Welcome! Life has no meaning, but it can
May 1, 2014 § 5 Comments
Welcome, fellow internet people. This dreamy space will be where I share my deepest, most thoughtful reflections on just about everything. At times, I will be pretentious. Absurdly so. I may also attempt to be amusing, so I apologise for both of those in advance. Hopefully my words prove to be interesting or helpful and, failing that, at least kill some of your time. That, ladies and gentlemen, was my ‘hook’. You can really tell I’ve been doing my social media marketing research. Anyhow, without further ado, I’ll be writing a little on a very big subject; the meaning of life. I’m sure it’ll give you an idea of what’s to come. We humans have struggled to find universal meaning for yonks. From a whole slew of Ancient Greek philosophers to South Asian beliefs (Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism) to the Abrahamic religions, they all have one thing in common (or not): the meaning found is unique to the system/individual that conceived it. Wisdom, discipline, pleasure and most significantly theistic devotion have all been idealised as the pinnacles of the human experience. This raises a critical point; if the answers to a question asked for thousands of years have little to no cohesion, is there an answer at all?
“Row, row, row your boat…life is but a dream“
A little history
Nihilists in the 19th century – notably Nietzsche, believed that no intrinsic meaning exists in life, and that morals and values are all contrived by us humans. He was an ardent critic of organised religion, coining the term ‘God is Dead’, and concluded that this symbolic ‘death’ was one of the greatest threats in the modern world, and that nihilism was a crisis. In a world still largely dominated by the Catholic church, what Nietzsche was saying was rather brave and, well, terrifying. These nihilists de-constructed the belief in predestination and a paradise heaven that had comforted theists for thousands of years, and offered nothing in replacement. Absurdism, a similar school of thought, deals with the cognitive dissonance (the mental conflict) between humankind’s desire to find objective meaning in life and their inability to find any.
Each and every one of us struggle with this dissonance throughout our lives. Be it religious faith, finding the right career path or fitting into a social circle, these are the children of a larger problem; our desire for meaning. We rage and despair trying to achieve some kind of identity for ourselves that we think we should embody, as if it’s a predetermined, fixed thing. Truly, we deprive ourselves of our free will, as our choices subconsciously follow a preconceived notion of who we are or should be. Is it really such a surprise, then, when we experience stress, depression and crises/breakdowns when we fail to attain this? Most of you will be nodding your heads, at least figuratively, when I say this. Perhaps you’ve already curled up in a ball, rocking back and forth, despairing from existential angst. Stop. Just listen to me for a moment. Everyone before you in history (and that’s some very intelligent people!) have failed to answer the question that you’re wrestling with. I’m telling you this now: you will never find a universal meaning to your life. “Whaaat?! But Whitemowgli, we’ve invested so much in searching, what would we do instead?” You might think. Well, the answer is really quite simple.
Create your own meaning
This is a call to action. Throw off the shackles of your dissonance, and stop searching for something you think you should, for it has brought nothing but suffering to you and everyone else, living or dead. Revel in the fact that there is no plan, no meaning, no destiny. It is terrifying, true, but it’s also liberating. In the face of the absurd, you have three options:
- Drive yourself insane in denial of the absurd, conforming to someone else’s idea of what your life’s meaning is (being renowned, wealthy, respectable, etc) or fruitlessly searching yourself
- Admit the absurd – that we have no known purpose – and be contended in cultivating meaning within yourself and your life according to your values
- Escaping existence (suicide – not my choice, and I hope it isn’t yours)
Out of the three, there’s one sane choice. To clarify, I’m not telling everyone to ‘drop out from the system’ and disappear into the wilderness to ‘cultivate meaning’. I’m simply saying that life is far too short to be lived for the wrong reasons. Jump through other people’s hoops if you genuinely want to, not because of some self-flagellating, insatiable guilt. Create meaning in your life; beauty, knowledge, community, even pleasure – it really doesn’t matter. As long as you do so consciously, intelligently, and with purpose. Examine every thought that comes into your mind, and determine its origin. Don’t let yourself be driven by insincerity. To conclude this, look into mindfulness, a practice that stems from Buddhism, that teaches exactly what I’m talking about; intelligent awareness. I leave you now with words of wisdom from a champion of truth, the late Bill Hicks. Please comment if you have anything to add! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMUiwTubYu0 With sincerity, Whitemowgli