The Meaning Of Life Is 42. Or Not.

Little inclined as I am towards easy answers, there are many days when I wish my purpose could be laid out clearly for me, stitched across the night sky like a glittering constellation.

‘Your purpose is to write books’, perhaps accompanied by an encouraging smiley face, or ‘your purpose is to bring joy and delight to others, through Art’ or even simply the number ‘42′, because frankly, on some days and nights, when I feel delicate as a dragonfly’s wing baked brittle by the sun, I’ll take anything.

Because I am tired of my mind spinning and twirling topsy-turvy down an endless warren of rabbit-holes. Philosophy is a sham; it is a disciple whose answers only bring up more questions. A thousand theories worm their way through my mind: We are all part of the Universal Consciousness, only able to experience life one at a time; the point of life is to live, and to live, if possible, with joy and delight and wonder; and so on, and so forth.

And, theoretically, I do understand them. I do. They ring true, in my heart, which is the only barometer I trust. But on a more practical day-to-day basis, faced with bland reality running like a reel before my eyes, all abstract concepts fall away, leaving me exposed in the full glare of existential agony.

What frightens me most of all is not only the indifference of the universe, or self-doubt, or fears of not achieving the things I want to achieve before I die, but the simple confusion that has haunted humanity since its birth, and now haunts me, haunts you, haunts all who exist today and will exist. With all our gadgets and brains, humans still barely know anything. We may have molded matter to our liking, molded this or that into tools, formed larger and larger tribes, even virtual ones, linked together by the internet, but we still can only scratch the surface of reality. Life, if you think about it, is bizarre: Why do we look the way we do, why are we conscious, who are we, why does this all exist, why does anything exist, is there anything behind everything or is everything just nothing, just waves washing briefly against the shore in shifting, glinting patterns, beautiful but temporary?

For we are like the fish who do not know they are in water; to them, water is all that exists, it is Everything, and concepts like land or grass or earth are entirely beyond their grasp. Perhaps there exist lots of Somethings beyond the world we know and live in, just as other terrains exist beyond the confines  of the fish’s watery universe. After puzzling for years over these pointless questions, I have decided to, for once, take the easiest path, the most logical path, the one of least resistance, and that is acceptance.

Acceptance of my own and humanity’s ignorance. Acceptance of any turmoil or longing or emptiness that arises as a result of this perpetual ignorance. Acceptance of everything that occurs in the physical world around me, seeing it as colours and shapes moving across my eyes, a brief dream to be experienced, enjoyed, but not held onto. Acceptance of death, that one day this mind will extinguish, this body decay. Acceptance of what I can do and achieve, within the limits of my abilities and in the limited time frame that I have. Acceptance of the love I lack, the love I receive, the love that ends. Acceptance of the entire experience of being human, the agony, the joy, letting it all be like imprints in the sand, washed away when the tide comes in.

The unfortunate truth is we, as human beings, are not capable, smart as we think we are, of understanding the reason behind our existence. That should not be a reason for despair, but greater motivation to work as hard as we can, to create the joy and happiness we can, using the skills and talents we have, in the short time we are given. Take for instance, the bees: they have no concept of worlds beyond their rhythmic, humming universe, yet they still, propelled by some greater urge, work tirelessly in maintaining the hive, gathering pollen, manufacturing honey. If they thought as humans did, from their point of view, what they do could be seen as pointless. Why do we go on living, building hives, then flying to new hives, collecting honey and then eating the honey and making the honey – what is the point?

Looking at the larger picture however, we, as humans, can see that bees play a vital role in nature, allowing flowers to bud into fruits and vegetables, which then feed hundreds of other species, including ourselves, not to mention their delicious honey. At once, seeing it from this perspective, these tiny, furry, golden insects transform into vital agents whose lives, though brief, are monumental in importance.

So the same goes for us humans. It is perfectly possible that there exists something greater beyond ourselves who depend on us, and something greater who depends on them. That Something that needs our existence might not be able to be comprehended by our brains at all.

That, however, does not detract from our importance. To us, life can sometimes be a tremendous bore, a long corridor with no end in sight; but we do not know anything, and because we do not know, we cannot say life is meaningful or meaningless: we must simply live, just as the bees do, as best as we can. We are like a few glimmering threads in a grand intricate web complex and beautiful beyond imagination and comprehension. Cut any strings of the web, and the entire mechanism collapses.

Therefore, I entreat you not to despair or moan or rail at the heavens, as I did for so many long years, causing myself much needless suffering.

Instead, you should just live, and, if possible, live well.

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6 thoughts on “The Meaning Of Life Is 42. Or Not.

  1. Hello!

    Very well written post, you eloquently put together valuable insights and analogies to ponder when considering to adjust our answers for the big questions of life. I can’t guarantee we hold the same assumptions, but indeed, we do share almost the same conclusions. I’m surprised with the similarities about how we think. You mentioned nature (bees), wrote about acceptance and the indifference of the mechanics of reality towards everything else.

    Resorting to learn about nature is precisely what I do when I’m confused about what I think how things should be (idealism/planning/desires/influences) and how things actually are. Learning a little about the brain, for now, I keep the assumption that the consciousness is nothing but a serve of the dawn beast. The brain controls everything, how we breath, digest, speak, walk, blood flow, you name it. Also, retrieves our memories (from where come what or who we think we are) without consulting our conscious permissions. Sometimes I get dazzled about how little influence I have towards my our behavior. It’s strange. I was watching a documentary about neuroscience explaining that the brain make decisions and then notifies the consciousness, if necessary. In addition, I learned that the illusion of control (free will) may benefit the individuals of some species. Here have some research about it if you’re interested: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/03/the-illusion-of-control/ . Personally, I don’t think we have free will. However, it’s an inescapable illusion like optical illusions. Even if you know the trick, you cannot avoid seeing something else. Actually, it’s embarrassing to admit that because I cannot assume this happens with everybody.

    I don’t want to make a long comment, so I’ll try to summarize my current view of life: if most of the things we take for granted are illusions, it’s better to learn how to benefit from them rather than try to rationalize them and be unable to apply anything to our daily lives. That’s why acceptance it’s a suitable mental resource. Of course, we should never stop asking the big questions. But if we cannot answer them, let’s get over it and ask simpler questions which we can work on.

    What makes me happier is that you said almost everything I once wanted to convey, but better! Thank you very much 😀

    • And thank you for summing up basically what I was trying to say in my post, that we’ll never find the answers to the really, really big questions, so we might as well accept this fact and focus on what we can change and do instead. And it makes me happy that you understood, and feel the same. 🙂

  2. “That should not be a reason for despair, but greater motivation to work as hard as we can, to create the joy and happiness we can, using the skills and talents we have, in the short time we are given”

    Yes! This. Having escaped the stifling trap of the religion I grew up with, I have before me now the beautiful truth that we do not know. And what freedom to realize that we don’t need to cling to that old belief that we are guided by some great fate or purpose of some other infinite being, but that we can find our own meaning in the world. How much more precious we become to each other when we stop blaming the devils on our shoulders, or original sin, but instead take responsibility for our actions, and know we only have the time we have.

    • Indeed, I agree with you perfectly. Also, think of it this way: None of the art and inventions and wonder that are in the world today, crafted by human hands and minds, would exist if everyone simply succumbed to despair. The way I think about it is if my role models and favourite writers were aware of the meaninglessness of existence yet still had to the courage to create and make things that would bring joy to others, even after they died, then why shouldn’t I? Why should I give up? Life is meaningless, from our point of view, yes, but not trying, not achieving, not making use of our skills and talents and giving this one life everything that we have got, is even more pointless and despairing.

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