Ever since I was a teenager, the philosophical search for any intrinsic meaning to life, or even the universe as a whole, has fascinated me.
The easiest out when searching for a meaning to life is religion, but I’ve bben an Atheist since I was young. I went to church as a child but I never remember really believing in God except in a “Pascal’s Wager”, just to be safe, sort of way, but at some point I had to face that that wasn’t true Christian faith and I was going to Hell. And since I was already going to Hell anyway I gave up. I guess once a person decides that believing in a religion based on The Bible makes no sense, there really is no turning back.
So without religion I found no reason to do one thing or another and, if I’m being honest, got a bit self-destructive. Maybe that is what is meant by “existential crises”. I just figured, in the long run, nothing I do would matter at all. If I was a good person or not didn’t matter. If I went to work or not didn’t matter. And ultimately, if I lived or died didn’t matter. It’s very hard to keep going and doing boring, and often unpleasant, day-to-day activities when in the back of your mind these types of thoughts keep occurring to you.
I came out of it though. Falling in love gives you a reason to be good. I decided that the meaning for my life is whatever I say it is. If the people around me love me and remember me than that is a good enough reason to stick around. So I chose to be a good person, and I chose to get up and go to work, I chose to live.
But every so often the thoughts crop up again like weeds. Why, why, why do all of this when in the end, none of it will matter at all? The universe does not care about you at all. and accepting that is hard. After talking to friends about it I think for most people the thought never even occurs, or doesn’t occur regularly the way it does for me. I mean, I am obsessed! I have to keep reminding myself that I matter in order to keep going. I have to constantly work to find (read:convince myself of) the meaning of life.
But it’s not as bad as it sounds. At this point the thoughts are more of a curiosity, an interesting thought experiment, they are almost amusing. I boil it all down and take the question of the meaning of life as far as I can. Would it matter if this happened? Would it matter if that happened? I have talked and researched and read and I never find any answers except for the ones I make for myself. I then realized that the only real question, the one from which all others follow, is the question of whether to live or die. It is the question of suicide.
I do not mean the suicide that comes from depression and pain, I mean the kind that comes from boredom and an unwillingness to participate in a life that just doesn’t matter. Maybe the “paradox of the absurd”, the contradiction of thinking that your life is important, while at the same time, knowing that all of this is meaningless, is more than the mind can bear. I often feel like my mind can’t handle it. I have to put it out of my head. I have to force myself to forget that in a few billion years the sun will run out of fuel and all that we are, everything we lived and died for, all the good and all the cruelty, none of it will matter at all.
I have to remember that I matter here and now. I matter to people who matter to me. And I have to believe that my good intentions help tip the scale of good and evil toward the side for the greatest happiness for the greatest nimber of people. I have to believe that my tiny ripple in the big old universe means a tiny little something. Even if all that something will disappear one day.
Then I have to go make myself a nice, warm cup of coffee.