A Crisis of Meaning

Daniel Platt
3 min readSep 23, 2021

Probably a good thing?

When you decide to start writing regularly and the algorithms get wind of it, there’s no shortage of content out there; advice, encouragement and long treatise on writing as powerful cure-all. For every question I have about grammar, or challenge I have about voice or content or tone, there are innumerable solutions. It’s wonderful to be able to draw on a world full of talent and wisdom and experience but it’s a sword with two edges. For every idea I have or story I want to tell, there’s often plenty like it out there already in this world full of talent and wisdom and experience.

The desire for originality; to create something that wouldn’t otherwise exist rears its head in business and art and conversation. I find myself asking the question, ‘what can I add of value that hasn’t been said or done or made? What problem can I solve?’. These types of questions have an origin story that begins with survival. Survival was once very challenging for most people. It is still challenging for many of us occasionally and some of us regularly. When you’re worried about food or health or safety, you’re not typically worried about originality. You’re less likely to worry about being of value to others.

For the longest part of our history, almost all of us spent almost all our time securing food and shelter and staving off real and potential threats. If we weren’t doing what we had to, we were doing what we were told. Education, artistic expression, scientific enquiry… emerged slowly and was mostly reserved for a very small number of very privileged male aristocrats. Most people didn’t have the time or the language to consider their purpose or the peculiar inclination to think it might be important.

The struggle for survival, really, is an excellent purpose. It trumps most things. A brush with life’s fragility is disrupting for the same reason we say life is too short. Fragility; our mortality as a person or as a species is a helpful reference point for when we are imagining up other things to care about. It’s an excellent bullshit filter for when we are caught up on things that aren’t worth caring about: life is too short.

I suppose it’s a good time to have religion or any sort of dogma that takes some of the chaos and ambiguity out of natural life. I wonder if the ultra-orthodox huddled together in secret, illegal gatherings during Melbourne’s lockdown ever have crises of meaning? I assume not: a crisis of meaning is an expression of freedom from dogma or certainty of belief; it’s a type of secularism. We need a great deal of freedom to be able to say ‘actually, this is what’s important to me’ or ‘we’re going to do things differently around here’ or perhaps most importantly, ‘this is the reason I exist’.

These should be difficult questions to answer, re-evaluated from time to time and occasionally disorienting. Good pep talk.

Thanks, I needed it.

Originally published at https://danielplatt.substack.com on September 23, 2021.

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Daniel Platt

I’m a business owner and writing enthusiast. Writing helps me think deeply and work through the complexity of everyday life.