One should be careful when engaging in an expedition to search for "the meaning." Alternatively, avoid an explicit search all together.

The Star Wars franchise now has a big conundrum since it rebooted the series. Not long ago, I finally got to watch Rogue One, a recent film from December 2016. Overall, it was a worthwhile entertainment. From the bleak Eadu to the verdant Scarif, the adventures are plentiful and relentless—melded with Michael Giacchino's familiar but fresh soundtrack, ILM's mighty computer graphics, and Greig Fraser's luscious cinematography. After following the heroic Romantic-esque (with a big R) journey, the first thought came in my mind was that making this film would have been quite a delicate challenge. If the new film closely follows the originals, there's a risk of being unoriginal and formulaic, copying Lucas. Conversely, if the film experiments too liberally, there's a risk of diluting the brand identity and experience. Now each new director has to finely balance and find a sweet spot. However, this is not a unique case when it comes to properly interpreting and adapting something from the past. One notable example is the Supreme Court and the constitutional interpretation. The venerable nine Justices at the Court perform a similar job (but obviously with much higher significance): making consequential decisions in the context of the legal document from the late 18th century, in a complex and radically transforming society.

One of many solutions is measuring our interpretation against what the standard meant originally. In the constitutional interpretation context, this is categorized as the original meaning theory, which was popularized by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Then the next question is, assuming the "true" meaning of the Constitution is static, how do we interpret what it meant and thus gauge the potential divergence? To do so, we use a framework paired with prior data. In the constitutional context, Justice Stephen Breyer says that the originalists use "text, history, tradition, and precedent" (Justice Breyer, as a purposivist, also considers "purposes and related consequences"). In a perfect world, we can always refer back to and follow what it meant originally (also make adaptations through amendments when groundbreaking changes are demanded by the people). Can we apply the same method to our everyday life?—if only we can find the meaning of life.

Search for meaning and standard has relevance in our daily life as well, and many philosophers have pondered over the question: what is the meaning of life? We as individuals constantly ask because it can help us to establish consistency and order, a standard we can ground to in complex and variable circumstances. However, a serious quest for the original meaning might come with two risks. The first one can be told through Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. In a perpetual and peripatetic journey to search for the meaning of life, Peer fails to grasp and appreciate what the moment now can offer. In an arduous search for the true self, Peer does not realize that Peer now is, well, Peer. Second, when we settle on a meaning, there is a risk of being overcautious and thus limited. In such case, the derived meaning inherently limits the scope of our interpretation and its applicability, which may hinder us in this swiftly changing and dizzyingly convoluted world. These concerns can be compactly expressed with Mark Manasse's quote originally on type theory, where I replaced the word program with life and the phrase type theory with life philosophy:

“The fundamental problem addressed by a [life philosophy] is to ensure that [life] have meaning. The fundamental problem caused by a [life philosophy] is that meaningful [life] may not have meanings ascribed to them. The quest for richer [life] results from this tension.”

Many of today's decisions at the Court heavily utilize precedents—at least on the surface level, almost like a common law approach, in one sense. Perhaps, the meaning of life as well is what we make out of it moment-by-moment, with accumulating precedent wisdoms and experiences.

Disclaimer: this is not a stance on the constitutional interpretation.