Chapter 14: Take the Challenge
What is meaning? Meaning means to know the fragment in relation to the whole; meaning is a relationship of the fragment to the whole. A madman talking on the street is meaningless. Why? - because you cannot relate his talk to anything, his talk is a fragment. But he is not talking to anybody; there is no need, there is nobody there to talk to. His talk is fragmentary, it is not part of a bigger whole, that is why it is incoherent. The same words may be used by another man - exactly the same words - but he is talking to somebody, then it is meaningful. Why? The words are the same, the sentences the same, the gestures the same, and one man you say is mad and the other man is not mad. Why? - because there is somebody to listen; the fragment is not fragmentary, it has become part of a bigger whole, it carries meaning.
Cut a piece out of a Picasso painting; it is meaningless, it is just a fragment and a fragment is dead. Put it back into the painting and suddenly the meaning appears; it has become coherent because now it has become part of the whole. Only when you are part of the whole are you meaningful. And if modern man continuously seems to feel that he has become meaningless, it is because God has been denied or forgotten. Without God, man can never be meaningful, because God means the whole and man is just a fragment. You are just a line of poetry; alone, you are just gibberish. With the whole poem significance appears, because significance lies in relationship to the whole. Remember this.
I am reminded of a dream of Bertrand Russell. He was an atheist, he never believed in God, he could never see any wider meaning that could comprehend the whole. He relates a dream: one night he heard somebody knocking on the door in his sleep. So in the dream he went to open the door, and he saw old God standing there. He couldn’t believe his eyes because he never believed; even in his dream he could remember that, “I don’t believe in God.” But the old man looked so forgotten by everybody, abandoned by everybody; his clothes were tattered, dirt had gathered on his face and body; he looked so out-of-date, almost like a faded painting in which you cannot see clearly what is happening. Russell felt much pity for him. Just to cheer him up he said, “Come in!” He slapped his back like a friend and said, “Cheer up!” And then suddenly he awoke and the dream disappeared.
This is the state of the modern man, the modern mind: God is out-of-date. You are either against him or, at the most, you pity him. Through pity you may try to cheer him up, but he is no longer a meaningful thing for you. He is just an out-of-date painting, faded, useless, junk from the past. He is either dead or deadly sick, on his deathbed. But if the whole is dead, how can the fragment be meaningful? If the whole is out-of-date, how can the part be new, fresh and young? If the whole tree is dead, then any leaf of the tree, if it thinks it is alive, is simply stupid. It may take a little more time for the leaf to die, but if the tree is dead the leaf has to die; it is already dying.
If God is dead, then man cannot live. And he is deadly sick, because without the whole the fragment has no meaning. But whenever you are happy - glimpses of happiness, not in fact happiness - whenever you are just comfortable, at ease, when nothing disturbs you, then you think you are the whole. And this is fallacious. When you are in suffering, suddenly you become aware that you are not the whole. When you suffer, you suddenly become aware that you are not as you should be, something is wrong: the shoe pinches. Something is wrong, and some transformation is needed. Hence, the suffering.