“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”
If you know where that line comes from, good on you! Season 3 is taking way too long, amirite?
If you don’t, that’s okay, you’re still cool. And hi, welcome to my article on why it’s good to not give a damn – well, sometimes anyway. I’ll try to get to the end before you stop giving a damn too.
Filling The Void
What is the meaning of life?
Has there ever been a question at once so universally pondered and ubiquitously unanswerable?
As members of one of the few species on Earth blessed (or cursed) with the ability of metacognition, our quest for meaning in life is an almost-exclusive and inescapable part of the human experience. We fumble for something, anything, to fill the existential void in our hearts. Some fill it with work, love, lust, family, or religion. Others distract themselves with video games, movies, and reading articles online. We live our lives like an endless race to outrun the relentless existential dread that invariably plagues us all, knowing that should we ever slow down in our pursuit of happiness, we might one day fail to answer our own question about why we even bother staying alive.
I submit that maybe – just maybe – we should do the unthinkable. We should look back at the darkness that threatens to envelop us and crush our will to live, and instead of running, we should turn around.
And we should laugh.
19th Century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer perhaps said it best:
“The life of every individual, viewed as a whole and in general, and when only its most significant features are emphasized, is really a tragedy; but gone through in detail, it has the character of a comedy.”
Perhaps true, lasting happiness can only be found when we strip the existential void of its darkness and turn it into one big joke; when we look at our own cosmic insignificance, and instead of shrinking from it, laugh heartily at the ridiculousness of it all.
A For Absurdism
French philosopher and Nobel laureate Albert Camus famously popularized absurdism, a philosophical school of thought based on the central tenet that life consists of two irreconcilable facets – the human desire to find meaning in life, and the universe’s absolute indifference to our existence.
In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus compares the absurdity of human life to the mythical Greek figure Sisyphus, who was sentenced to push a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down, again and again, for all eternity.
Camus (who is surprisingly optimistic for a philosopher) argues that dwelling on the pointlessness of existence is in itself pointless; that, “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” He argues against the idea that suicide is the only logical reaction to the Absurd, and that we should instead “revolt” against our insistence on finding meaning.
What’s The Point?
Life is ultimately meaningless, but that’s okay.
We should continue to chase happiness, and futile as it may be, seek whatever gives us some sense of meaning or measure of peace, whether that be friendship, family, or career. Because to dwell on the futility of existence is to allow that same futility to consume us.
However, we must be careful not to take things too far. Much of the ugliness that oftentimes characterizes human behaviour can be attributed to people getting so desperate to fill the sickening, terrifying vacuum of existentialism, that they ascribe far too much meaning to certain things in an effort to compensate. Extremism, selfishness, ego – all these behaviours bear the marks of an oversubscription to some perceived source of meaning in response to meaninglessness. Imagine if we could just take away the horror of our insignificance, and replace it with comedy – a joke shared by all of humanity.
Instead of falling to despair when considering the non-existent meaning of life, we should stare at the void in our souls, and while endeavouring to fill it, laugh at the tragic comedy of it all.
In the words of Bugs Bunny and Van Wilder: Don’t take life too seriously. No one makes it out alive anyway.