On Existence and Futility

One perplexing human emotion is that of futility. We convince ourselves that nothing really matters in the end. It’s a failure of our belief system which results in a total breakdown of the spirit. In other words, we think everything is pointless and we stop giving a shit.

Now, most people aren’t walking around believing nothing matters, obviously. Dinner parties would be a lot more depressing if that were the case.

But before we go any further, I suppose we should address the question… Is life pointless, or not?

I would argue that no, it isn’t. Life is quite pointful, full of points at every turn. Everywhere you go, life is pointfully pointed towards pointhood. Points upon points.

Which is to say, the act of living is not pointless in and of itself.  Descartes said, “I think therefore I am”. Which, in normal English, is the statement that all we can know for certain is that we exist as consciousness. We are conscious here in this realm of existence, in some form.

Now, there are two obvious paths of logic to go down here.

  1. We can’t be certain anything is even real, therefore it’s pointless.
  2. We can’t be certain anything is even real, but that’s OK.

 

So, your answer to the preceding fork in the road will determine your own stance on futility. Probably.

What if nothing in the universe is real? What if you are actually a brain in a jar within a giant simulation? What if I am not real, and your parents are not real, and all your friends are not real, and everything in the world except your brain is completely and totally not real?

Does that matter? No. Actually, no.

If the entire universe exists within a jar in some higher order universe… That doesn’t affect us at all down here.

Now, the reason behind this is stated between the lines in our old friend Descartes’ aphorism. We think, therefore we are. We exist. We exist in this plane of existence, somehow, someway, somewhere. We are. 

We are, therefore, we might as well give a shit about existing. We might as well care. Ergo, existence is not meaningless. The meaning itself is derived from the fact that meaning is unnecessary. We don’t have to have a grand purpose in the universe. We just have to be cool to each other.

A lot of the ancient wisdom in the world boils down to that, really.  You can sum up half of the ten commandments by saying, “be cool to thy neighbor”. Other religion and ancient teachings preach the same shit. Be cool to thy neighbor, and be cool to thyself.

Be cool to thyself.

That’s important. A lot of us walk around telling ourselves that we’re not good enough. And, if we believe we’re not good enough, then believing that nothing matters might actually be comforting in a way. If I live in a world where I’m not good enough to do anything important, then I might like to believe that the quote-unquote “important” things aren’t even important at all.

That’s where futility comes into our minds like a virus. We fail. We fail over and over again, and we stop believing that we matter. People around us look down on us. Maybe everyone tells you that you’re a fuck-up, a failure, a good-for-nothing. I know that was true for me for a long time. Nobody around me believed I was worth a damn. Everyone around me thought I was going to be a good-for-nothing piece of garbage my whole life. I believed too for awhile.

Eventually, I realized it’s OK to be imperfect. It’s OK if my parents and whoever else never believed I would amount to anything. They still don’t, actually, and I’m OK with that. You can’t control other people.

That’s another thing. We have to realize that we can’t control other people. We can’t make other people acknowledge us. We can’t grab someone by the shoulders and shake them until they treat us with respect. We just have to walk away from those people. We have to be cool to others, and eventually we’ll find people who will be cool to us too.

Now, we’re gonna descend into cliche here, but that’s alright.

Love is the most important thing in the world. Now, I’m not talking about infatuation, which is your run-of-the-mill Valentine’s Day high-school crush type of bullshit. No. Love is a sense of hope and kindness for all your fellow man. The idea is not just to be cool to thy neighbor, but to love him as well.

This is the essential difference between cynicism and optimism. Do you believe that humanity is fundamentally good, or fundamentally bad?

All things equal, are people good or bad?

Love is the embodiment of the idea that people are good. Hate is the opposite.

If you believe people are a bunch of shitty bags of flesh floating in a meaningless universe, then it’s easy to live a hateful life.

If you believe that people are good at heart, then it’s easy to live a life of love and good-will towards your fellow man.

Now, we’re oversimplifying here. I could write a book about this. I won’t, probably, but I could.

What I’m trying to get at is that this is a complex issue. People aren’t perfect, obviously. There are people who do fucked up things. People hurt each other every day. But at the end of the day, we’re all riding this rock through space together. It’s just easier if everyone can be cool to each other. Try to learn to love your fellow man, and you’ll find it’s easier to love yourself too.

That’s the essence of it. When you realize that people are fundamentally good, then it’s easier to see the goodness in yourself. When you see the goodness in yourself, it’s easier to forgive yourself for your failures. You realize that it’s OK to fail. It’s OK to be imperfect, because that’s just the way we humans are. We’re fucked up, and that’s OK. We don’t have to be important.

It’s OK to be human. Being human is actually pretty cool.

 

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