The last few years I’ve had a dreadful preoccupation seep into the cycles of my daily thoughts: the inherent meaninglessness of creation.
Oh great void of space and time, is there any sort of spiritual satisfaction that can be relied upon and used to comfort us in our absurd existence as human beings? Ideally one that empowers me to defang the curret political hellstorm ravaging the land?
I’d like a meaningful answer if it’s not too much to ask. Easy fixes like the snake oil, quasi-intellectual, Wild, Wild Country-vein of “purpose” offer only ever harrowing examples of grandiose delusion that can’t sooth the qualms of my anxious brain . I’m not out here fumbling for just any answer I can twist to my own satisfaction so that I might exist “enlightened” or “unburdened”.
When I was young and terrible you see, I used to try to hang my life upon just such poorly conceived ideals and faulty ideology. I wanted to minimize society’s expectations of me by blending into pre-established and unjust communities while simultaneously presenting myself as an advocate of what’s right and fair in our society at large. Bit of a paradox, isn’t it? Unsurprisingly, I ended up internalizing a number of repressive attitudes that are known to haunt the halls of white and male-dominant social institutions.
What justified these attitudes you might ask? A large ideological portion, in fact, stemmed from that most base of cosmic nihilistic dread. That the answer is simply Nothing Matters™, and in keeping, any good that you try do is so incredible and helpful, you should pat yourself on the back and give yourself a raise for being brave enough to face the velvety nothingness like a MAN. 🙄
In my lived exerience, adopting a justification for hypotheticals and no action as your prevailing ideology will, in the long run, only serve to drain every last drop your joy and internal drive. Indeed Nothing Matters™ ensures for its adherers that the very idea of finding fulfilment in your life of any sort is pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to entirely invalidate Nothing Matters™. On the one hand, the nihilists have a point. If humans are the meaning makers of the universe, then no quality of anything is really inherent. But I find my little ape brain dissatisfied with this appraisal. It’s too insular. Things have to mean something at the end of the day right? Words have to anyway, or I’m out of a job.
So, as an alternative, I’ve decided to take a page from the self-reliant, reductionist school of thought that has inspired many a budding libertarian (which is weird, because I’m an unapologetic Democratic Socialist, shout out to my boy Bernie Sanders). That being I am ultimately responsible for my own understanding of myself and the world around me.
Which means I should endeavor to piece together my own understanding of what it means to be alive and what’s a good way to be a person, disentangled from defeatist language and ideas that stand to serve rigid and often less than egalitarian hierarchies.
To aid in this quest contending against Nothing Matters™, I often make use of a tool from my writer’s kit, as important to building rhetoric as it is to drafting good prose: a journeyman’s grasp of comparative thinking.
Y’know, good ol’ simile, metaphor, and other somewhat abstract frames of reference to try and make sense out of the muddled and nonsensical. Comparisons, after all, help identify thematic patterns and thematic patterns can help uncover more information and insight on most any subject.
What does this have to do with meaning making and disputing our mortal enemy, Nothing Matters™ you may ask?
Well, as an irreligious person, a literary lens with which to view the world around me is really all I have at my disposal to make meaning, personal and existential. You might think that sort of framing could lend itself to some problems, but honestly, I think being human in and of itself is a problem we’re always trying (very poorly) to resolve. I find I’m able to keep my feet on the ground best when I make the effort to learn from my mistakes and change my behavior accordingly. That there is a value and purpose to doing so.
These experiences in turn become ammunition for blowing holes in the likes of Nothing Matters™ and other forms of existential cynicism. They also keep my values well tempered, informed, and relevant. So far I’ve been able to better implement a few solid ones I think: Be good. Learn more than you knew yesterday. Do something.
In my estimation, these simple tenets offer a better path, one that may actively defy Nothing Matters™ and lead to something resembling a higher calling. Maybe not though. I guess it doesn’t really matter.