their minds.

    Or look at those utter horrid corporate people. They just think the PROFIT. Again one purpose to make them purposeful, focused, happy. All other they do is to show their wealth, art, science, tech they just buy with the profit they make.

    The problem is us, people who like Fight Club, people who feel connected to Neo in the Matrix. WE, without the harsh conditions of pre modern ages. We now most of the time have the food, water, warmt, and a peaceful place to sleep. Now we can either multiply by mating (marrying or whatever). But personaly it doesn't help your lonelines to having children.

    Exactly when you KNOW the universe and you don't have the wealth, power or the grand community (like Islamists have in their minds), then you feel you are lost. Cuz as the script mentions, in like a thousand years we all will be forgotten. Only great leaders, scientists, artists, criminals will be remembered. And even them will be remembered as and altered version of themselves. Cuz we like to change what we like or hate most. Criminals will be honored one day and great leaders will be ridiculed.

    So really there is nothing beyond survival. If you survive then the game is over. If you BARELY survive then the hype and fear carries you for the upcoming days.

    I don't feel like I belong to the great community of mankind. Cuz there is no such thing. Most ıf the mankind I hate already. All nation institutions, all religions, all organizations that control or profit for/from mankind and the rest of the nature. So to feel like "making little steps for the mankind" is nonsense. And yet beyond bending the knee and following what the majority follows is the only way to find some purpose. Yet again the whole reason for FEELING LOST is because somehıw we can not FOLLOW at the first place. That is why we are sad. We are sad because we are. Therefore not being anymore is the only way for salvation. Anyways the nature will coreect this when willingly or not we gonna die. So my inner peace comes from this.

    "As we gonna die one day then we can assume that we are dead already. As our life time is like a second to the existence of the universe. Then there is no need to look for meanings or goals. We are already dead. We just not yet experienced it. Instead we are experiencing the reasons of our death. What we eat, who we fuck, where we roam, where we belong. These are the reasons why we are dead. So no need to feel lost. We are dead already, it is nonsense to be dead and lost at the same time."

  27. I had this some time ago, I sometimes somehow think I might overcome this state off feeling so empty by moving out off the Netherlands, and move to the United Kingdom, or even Canada.

  28. 1.
    The continuation the species as the goal of reproductive success? — It seems that the author isn't aware of the concept of "selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins.

    2.
    As social animals, we need self-affirmation through ascendance of the social ladder. Today, "making money", accumulation of wealth is the most popular way of self-affirmation.

    3.
    Our supreme goal is to create a superior mind—an autonomous artificial intelligence (AAI) , that will be more adequate to demands, put on us by our environment.

  29. A life of virtue is the most acceptable sacrifice to god. If you live a good life you will be rewarded by the treasures you laid in heaven. You will be remembered there and your story will be told. That’s what gets me over this feeling of meaningless. Otherwise it’s meaningless. Faith brings peace.

  30. you forgot the most important part. existential crisis means finding existence deprived of meaning, and in such a moment, one hardly gives a shit about our species progress

  31. After hoping that something of philosophical studies could answer world conflicts
    for long enough, I finally settled on the hair-pulling orgasm of language and meaning. My choice has held fast – ever since.

  32. Humanity is just stupid. Most of us should just die. Where is Thanos when you need him?

  33. I would say that you contribute saving our species by NOT having kids rather than giving birth

  34. Depression and feeling insignificant after losing your significant other ftw. Honestly, life can fuck itself.

  35. If my life is meaningless and humanity is made of people like me, then how does consoling myself that by advancing the progress of humanity, which is made of individuals who have no purpose, , my life is becoming meaningful??? This kind of explanation makes my problem worse. It basically says, there is a meaning because there is a meaning because there is a meaning.

  36. "Don't attempt to change the lifes of a lot of people" says the creator of the School of Life…

  37. yay im just a fucking 0.0000000000001% piece of a giant puzzle, helps plenty thanks

  38. It’s funny that I came across this today because I’m reading James Joyce’s Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man right now lol

  39. my only criticism of SoL videos is that, as an artist, i wish theyd tell us the names of the awesome pictures they use so i can go google it up and learn more!

  40. You were nothing in the past, you will be nothing in the future, enjoy life and chill the fuck out in the present

  41. There's a mistake that I make every morning, without exception.







    I wake up.

  42. Damn, I wish I was a cat so my only concern would be if my nap is long enough.

  43. What if your depression is stemming from the impact of furthering the grand project of "our species" on other species which have the capability to experience pain?

  44. I thought it was just a mid life crisis … then I realised my whole life was a crisis 😝

  45. "Crisis of meaning" is not about the physical-ness of our species. Crisis of meaning is psycho/spiritual.

  46. Who else feels worse after watching this video than they did before?

  47. To have chidren and money? Nonsense.
    You haven't even try to answer your own question.
    WE ARE SOUL BEINGS PRIMARILY.

  48. If I mean nothing and contibute very little, why play this game at all?

  49. If you live your life as if there is no God, then life has no meaning. Your four drivers of meaning are merely distractions that keep you from honestly looking at your own meaninglessness. In other words, self deception. And we have an enormous motive for self deception because a life without meaning is well on the way to suicide or insanity.

  50. This doesn't help though if you lack meaning in your life or just can't make sense why this human thing should even keep on going. I think the best medicine for that is to realize that there is no ultimate goal, there can't even be, so find things that you enjoy doing. That's pretty much it. Doesn't hurt to help or entertain others while you're at it.

    I think trying to find meaning in some future concept that you won't be able to witness makes you just distract yourself from realizing what life really is, and you just pass on your existential crisis to your future lineage when finally one of them stops to think where this train is leading. I think that meaning is something we find, instead of create.

  51. I think fight club said it better We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.”

    We where raised like snowflakes but was not expecting the snowfall

  52. The idea is right, yet the examples and explanation is on the surface. I would not be surprised if many feel worse after watching this video. Individualism can make it all so much better and easier to accept, if it would have been seen as a brilliant summit of the history of human growth. Through convinced individualism humankind can get the richest selection of different and unique personal paths in life; where one immortal being would never manage to explore all the ways to live and evolve through the whole of the time there will ever be, a huge and diverse community of millions of tiny people would try their best to see all that there could be seen. I believe, it is through the wise and adecuate perception of individualistic lifestyle, many of us can learn to make the best of it. As always, damned to dissapointment are those who stray to much from a balance, where there are two extremes to stick to 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *