David: The other thing that [John] Cottingham said… he said look we're the only creatures who when you've fed us and watered us and given us somewhere to live we still feel incomplete, there's still a yearning, which he described I think as wanting to know what's over the horizon, wanting to know why, and I wondered what you thought of that because I was very taken with that when he said it.
BO: Apart from storytelling beings we are also meaning-seeking beings. We're purpose-driven beings. You give people everything, and they still feel something's missing. Many of the great stories are just about that: you have everything but something is missing, and one day you leave your home to go find out what it is.
BO: Meaning is a very, very strange thing. Meaning is… I can see how it's a problem for science. I really can see that. But meaning is essential for us humans. If you were to ask me the relationship between meaning and truth, which is really another problematic area, I would say that meaning is like the temporary resolution of certain psychological, philosophical and spiritual tensions that we have inside us at any given point. I don't think meaning is ever final. I think meaning is evolutionary. I think it's continuous. I think it unfolds, it grows, it opens out into doubt and confusion again, and then is resolved again and it continues like that: like a flower constantly opening.
David: Do you think it's lesser because it doesn't have that absolute certainty which truth and proof claim to have?
BO: Well, you see, proof can have certainty, because it's dealing with something that is objective. But meaning, you cannot have certainty because you're dealing with the numinous nature of being alive and of being human. It would be wonderful if we could apply the scientific method of proof and certainty to our moral dilemmas, all of those questions… but there is no scientific way of dealing with the questions of life, there isn't.
All we have are these grey things that we sometimes feel we wrestle over, we have intuitions about, we make mistakes and we try and correct them. It’s very fluid. It's this fluid nature of life, and of our moving through it, that puts it in an order, very different from that of science, which is why we envy science. We envy science its objective certainty. The fact that you can manipulate, and move with, and deal with, these things that you can look at with absolute certainty. It's enviable, but bring that into the realm of life and it dissolves. It's meaningless; it's of no help to us whatsoever.