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Aditya Kumar Panda

Aditya Kumar Panda: Meaning and Limits

Quest for meaning. Image source-

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Meaning is something inherent in the human. It is a part of a being called human. It is not that whatever exists on the earth has a meaning. Things do exist without any meaning, without any purpose. Searching meaning in everything may be a human affair that is created by the civilisational development. This quest for meaning is one of the contributions of modern civilisation. When I say, “meaning” here, it means the linguistic meaning as well as the meaning that makes a life significant. In other words, what we understand when we understand the meaning of words and sentences, and the other one is what is that which makes us say and feel that life is worth-living, life is meaningful.

Meaning is always made, it does not exist in itself like a stone, like a bamboo. Sounds do exist, but words are created. Things do exist but meaning in them or out of them is created. When one says that "life is absurd", it is the absurdity made within the civilisational structure (civilisation, society, other institutions) that one refers to. Is there anything that can be termed as absurd outside this structure? Absurdity could be thought up as a man-made situation. It is the realisation of a man in his living a life in a particular society that creates relationship with other men in the society or societies which don't go in a prescriptive way. The meaningful relationship and contact creates absurdity when it is realised as meaningless. Searching a meaning in a man-made society is meaningful if the search achieves the norms prescribed by that particular made-society and when it does not achieve the prescribed norms of the man-made society, it is termed as meaningless. No human can create meaning unless he/she is a part of a society and culture (part of a society means related to a society, influenced by a society, living in a society). The meaning is not inborn quality but a given one by a society and a culture. Meaning is a learned one. Absurdity is not there, but it is created in man-made society, it is found within a relationship that is possible only in living in a society. What is meaningful is a made-meaningful not a meaningful there. Something is sin or virtuous does not exist in itself, but is made in a society.

A society has its own limits, fixed by the people who live in that particular society. Limits are the control of those elements without which the structure of society becomes destabilised. Without a limit, nothing is known on this earth. Without a limit, nothing can be communicated on this earth. If one thinks that he/she is a man, it is the limit of his/her thinking and language through which he/she can speak about himself or herself. A limit creates categories like man, animal, house, temple, church, society etc. Structuralism has the limit but post-structuralism delimits it. By delimiting it, it travels from a limit to another and the travel is endless. But the meaning will be analysed better, when one goes beyond structuralism and post-structuralism. What I am referring to the object of meaning is to study the creations of the limits of the meaning. As for instance, ‘absurdity’ has a meaning. Absurdity is a conflict between the limiting as well as the destabilising forces of a society. It does not have anything to do with the factors outside the society. The process of knowing, the process of giving meaning to something that this is religious, this is scientific, this is communal etc. and etc. are the products of civilization (here I mean the state of man when he/she becomes a part of a society, part of a category) and culture. Man is the key factor of a human society that he creates, that he owns, that he controls. Suicide does not seem to exist in the Old Stone Age. It is one of the possible solutions that a man goes for at the time of societal crisis, which is invented by the modern society as a remedy. Suicide is societal (society and the limits cause it), it is never biological (it is not a disease). When somebody commits suicide, he/she commits suicide because he/she cannot control the destabilising forces of the society. The one who commits suicide is responsible for it but his/her society is equally responsible. The environment of causing suicide is man-made society where the victim lives. There is no fate, no destiny. Fate or destiny is the factor that gives sympathy to the people who are in a particular society, people in a society needs support from a power outside the limit and the nature of the power is designed by them. One of the factors of powers outside the limit may be God. Our suffering is not because of something outside our society; it is the problem of our society in which we live. The decision we take, the meaning we give is at once a man's decision which may become man-made society's decision later. One important point is to be remembered here that man exists before his/her society came into being. Something that is beautiful exists before it is called beautiful. Beauty is there, but calling it a beauty or beautiful has been made by a society or by a culture. Man is there but calling him ‘man’ has been made by a society. Society is the repetitive controlling institution and language is a tool to be used by it. The time the repetition of such institution gets established, it becomes sacred and the open limit is closed. Good and evil seems to be a play of such a closed system that is known as society and religion. The poor modern man who believes in such systems is always deluded. Such systems gives him confidence about his life after death but he/she could not understand the repetitive closed limit. It happens in the history of a society that the limits which are created by the society become all in all of the lives of the people who live in that society. They cannot go beyond the limit. The limit of the society determines the limit of the thoughts of the people who live in there. The meaning in a society can be challenged any time. The society itself can be challenged any time. A society creates a meaning by causing repetitions of the same which would result in an establishment. This meaning has been created by human thought process that is directed for establishing a society. Repetition is a tool of an establishment like a society or a language. As it is man-made, it can be challenged by man. Meaning in society and language is open-ended or closed decided by the people who give meanings and who speak a language. This is why there is nothing sacred in society and language. No God can control it, as God itself is made within that society and language. To the structuralists, there is a limit to meaning but to the poststructuralists there is no one limit but limits. Each of the limits is a conscious choice that is chosen by a societal subject. A subject is never societal at birth; it becomes so by making conscious choices that an established institution offers to him/her. The conscious choice is a limit that the subject chooses. The time the society came into being, it creates limits because of which the factors go beyond the limits are controlled and may take a place in conscious mind or in unconscious mind.

