Unfinished Conversations: Meaning, Dreams, Relationships

Unfinished Conversations: Meaning, Dreams, Relationships

Jan 31 – Feb 2

bc:

Lol sorry, it was K’s last night in town, so we were up late

ai:

Haha I figured as much

bc:

Yeah he took off this morning

Is there something you could create that would be meaningful if no other people existed?

ai:

No 

But it depends on what you define meaning as 

Also I don’t think we have any means of finding an answer to that question 

What do you propose? 

bc:

That’s a good question, how to define meaning in that case. I’m still mulling it over…I know I know, too late lolol

ai:

See there’s good evidence that people in solitude pretty quickly lose their sanity. But who’s to say that’s not just their mind adapting in order to create meaning in their circumstances you know?  

bc:

??ive never met such evidence!

Yeah craziness is a tough one to know about

ai:

I’m pretty sure there’s good evidence for that man 

Couldn’t point you to where but I’m pretty sure it’s out there 

We’re inherently social animals

bc:

I don’t think you’re wrong, I’m just curious what the evidence actually says. Specifically what kind of insanity. I’m now recalling a podcast that I listened to awhile ago that talked about prisoners in solitary confinement having altered mental states after so much time

BBC has some interesting anecdotes:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140514-how-extreme-isolation-warps-minds

ai:

Interesting. Reminds me too of how extreme sleep depravation also produces altered mental states. Maybe both are reactions of the mind to the depravation of meaning (of the meaning of dreams and of the the meaning of interpersonal interaction) in which it tries to produce new forms of meaning. 

Well how do you prove that there is inherent meaning in interpersonal relationships? 

bc:

I think sleep depravation is more physiological than mental, but I could see that being the case for isolation

ai:

I think they’re both physiological but that doesn’t exclude mental processes or mental health 

bc:

Now that I think about it, I think physiology actually includes mental processes…but anyway what I meant to say was that I don’t think dreams have inherent meaning (I’m interpreting “meaning” in your above text as something that gives life purpose, so correct me if I’m wrong in that interpretation), so I wouldn’t think that a lack of sleep alters one’s mental state because of the depravation of meaning

I think the isolation studies are at least enough to warrant a hypothesis about the inherent meaning in relationships, although they usually seem to include subjects that are also stuck in a box, which could affect the results somewhat. Christopher McCandless, though, seems to be an example of the inherent meaning in interpersonal relationships. As far as proving it definitively, I think it would take a bunch of research. I mean, I just intuit that meaningfulness via divine inspiration, but others might not agree 😉

ai:

(Hahaha we still need to solve this intuition thing.) Well I extend the hypothesis for the inherent meaning of relationships based on isolation studies to a hypothesis for the inherent meaning of dreams based on the dream and REM sleep studies, and I put forward as additional anecdotal evidence (to match the Chris McCandless evidence) the entirety of religious texts from human history which tell stories of people finding purpose in their dreams. 

It seems to me that relationships and dreams are equally likely to have inherent meaning. 

bc:

I disagree. I think the “meaning” that comes from dreams isn’t inherent in the dreams themselves, but in the persons interpretation of them. I don’t think that the dream itself provides anything. I think that point is evident in the fact that if you weren’t to dream, you could still have a fully meaningful life. I don’t think the same could be said of interpersonal relationships, though. I use myself as an example of a meaningful life without dreams. I can’t remember the last time I had a dream that I remembered, but I live what I consider to be a meaningful life. & if a dream isn’t remembered, it would seem to be baseless conjecture to say that it provides meaning without you knowing it

ai:

Well you can think that all you want about the meaning that comes from dreams, but it is then a matter of opinion, and I can say that I think the “meaning” that comes from interpersonal relationships isn’t inherent in the relationships themselves but in the person’s treatment of the relationships. To support this argument I could point to people who have meaningless relationships (that is, relationships that give no greater purpose to their lives) because they don’t treat them properly, and if that isn’t conclusive I can point to a number of people who actually do live meaningful lives in solitude (or relative solitude): priests, monks, shamans, and the like. Interestingly enough, these specific examples tend to value dreams as meaningful as well, perhaps pointing to dreams as a possible replacement for interpersonal relationships. 

It seems to me that you are mixing up two claims:

1. Dreams have inherent meaning (which I am asserting).

2. It is necessary to have conscious experiences with all sources of inherent meaning in order to have a meaningful life (which I do not claim). 

Now, you may respond by saying that the partial solitude types mentioned above aren’t a sufficient example of someone living a meaningful life without interpersonal relationships because they often have relationships amongst themselves and/or with those they teach, regardless of the fact that they don’t form any close interpersonal relationships. I would respond that this is the exact kind of partial evidence you are presenting in the example of yourself. You are not conscious of your dreams, but they are still happening in some sense. That is, your brain still goes into REM sleep which is a necessary process by which your conscious and unconscious minds assimilate and make meaning of the information of the day. You may not consciously draw meaning from the dreams because you don’t remember them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a process going on by which your brain makes sense and purpose out of the world. Similarly, our monk might have some fraternal relationships with fellow monks, but he will not be conscious of that relationship as a source for purpose. He will see it, like you see dreams, as more of a by-product of the greater purpose/meaning source in his life: devotion to a higher being. Interestingly, this “relationship” with the divine could be seen as a coming together of the dream and the interpersonal relationship. But that’s another discussion. This is getting lengthy haha. 

bc:

This seems absurd to me, but I don’t want to type out a response to each point😂we could talk about this one in person (or something like it). But maybe going back to the start of this conversation will help…this discussion started when you said that the effects of solitude reminded you of the effects of not sleeping. It seems to me that the original connection between the effects of not sleeping and the effects of prolonged solitude was skewed. The effects of not sleeping come from the lack of sleep, not the lack of dreams (depending on how you define dreams—see last paragraph of this text lol). 

