In search of meaning – Notes #1

I can’t take it anymore, the monotonous monumental indecision suffocating my person. It is a boring companion and I am tired.

Do I truly believe there’s a magic bullet, a perfect decision to be had, that would bring all my qualities and desires together into one package, to confront the business of living dressed in the garb of superior wisdom? Am I sincere when I state, ‘I need to find the thread of truth to give it my all’? Oh, what monumental rationalizations that have justified my uncomfortable drifting. Petty, petty rationalizations!

Here’s a thought: I’m weak, afraid to latch onto my desires, frightened of failure, insecure in my beliefs.

Nourished by weakness I found a type of nihilism – my ultimate rationalization, perennial spring of soothing justification. Nothing matters. NOTHING! Including my life, including any decision I do or do not take. Nihilism allowed me to submit to my weakness, to drift with the knowledge that nothing is absolute, nothing is certain.

Drifting became as right as action. And in a sense, I still believe this to be true. Given certain axioms, this conclusion is logically unavoidable: any decision we do take has meaning insofar as we impart meaning to it. The whole of the universe is a law abiding amalgam of matter and energy bumping about, associating and disassociating with no purpose whatsoever. It’s what the universe does, it’s what the universe is.

There is something strangely soothing about this nihilism. I suspect, however, its soothing property is based on my weakness, my inability to conduct myself and my life. It soothes because it rationalizes my indecision, relieving my anxiety at feeling meaningless. I am meaningless, and so is everybody and everything. And this thought makes me feel better. And yet, it’s but a temporary fix. A thought I must inject into my awareness anytime my indecision, my anxiety surfaces. It’s my fix, my addiction. It is no cure.

But why not? Why cannot I be content with this nihilism and just be? Enter the emotions; or rather, enter the complexity of the human being, of which I am one, of course. Is it not true that humans naturally search for, invent and attach themselves to meaning? For whatever reason, to whatever advantage it holds, it appears a person secure in her purpose is also emotionally and spiritually sound, fulfilled. The purpose need not be ambitious, need not be profound. It only needs to be hers. The complete person is embodied meaning.

This sounds good. Sounds fine. A complete person is one who embodies meaning.

I assure you, there is nothing so uncomfortable, spiritually, than to feel useless, drifting in a void, drowning in a sea of indecision, all the while wishing it was otherwise. If your deepest wish is to feel complete, and if you know completeness depends on finding a purpose, and if you understand that purpose is entirely subjective, and if you are not prefigured with a purpose, nor able to adopt one wholeheartedly, then how can you fulfil your deepest wish? It seems paradoxical.

If these are the conditions that mark me – need for a completeness tied to a purpose which, unfortunately, I do not innately possess, and which I cannot discover because I know there isn’t one to discover – then am I forever to remain incomplete? Anxious and insecure? Drifting? Or is the solution itself a paradox? Could it be my search for purpose is in fact my purpose? Something to be found only when I search for it? To hold explicitly when I don’t hold it? Let me clarify: I attach great meaning to finding a meaning. Therefore, have I actually found it?

It is possible my great anxiety stems from my struggle against the flood of indecision that pulls and drowns me. I am anxious because I sense, at a deep emotional and spiritual level (one and the same place, to me), something amiss. A part of me, probably seated in the primeval reptilian part of my brain, washes my cells with molecules which elicit negative emotions, because it thinks (not really) that I need some absolute meaning to latch onto, to guide my life, to make me whole. Is this the original seed of religions and all other doctrinaire arrogances? Am I like an infant, afraid to be on my own in this uncaring universe?

Is our species likewise in its infancy, requiring the equivalent of an emotional assurance that our parent, God, has not abandoned us, still loves and cares for us, guiding us, providing us meaning? The completeness we feel by being a part of a grand design, by having a purpose in the work of cosmic significance, surely adds to a happy, fulfilling life. Imagine the anxiety an infant experiences who can no longer depend upon, who has lost, his parents.

It’s possible, if not probable, that the more enlightened of our species understand that Dad fucked off long ago and Mom never loved us to begin with.

We were not, are not, ready to leave the crib, to emotionally fend for ourselves, to find completeness without the aid of an authority figure, a doctrine of absolutes, guidance, a loving mother’s breast, the comfort of a father’s protection. We need stories to believe, guides to follow: parenting, parenting, parenting. Without it, we are naked in the dark.

Loving gods we fear. The warmth of cosmic meaning. Primeval pacifiers of our collective conscious awakening, to rock us gently, gently back to sleep. But now that my consciousness can no longer slumber, I feel cold and afraid in this room without walls. This house is quiet, and dark, and my light is broken. I yell for help but none comes. I’m hungry, but there is no milk to be had.

One response to “In search of meaning – Notes #1”

  1. Nihilism is, as far as I’m concerned, the essential starting point to leading a meaningful life. Unfortunately, nihilism doesn’t seem to really be promoted this way, and it’s rather difficult to get there on your own. We aren’t taught about nihilism: we have to learn to discard whatever belief system we’ve inherited first (well, even before that we have to recognize that we’ve inherited one), and even then, it’s hard to know when you’ve purged yourself of biases. I find that there is something tremendously positive and liberating about nihilism. Nothingness means meaning is unique to you. Whatever fatalist tendencies you have, you must discard them because there really isn’t any compromise to be had: Life is yours for the making. Sure, it might be handy as a crutch for idleness, but it is such a precious gift to realize this. That we are sitting on entire canons of philosophy and history about all kinds of meditations on meaning gives us that many more ideas to mine to develop our own. So in terms of creating meaning, I think that we are the most blessed (ah that bias!) of all generations yet. We even have the benefit of the internet to instantly find more targeted information about these ideas. The resources available are astounding, paralyzing maybe, but astounding.

    One of the best summations of the positivity to come from nihilism is from Marx, who wrote that he saw ‘Prometheus’ revolt against the gods as a proclamation of “human self-consciousness as the highest divinity.”‘ (The quote is from The Marx-Engels Reader by Tucker that I happen to be reading.) Yeah, bingo: now we’re in charge, and also accountable.

    As for being indecisive (and nihilism enabling this), I don’t think nihilism is the cause. It probably enhances it, but your indecisiveness may not really be indecisiveness at all, but society’s ridiculous expectation that we should all be experts at one singular thing. This is how, after all, society optimizes efficiency in a capitalist economy. In reality, we have many selves, and to define ourselves by a job title (as the most common example) is too simplistic. This is especially true now since there is virtually no discussion going on in democracies about creating and maintaining an informed citizenry, and people taking pride in understanding the issues of our time. What seems to be the overriding concern is parlaying paycheques into material status. This is getting a bit outside of your point, but I’m not sure that “weakness” or meaning is really the problem. It might have more to do with conflicting priorities. At least, this is true for me: making my values mesh with those of the majority has been a real challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

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