Freud’s division of mind as Id, Ego and Super-ego reflect the forces of societal limits, delimiting factors and the making up of being. Out of these three, super-ego describes the limits well and Id brings in the destabilising factors whereas the Ego takes a rationale position in between. Super-ego is always societal and created by others. Super-ego does not exist there, it is made. Id exists there and ego develops later.

Without limiting yourself, you cannot communicate. Without limiting yourself, you cannot utter a single word. How do you limit yourself? At first, you limit your thoughts, then you limit your words for expressing the thoughts, you limit your words means you make it precise and you use chosen words. How do you get these words and the thoughts? These words and thoughts are given by your society and culture. Not only the words, it has also taught you about how to use and what to use and when. Through the act of repetition and practice, the society or an institution has established the words and the thoughts in which you, as a societal unit, think and live.

Limit brings suffocation for a being. Human is never a limited creature. He/she is made up of both finite and infinite stuff. The suffering comes when one cannot realise the unlimitedness.

Language is the limit of my thoughts and language limits me as I communicate with others mostly through a language. Whatever I think up, I cannot write it all. I do limit and write. Whenever I utter a word to refer to something, I always impose a limit on the word and the word has also a limitation in the world. History of writing is the history of limitation. History of literature is the history of limitation. History of ideas is the history of limiting ideas.

History of the world is a history of limiting and unlimiting forces. There have been two currents which have been flowing in the human minds so far, one is flowing with the current, and the other is against the current. This has been there in every human society which is existing in the world.

At an early age, nobody asks about meaning in something. Does a child ever ask what the meaning of life is? A child only lives a life to the fullest. He/she never thinks about tomorrow. The present world and time is everything for him/her. It is an instinctive life that does not have any limitation. It is only when this instinctive being becomes an intelligent/intellectual being gets limitation.



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Nicholas Grene: In Conversation with Pawan Kumar
Sami Ahmad Khan: In Discussion with Atreya Sarma

Literary Essay
Aditya Kumar Panda: Meaning and Limits
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Irina Talashi: Kashmiri Proverbs
Juri Dutta: Ideological Conflicts in Birendra Bhattacharya’s fiction
S K Sagir Ali: Short Stories of Afsar Ahmed
Soumana Biswas: Impact of Testimonies in Partition Fiction
Sumallya Mukhopadhyay: Of Forgotten Histories

Book Reviews
Ananya Sarkar: The Liberation of Sita (Volga)
Anubhav Pradhan: Personal and National Destinies in Independent India: A Study of Selected Indian English Novels
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Ambika Ananth: Editorial Comment
Arunima Takiar
Debatri Das
Maere Damisr
Parvinder Mehta
Sheel Galada
Shernaz Wadia
Shweta Mishra
Venkata Chandeeswar
Zinia Mitra

Smitha Sehgal: Editorial Musings
Jayaram Vengayil: Such a Short Journey
Mondit M Mahanta: Frangipani
Nabanita Sengupta: The Game
Narayani Das: The Little Girl
Nilutpal Gohain: The Sacrifice
Sangeeth Simon: Platform

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