What’s the meaning of life, sage reader? No worries if you don’t know (though I’m holding it against you FOREVER). Honestly, though, I don’t know either (unless I do). I’m just a guy, after all. But I DO think about it sometimes.
And that thought has led me to discovering the secretest, most secret truth of life that has never before or ever or will ever be heard. Except here on The Last Broken Home, of course…
A class I took in school actually touched on this weighty subject. Of all the courses I took in college, it’s the only one I’ll always remember.
I actually don’t remember the curriculum of the rest of the class. I don’t remember any facts or tidbits of knowledge. I didn’t read the books (sorry, Professor). I don’t even remember its name (though I think it was Contemporary Political Thought or Modern Political Theory, or some crappy title like that). And though it may have sounded political, there were actually no civic lessons in this class. It was philosophical. And VERY intellectual. The conversations in there were dense, and dense wasn’t something I was interested in so close to dinner time on a Tuesday and Thursday.
And of all the lectures and discussions, most of which were spent drawing, zoning out, or back at my apartment napping, one remains with me today. A light bulb of sorts went off in my mind, like what must happen to God when he thinks of something clever…
I think we were discussing Being and Time by Martin Heidegger (good luck reading that, might as well have been in German), and the professor said something which I am SURE I had heard before, but for whatever reason never thought about or fully examined.
It was the idea that if life were represented graphically – if a line were drawn on a board, infinite and forever – that each point on that line would be meaningless and indistinguishable from any other. But if one were to suddenly stop that line randomly – to cut it off at any location – then every point which preceded that division back to the start of the line would at once be made infinitely important.
It’s the idea that every moment in life is immeasurably valuable because life is finite, and that because life is finite, because we are mortal and each moment is a moment closer to our death, each moment is actually more valuable than every that came before it.
It’s the idea that every day of our lives is in fact more precious, because it is one less of the few we will ever have left.
I am SURE we have all heard this idea before in some form. It makes a lot of sense, I guess.
But I didn’t agree with it AT ALL.
To me, it seemed the exact OPPOSITE was true: Life is meaningless because life is finite.
Remember…then I was a different person. It was before my worst depression, but I was still a sad and sorry dude, not someone who saw much positivity in the world. It makes sense I would think so “negatively”. But even today, where I am the OPPOSITE in outlook and beliefs to where I was then, the idea that that lecture was wrong stays with me, and helps me see each day as I need to see it in order to make of it what I want.
Let me explain…
What the professor said that day seems logical enough…
…He views life in economic terms, in relation to supply and demand, value and commodity. He used our general fear of death to impart on us the importance of every moment; that each minute wasted is a step closer to the death we wish we could avoid, and thus a thing to be cherished.
But I immediately thought of the ground on which my desk and chair stood; of the billions and billions of people now BELOW that ground rather than ABOVE it.
WHAT exactly is left of all those billions of human beings who ever lived; of all those so fortunate enough to have graced this beautiful earth; the men and women, the young and old, the rich and poor, the good and bad?
In almost every case – essentially every case – there remains neither a bone nor an artifact; not a memory nor a name. And what of the trillions of days they lived, of all they accomplished and strived for, of all they learned and mastered, of all their joys and tears, their fears and insecurities, of everything they spent their whole lives worrying about and waiting for?
Nothing. Nothing remains.
And what do they have to show for the struggle that was their life, for their greatest accomplishments, and most epic failures? What trophy or reward; what token or prize? What proof of their existence at all; anything to validate what to them was the most difficult thing in this world – their life?
Nothing. Nothing remains.
I guarantee you now there was a man who lived in China 10,000 years ago who struggled and worried, who feared and bled, who surely existed. What remains of his story, his life; the one he guarded so closely and protected so preciously?
And likewise there was a man in Syria 100,000 years ago, who acquired great lands and treasures, who led men to their deaths, and defiled women by the dozens. What remains of his story, his life; the great wealth he horded and the crimes he committed?
Nothing. Nothing remains.
It’s as if they never existed at all.
Billions of people. Nameless. Storyless. Meaningless.
These were men, women, and children who thought THEIR lives were the worst lives, THEIR problems the worst problems, THEIR struggles the most difficult struggles. Others thought they were the most special person, a worthy person, even a divine person.
Imagine how many of these people you could strike from history with no effect on what has become of the world. A billion here. A billion there. What little difference it would make, really. What little difference they themselves made.
Our Lives are Mostly Irrelevant to ALL Life…
These people’s lives were certainly finite, but I have a very hard time believing their lives were in any special way meaningful; that their lives were “infinitely important” simply because they ended.
