My greatest goal in life has been to search for meaning. A purpose.
The universe is arbitrary. Stars are born and explode and then reborn. Planet and other large celestial objects collide at random. Comets fly until their trail of fire melts out of existence. People fall down dead all over the world every second and most people don’t give a damn. So many of them die with unlocked talents in their souls. Every day on the news there is an earthquake, a hurricane, a tsunami, some stupid war on the other side of the world. The surface of the Earth is stained with blood and death and disease. We just build cities on it to cover up the ugly, to deceive ourselves. We fill our lives with food and entertainment and the acquirement of material goods and other hedonistic pleasures to avoid thinking about death and the meaninglessness of our lives.
I first thought the goal in life was to be happy. I was fed a litany of optimism from the day I was born. If you were happy, your life was automatically meaningful, right? Because you were satisfied. Get a great job. A great house. Nice spouse with two kids. Give yourself a pat on the back for being such a wonderful parent once a year. Have a perfect nuclear family like the ones on TV. Then let a fire burn it all to the ground and the charred bodies disintegrate. What are you left with? Nothing, except the next door neighbor saying, ‘aw shucks, the Jonathans were such a nice family, real tragedy, just shocking man.’ And life goes on for the rest of the world, with all the people living their little happy lives embroiled in their own affairs until they too, one day, burn to the ground with nothing to show for themselves but a house and a couple of thousand dollars in the bank.
Okay, deep breaths. So the meaning of life wasn’t to be happy. Then maybe it was to help people. End suffering. End poverty. End discrimination. Fight for the underdogs. Help animals. Become a nurse in a war torn country. I would be ‘making a difference’. I’d find it fulfilling and would be able to feel smug about being such A Good Person. Yeah. This was sounding good. Only thing is, the help you can give is limited by money and power. The more you have of these two juggernauts, the greater the change you can effect. What I’m saying is, when you’re a broke college student hardly able to feed yourself and live wearisome days filled with studying and juggling two jobs, your options in terms of assuaging the suffering of other people are limited. You’re not making much of a difference in the world by casting a shower of pennies at one homeless man.
So the meaning of life wasn’t to be happy-go-lucky all the time. It could be to help people but that was limited by a dearth of resources and power. What was I to do? I was just one stupid organism in a sea of billions of others. If I’d died, it wouldn’t have mattered one jot. It would be like stepping on an ant. Oops, who cares, it’s just an ant. There’s plenty more of them. I fell down the vortex of existential depression.
Then I picked up writing again. Now, before you groan at this maudlin, sentimental conclusion, that I ‘discovered’ the beauty of writing and it brought meaning back to my life and got me back on my feet with courage blooming in my breast and la di da da, whatever. That’s not what I mean. It wasn’t some beacon of hope that suddenly shone down upon me, like sunshine streaming onto my body from a rift in the clouds as if a sign from a divine being.
What really happened is I sat down. I opened up a word document. I wrote. I saved it. The next day, I did the same. And the next. I liked what I was doing. I was still miserable about the meaningless of life. But I liked the feeling of writing down the stuff in my brain. I liked staining the pages with the liquid rainbows of my thoughts. I liked it a lot. All I knew was that I liked it and the creativity was flowing out of my fingertips and my mind was hovering from one magical world to the next. And I cradled books to my chest as tenderly as a mother rocks her babe and I read them and I liked that a lot as well.
Humanity is going to end. The art created by humans is worthless in the full scheme of things. Maybe nothing really matters. We’ll never know. I’m still scared of death. I’m still scared of the future. I’m still scared of being worthless and inadequate.
But I like this thing, writing, a lot. So I think I’ll keep on doing it. I won’t think too much about it. I’ll just do it. And let the chips fall where they may.