What does this statement mean: "How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?"

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belarafon | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This quotation comes from Woody Allen's 1979 article written for the New York Times, titled "My Speech to the Graduates." The speech and the quote are an appeal to self-examination, and an example of the absurdest view in terms of science and technology.

The full quote is as follows:

Put in its simplest form, the problem is: How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?
(Allen, "My Speech to the Graduates," skeptic.ca)

As Allen explains, he is not posing the question as one of pessimism, but of genuine curiosity; how, indeed, can meaning be found considering the world's ever-changing nature? The specificity of "waist and shirt size" are simply arbitrary examples of change; the "finite" world is only that which can be measured and nailed down; the circumference of the Earth, the atomic clock, the speed of light. Our own lives, and the changes that occur in it every day, is much more malleable and therefore unquantifiable. This is not meant to say that life is meaningless because in its changes it cannot compete with the universe; one might be tempted to interpret the quote as entirely absurdest, mocking the conventions of philosophy, but instead he is speaking towards the aimless nature of modern society: "The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o'clock" (Allen).