Born fictioneers, all of us, we quest for causes and explanations, and if they don’t come readily to hand, we make them up, because a wrong answer is better than no answer. Also, a fast good-enough answer is better than a slow perfect answer. We’re devotees of the hunch, estimate, and best guess. I find it hard to watch, say, a David Lynch film like Mulholland Drive, which shards into free-associative imagery halfway through, and not try to figure it out. Critics plague Lynch with “But what does it mean?” It’s not enough to be startling, beautiful, artful, it has to mean, even if much of life simply is. Despite knowing that, my left hemisphere, not content to joyously perceive, insists on asking why. A word children use relentlessly and adults continue asking. And so we pass our lives, striving to make sense, even if it produces nonsense, which, of course, we never utter, only other people with less-exacting minds. Otherwise, we’d feel at sea, and painfully sure, as the philosopher William Gass says in an essay, that “life, though full of purposes, had none, and though everything in life was a sign, life managed, itself, to be meaningless.”

From An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman.

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