Allow me to introduce what I have decided to call the ‘Wikipedia Effect’.
The Wikipedia effect is the feeling of desperation and bewilderment caused by trying to read up on any technical topic at Wikipedia and traversing too many links on the website to other related pages. After about a dozen clicks, the reader begins to realize that each topic leads to deeper, more complex topics and they are walking down a deep cave with nothing but a dim flickering lantern.
A casual observer might mistakenly believe that the prime directive in life is the pursuit of happiness. In reality, I believe the ultimate goal of the conscious organism is the pursuit of meaning.
This pursuit takes many shapes and forms, and is often described in different words. People talk about wanting a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. Others want to be challenged, to feel, to overcome obstacles and emerge victorious. And at times, they ask why – why should I do what I am doing right now? The answer to this question takes a philosophical turn – if you keep asking why, you are eventually forced to come face-to-face with the ultimate question – why does something exist rather than nothing?
Many years ago, I asked myself that very question, and kept hitting a very frustrating dead-end in my chain of logic, until one day I had an “Aha!” moment. I finally had a key insight, and it was this: the question of why anything exists is entirely meaningless unless there is someone to ask the question. The question of why is therefore entirely subjective, and it is the subject’s responsibility to define the answer.
In simpler terms, if you are a conscious – self-aware – organism, you are obliged to set your own goals and objectives, rather than look for instruction from elsewhere. Ironically, most self-aware organisms learn early on to conform to existing frameworks of goal-setting, and seldom venture outside of their bounds. Whether it is religion, culture, tradition, parents’ teachings or society’s laws – the conscious individual must make conscious choices in walking down the path.