Why do we do what we do? That’s one of those questions my peeps hate to ask. Aaron in particular. He wants the white picket fence, three kids, and the leave it to beaver lifestyle. So he’s been saying for the past three or four years. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

He’ll read this a month from now and post some comment about how he pictures me in seclusion, lighting candles and writing poetry. Funny guy. I’m not quite that dramatic (shut it, Nathan – like how I mentioned your name and yet you get no link? Your mom).

Three thousand years ago, Solomon had it right when he said that everything is utterly meaningless and futile. He tried everything, and came up empty. Whether you work hard or not at all, whether you’re rich or poor, starving or overfed, ultimately it doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of underachievers who will read this and think, So what? I’ve always thought life was pointless. That’s why I don’t do anything. That’s not the same thing. Lazy ex-pot smokers aren’t exactly equal to good ol’ Sol.

I am notorious for my insistence upon meaning and purpose. I annoy the hell out of friends, family, and total strangers with my rants about pursuing purpose. I hate seeing people waste potential. I love watching people and guessing their deep purposes and callings. See, everyone has one, even the annoying people who hate hearing that and who feel the need to violently argue against the concept.

So how does a person like me believe in the simultaneously contradictory beliefs that life is utterly meaningless and that each person has a unique calling and purpose to fulfill? That’s an easy one. Logical or not, I’m simply disillusioned by how freakin’ hard life can be. I’m not very patient. I’ve been known to be a bit anxious. Picture someone spending an entire decade anxiously flittering to and fro like a speedfreak in an attempt to achieve his purpose, and you have a fairly accurate understanding of my life a few years ago.

My “meaningless” isn’t the same as Solomon’s. I think I actually know my calling – my God-given purpose for living. I believe that I have things to do before I die. I have ways to mature. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a ridiculous notion. You’re bored and miserable sometimes as you go to sleep at night because you feel empty. You feel empty because you’ve yet to realize what that thing is that will make your life truly meaningful.

Yeah… It’s late, and I should be asleep. Consider yourself thoroughly scolded or chastised or whatever fits. I’m out.

3 responses to “Everything is Utterly Meaningless…. So What?”

  1. Wow, Steve-O! That was a pretty well thought out response to a pretty stupid post. I claim no responsibility for anything I write after midnight.

    I adamantly disagree with the statement, ““It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us….” Now, if you want to replace “life” with “God”, I might be able to agree. I cannot consider “Life” to be some sentient being, essence, or spirit unrelated to God which poses demands upon humanity.

    What boggles my mind is how Western culture has managed to so muddle the message of Christianity that no one considers it relevant anymore. How can we criticize what we no longer understand?

    There is no way to divorce spirituality / faith from a conversation about purpose and meaninglessness. A person’s purpose or calling is by the very nature of their definitions set by someone in authority over him or her. In the army, a colonel determines purpose for a captain. A general determines purpose for a colonel. Our Secretary of Defense (regardless of whether you like him) determines purpose for a general. Our Commander in Chief (President) determines purpose for the Secretary of Defense.

    In this same way, each person’s purpose in life can only be established by one who sits in a position of authority over him. There is no other created being with greater authority in the earth than man and woman. Non-sentient beings have no thought, and therefore cannot determine purpose.

    We must be wary of possessing lazy minds. It is the lazy mind which believes utter nonsense like “Life determines our purpose” or “everyone who dies goes to heaven” or “when you die you become a silly little cherub playing a harp”. Each of these thoughts are equally unfounded in both religious standard and logic.

    Let’s not force life to resemble our bitter refusal of a God’s existence. Let’s rather allow logic to show us where our own beliefs have strayed due to our own emotional baggage.

  2. It’s kind of interesting that you bring this up because I’ve been suffering from one of my occassional bouts of existential dread. I guess the first thing I think about is the episode of Six Feet Under where some asks Nate why people have to die. He answers, “So life will mean something.” Sure, life may be meaningless and in 100 or 200 years time you and I and everyone we know will be completely unknown and forgotten. However, is responding to meaninglessness with meaninglessness a meaningless response?

    In his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl found that living life and searching for meaning IS its own meaning. “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

    Frankl survived the Nazi death camps and found that people who had a rich inner life and believed in the future survived, and people who gave up hope perished. Having a child is the ultimate act of faith and belief in the future. Butm for that matter, so is getting haircut. If everything is pointless, why bother?

    A very wise person once told me that life is hard and accepting that life was hard actually made living it less difficult. Bad things happen, people die, dreams don’t pan out. This is the way things go. So should we forget the whole deal? That’s one response, but a pretty weak one. So what’s a better one? Well, like the bumper sticker used to say: Keep On Truckin’.

  3. As a point of clarification, the quote is Frankl’s not mine. I do not think of life as a sentient force. But it raises an interesting point: you say, “each person’s purpose in life can only be established by one who sits in a position of authority over him.” The “one” in that sentence in understood by me to be God, at least as it pertains to the meaning of life.

    However, what is the “one” is not God, but a Nazi prison guard. Certainly this person sits in authority over you (or at least Frankl) and can decide whether you live or die. It isn’t too much of a stretch to see Frankl’s point of view — in a world where 6 million Jews are killed, does God really exist? And if God does not exist, is life devoid of meaning?

    Frankl was able to look at this and say, “No, even in a world without God, there is meaning.” And I emphatically agree with that.

    But how does this apply to me and you? Is each person’s purpose in life only established by God? If you believe in God, maybe so. But he isn’t going to write us a letter. We are going to have to figure it out for ourselves. We have to take responsibility for what our lives will become. Along those line, please reference this post on my blog: http://thecaravanofdreams.blogspot.com/2007/01/robert-solomon-1942-2007.html#links

    The video offers an existentialist perspective on this. Food for thought.

    Just to skip ahead a bit: does all this mean I don’t believe in God? No. That is something that each person has to figure out for themselves. You obviously do. I have been a believer (a Christian) all my life and I struggle with doubt as much if not more than most. Doubt is a central part of the Christian experience because that’s where faith comes in. If you are going to believe in God, you must embrace the mystery. Yes, I believe in God. But some days it is harder than others.

    I could go on, but I will stop here.

    Good night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.