It’s observable that a lack of interpersonal connection is potentially damaging (which points to the possibility that relationships are inherently meaningful, although it doesn’t prove it), but it is not observable that a lack of dreams is potentially damaging, only that a lack of sleep is (so the same evidence for meaning that applies to interpersonal relationships does not apply to dreams). That being the case, the claim that dreams have inherent meaning would need to be supported by some other means. 

But I want to clarify that you are referring to dreams as, while related, separate from sleep and from the brain’s chemical processes by which your conscious and unconscious minds assimilate and make meaning of the information of the day. Is that correct?

Well see there I went and kept talking about it anyway lol

ai:

Hahaha I think it’s kind of neat—using modern means of communication for intelligent discourse. Like what Facebook could have been lol. 

But to respond, I guess I should have clarified better: the studies on sleep show that if you deprive someone specifically of rem sleep (the stage in which dreaming occurs) altered mental states are produced. So if you let someone sleep until they come to rem sleep and then wake them up and repeat that over and over, altered mental states are produced. 

Therefore, it is specifically a lack of dreams that is potentially damaging, not a lack of sleep. 

As for your other question, I don’t think the dream (what one experiences and remembers (or does not)) is separable from the chemical processes, just like interpersonal relationships aren’t separable from the associated chemical processes. 

I just watched free solo 

bc:

What did you think of it!???

Dude that’s a good idea, we should do this over Facebook. Way easier to type. 

Ahh that makes more sense, I’ve read some of those studies. But I think that the point of causation is something you would have to negotiate in order to prove the meaningfulness of dreams…Because I would think that the REM sleep (& accompanying chemical reaction) is what causes the dreams to occur. Whereas with interpersonal relationships, the relationship is what causes the chemical reactions to occur. & if something is the result of an action, would the action not be the part of that event that possessed the meaning, and the result merely a consequence of it?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/stuff-you-should-know/id278981407?mt=2&i=1000374277922

Also, check this out! Pretty cool podcast, and funny guys. Listen to it when you’re feeling funny

Like comedic, not strange

ai:

Dude he’s my hero. I was blown away. Beautiful movie. I’ll check out the podcast. 

As for our conversation: 

See, it’s not obvious to me that a dream is any more of a by-product of chemical processes than a relationship is. I think you just have that perspective because you yourself don’t value dreams, but look at my monk example: someone who values dreams and not relationships would have the exact opposite perspective, right? 

It’s pretty clear scientifically that attraction is caused by chemical processes; motivation of any kind (including that which pushes us toward emotional and physical intimacy) are also caused by chemical processes; and those cause relationships to develop. So relationships are just a by-product too. But what I take issue with really is your idea that just because something is a natural process it’s somehow necessarily absent of inherent meaning. Tell me more about that point. 

bc:

I don’t have that perspective because I don’t value dreams, I don’t value dreams because I have that perspective. As far as I understand the science of the mind, dreams are a byproduct of the events happening in the brain during REM sleep. I think one can gain meaning from what happens during that time, but the meaning is not inherent in the dream. One would have to create that meaning through their interpretation of the dream. A monk may value dreams more than I do, but regardless of how much one values their dreams, the dreams themselves are subconscious ideas playing in the form of random events that have come from our experiences. I don’t think that dreams don’t have value, I think they can be very valuable. I just don’t think they’re inherently meaningful. 

As far as relationships, what you said is true of early romantic relationships, but not necessarily of friendships. Some friendships are developed despite chemical reactions that fight against it (anxiety, fear, etc.), and they can still become meaningful. It’s as the relationship develops that the chemical process changes into a positive one. 

I don’t remember saying that…but I assume you’re referring to the fact that I’ve been denying inherent meaning in dreams because of the chemical process involved (the natural process). Is that right?

ai:

Yes that’s a correct assumption 

As for your distinction between friendships and romantic relationships, I think it’s really pushing logical consistency to say one kind of relationship is caused by one thing and another kind is caused by something completely different. The difference between romantic relationships and friendships is one of degree and not one of type. Or what do you propose friendships are caused by? Logical reasoning? Is that why g has so many friends?

Lol I think we ought to talk this one through in real time 😂😂

bc:

Yes, different things have different causes, but no, g has no friends, so my whole argument is shot😂yeah we definitely need to. I’m about to head to work, though

ai:

Lol yeah I’m heading into church. Maybe could talk later today or tomorrow

bc:

Today might be tricky, tomorrow I’m wide open, early would be better

ai:

Okay. In the meantime define for me “inherent meaning” 

bc:

Involved in the essential character of something that pertains to one’s purpose for existence

ai:

Okay so we could say any thing A has inherent meaning if involved in its essential character is something that pertains to some being’s purpose for existence? 

I sense you’ll take issue with “some being’s” but maybe not. I’m just trying to make your “one’s” a little more specific. Would you prefer “some being’s” “any being’s” or “every being’s”? 

Or something else

bc:

Let’s make it:

Any thing (A) has inherent meaning iff involved in its essential character is something that pertains to a person’s purpose for existence

We need not speculate for the animals, plants, etc.

ai:

True, good distinction 

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