Richard on Big Brother consoled one of his housemates who'd been nominated for eviction with the words "We're all going to go... it's just a matter of which order" and, as is so often the case when he speaks, I could only nod over-awed at his wisdom.
For as with those evicted from the Big Brother house as it is with life - we are all going to go, it's just a question of what order. The difference, of course, is that the housemates have a reasonable idea of what will happen to them when they leave the house - a huge glare of publicity, gradually fading into obscurity over the course of, say, a week and then a life time of bitterness and frustration.
Trotsky said that old age was the most unexpected thing that could happen to a man - once again he was wrong - it's death that is the least expected and most inevitable consequence of life.
It's difficult for us to grasp when we young and full of spunk that one day not only will we be dead but everyone who ever knew us will be dead too. The Roman Empire understood that being ruler of the greatest empire known to humanity and lauded as a god could go to some people's heads. When Caeser rode through Rome at the head of returning victorious legions there would be a slave standing behind him in the chariot whispering in his ear "Remember you are mortal."
A good policy for political leaders I think. Having heard one too many of his speeches I suggest we hire Liz Davies to whisper in John Rees's ear at any future rally or speaking engagement. It couldn't do any harm could it? (note: in order to be "non-sectarian" I could have mentioned Brown breathing down Blair's neck. Hey Ho, I prefer this image.)
One problem raised by the fact that one day there will be no one to rememeber if we told funny jokes or found the cure for german measles is that it tends to strip away any illusions we might have that there is an objective meaning to life. After all if Descartes was right that the only thing we can know is that we have a consciousness, with which not to know all the other stuff with, we couldn't possibly know if there's an after-life, God or objective meaning to our lives at all.
That's part of the reason why I like Satre's take on meaning. He accepts that we can't know if there is an objective meaning to the universe (although this is not the same as there not being one) but that we do create subjective meanings and these have real value. Whilst in the big scheme of things a human life may be as pointless as a microbe's, to that human it is of weapon's grade importance.
Satre does not argue this in order to be comforting but in order to put the willies up us. If we create real meaning through our actions it means that "man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does."
For me, Dave Gorman's adventures are the ultimate in finding significant meaning in the futile, and I love him for it. Whilst in no way wishing to over egg his pudding his task to find dozens of "Dave Gormans" around the world was not only an exercise in showing we can create meaning to our lives out of nothing it is also in some ways an attempt to break down how we create our subjective indentities. What does it mean to be "Dave Gorman"?
I think he is advocating leading an authentic life rather than one of socially defined labels and behaviours. At least I hope he is, either that or he's bonkers.
It's this idea of authenticity that I think is really useful. Because whilst we can invent meaning for our lives we can also allow that vacuum to be filled with the detrius of modern life.
We can seek fame, fortune, success, feed our egos and be the big ME without ever examining who ME is. At the end of the day does Big Brother create significant meaning - or dull our senses with soma?