Because when you step back thousands of years at a time, and look upon all those countless people who lived, struggled, and died on this earth, who appeared and disappeared in the blink of a cosmic eye, the comings and goings of any particular person or group of people seem to me as the comings and goings of the smallest germ colonies in the farthest jungles surely seem to you – completely and utterly meaningless and entirely irrelevant.
Sure, those men – in China and Syria – mattered to someone, but those someones too are gone and forgotten. Of what grand importance were any of them, really? They lived tough lives; ones they may actually have believed held meaning, and so they toiled and sweated, and planned and worried, to have food to buy for another day, or a roof to sleep under another night, or a goat or mule to pass down to another son.
And THAT’S what caused them such great stress? THAT!? Some crumbs for dinner, or a thatched roof for a nap!? All of which are gone by the way. All of which added no great value to their lives, or numbers to their days.
They struggled and worried and cried for nothing. They stressed and depressed and killed for nothing. Their lives had no meaning. Not a purpose, not a plan. Not a reason, nor a cause.
Their “problems” were not problems, and their obstacles were not obstacles…except in their minds.
That they existed at all is entirely irrelevant to us, here and now. So too will WE be irrelevant.
But what if life were infinite though…?
What if we were born and lived immortal? What then?
In a life which never ends, imagine NOW the importance of every day. Imagine its effect on the rest of our lives through the eternity of time; how permanent our decisions would suddenly become.
Yes, our days would be limitless, and thus, in economic terms “valueless”. But they would not be without meaning. On the contrary, they would finally have TRUE meaning. They would have potential. Not just because they may improve us today, but because they may improve us FOREVER.
Here, in our mortal and limited lives, the very best we can EVER achieve is ALWAYS temporary. It can be nothing else.
How important, then, WE ourselves would become TO ourselves in an immortal life. How important it would be that we surround ourselves with quality people and treat others kindly, for we would have to live with them forever; that we work only in whatever endeavors make us happy, for we would have to toil in them forever; that we learn to be happy at all, for we would have to live with OURSELVES forever.
Forever is a long time. Forever to be happy would be heaven. But forever to suffer would indeed be unbearable.
But if that fate stood before you; if you faced the choice of eternity as you are or eternity as you could be, I am sure you would do as you needed to do to become the person you wanted to be. You wouldn’t tolerate the abusive relationship, nor the mind-numbing job. You wouldn’t tolerate your negative thoughts, or your fruitless beliefs. You wouldn’t tolerate wars with friends, with family, with neighbors or nations.
You wouldn’t tolerate the battle you now wage everyday within your Self.
We would have every reason to change; every reason to become as we imagine ourselves to be.
But the reality is we are NOT immortal (maybe news to some). We are born and we do die. And in between most do nothing of note and nothing of any great importance. We’re too busy feeling sorry for ourselves; too busy worrying about what tomorrow will bring: the loss of a job, a relationship, our security, our lives; too busy stressing out over an exam or an interview, the bully or the popular kids, our appearance or our reputation.
We devote our every thought, and the sum of our energies, to the “great, great” problems of our small, small lives.
But so did all those people before us.
Do you think they would do things differently, if they had that chance?
That life is limited and finite…
…that it holds no real reason or meaning, does not mean it is not worth living. For we are here already, and will continue to be until whatever time nature or God determines we ought not to be. Because till then – till my death – I am here anyway. I will wake up and live all those days, however many they may be without my choice or action.
But to live the REST of my days, as I had lived many days before that day I realized my life was “meaningless”, as a sad and sorry kid, weak of mind and body, and scared of most all things (a total loser) seemed, well…very, very foolish.
Cause what was I afraid of, then, when life was so important and I such a loser? Some tests that meant nothing? Some cute girl who meant nothing? Some misfortune or future I had no control over?
Forever is a long time, and our lives are meaningless and short. But so long as I did nothing about my Self, my life, and who I would become, perhaps the next 60 years of my life would have been no different than the 20 that had preceded it.
And I COULDN’T allow that. I HAD to change. I HAD to start enjoying life.
And so this isn’t meant to be all depressing or negative. It’s simply a lens in which to view your life and your problems. It is not the only lens, nor the only lens I use to help myself.
Often, I look around and see much the opposite.
And so you may agree with the professor (in which case you’re a jerk, obvi). But whatever it takes to make your problems, your broken home seem small, is ultimately a good thing.
And the good news is…no one cares and it doesn’t matter. So have fun. Be yourself. Be your BEST Self. Do what you want. And have fun.
Leaving a comment of course. Some odd, weird, and controversial stuff in here and you GOTTA have an opinion. So please conversate amongst yourselves (and the world, and me)!