The world is perishing from an orgy of self importance, everyone and everything believes they are the central axis at which the world pivots. Quite frankly, I’ve just gone off it. In modern society everything is blaring for your attention, everything has the deadline of yesterday to it. Everyone wants to be someone, I believe that this is because they cannot be themselves.
As a kid, I had something which can only really be called a “mid-life crisis”. I looked at the great historical figures, and realized that many had already started to make their mark near my age. I bawled my eyes out, realizing that my life had been for naught. In retrospect this is hilarious, for what does a boy of 12 really know about anything? At the time though this was a very pressing concern. I thought I’d realized that my life had been pointless, but shortly thereafter I came to a conclusion.
In the grand scheme of things we, and everyone we know or will know, is entirely irrelevant. To put it into perspective, there’s 400,000,000,000 stars in our smallish galaxy with an average of 1.6 planets per solar system; our universe has around 200,000,000,000 galaxies. In the end, this works out to over 5 stars per grain of sand on earth in our universe, and that is a conservative estimate. A proportion of these solar systems presumably also have life, and of this life some of it ought to be intelligent. So looking at the raw numbers, humans as a whole are an entirely inconsequential thing in the universe, and not even their reason is likely to do them much good as they are probably not on either side of the Bell curve in regards to intelligence. I considered this something depressing, we have no divine purpose to reach, we are left to our own devices to find meaning. For a couple of years I went the nihilistic route of just thinking that apathy was the best course of action. I believed I alone had come to this conclusion, and that everyone else who tried becoming a grand figure was pitiable. Anger and hate governed most of my teenage years.
Needless to say, I wasn’t a particularly happy person. I believed that knowledge and reason were the end all be all purpose for our existence, that somehow to understand the way things truly are would fill the void. I also believed that one had to be selfish with everything, one had to take everything and give nothing back, as life will rarely give you help when you need it – you’re all by yourself in the end. I grew sick with all the worrying on my future, whether I would ever have sex, whether I would ever find love, whether I’d pass the next exam, whether I was wearing the right clothes, whether I’d end up in the right school, whether I was fat, etc. I hated almost everyone and everything around me.
This was the state of affairs until recently. Over the last few years, there’s been a revolution of sorts in my head. I sadly lack the motivation others have to succeed. The drive to succeed, to be the best at everything and be beloved by everyone, just seems childish to me. So, the carrot and the stick just has little to no appeal to me. No matter how often I’ve wanted to trick myself to keep running in the rat race, I can’t. To me, being forced to do work for a reward just makes me feel like butter spread over too much bread. As much as I’d like to reap the rewards from it, I just don’t seem physically able to force myself to engage in the work at hand, my mind wanders far too much, it gets restless.
On the other hand, I have seen what the other option is what it does to oneself to be consumed by rage. I think the pursuit of meaning in people’s lives or status is really a quest for something else entirely – happiness. In the end, we just want that chemical burst in our brain, we live for that selfish pleasure, but we want to have it without guilt and without side effects; otherwise we’d be fine with people drugging themselves into oblivion. If we are alive it ought to be for that reason, and that alone – rational hedonism. Nevertheless, I believe Epicurus was right two and a half millennia ago in what truly makes one happy:
- Freedom to enjoy life
- Understanding of oneself
I think one’s goal in life ought to only be to find a passion, and try to find a way to pursue it. I no longer believe in hate, I no longer believe in status, what I do believe in is passion. The means do justify the ends, but one has to always understand the full value of what one is losing in order to gain something of greater worth.
Over the past two years, I believe that I have found myself. I have never been as happy as I am at this time. I have found true friends, I have found peace with the world, and most importantly I have found peace with myself. Yes, I do come across as arrogant at times, but I don’t do it to be an ass, I believe I do it out of a calmness and understanding with who I am. As such, I have difficulty not playing myself to the hilt, which often puts me into difficult positions. I remember hearing once that in the protestant church there was once a movement where people said that the world was some kind of grand play where God had the role of some kind of producer, and we all had a role to play. Great monuments were built with this idea in mind, thinking that God had assigned us a purpose, churches started to look like theatres in their design. To find one’s role in life, and to play it as best as one could, was the best thing that one could do in life and one would be rewarded for it.
I am an atheist through and through, but I believe strongly in this. I do not believe it in the metaphysical and spiritual sense, but I believe it in the here and now. If you find your true self, you ought to follow your script, wherever it happens to take you, for good or for bad it’s your role to play. When the curtain calls though, we ought to bow down gracefully – nobody likes an actor who doesn’t know when to stop the standing ovation. People want to be famous, or become historical figures because they want to be remembered.
This is in my view, a very bad way of living one’s life. You become obsessed with becoming relevant, and in thinking about infinity and beyond, you forget to enjoy today. I think Siddartha Gautama had it right when he said that one of the main reasons most people are miserable is because they’re permanently attached to impermanent things. This goes for everything under the Sun be it love, status, relationships, money, or life itself.
A short while ago there was a large full scale drama on the internet, everyone was up in arms. What could it have possibly been? Thousands of people were arguing for hours on end, experts were called in and even then people still remained divided. What could have possibly divided people to such an extent? It was a dress, not even that, it was its colour. The photograph had been taken in such a way that the light shown oddly on it. Some people believed that it was white and yellow and others believed that it was blue and black. If we, as a species, cannot even agree on something that should be so straightforward and obvious as the colour of a thrift store dress, can we really pretend to find meaning and importance in an infinitely vast universe, and can we really claim that anything we think is important is actually so?
I think the only true logical conclusion we can come to is that we simply couldn’t find divine meaning, even if it existed. How we think we ought to live our life is simply that, a guess or a thought. We live in a fantasy of our own creation, might as well make it a good one and not put artificial barriers to our happiness.
Has an idea ever changed your life? What was it, and what did you do about it?