Life and Meaning
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
I read this quote in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I recall my friend saying something similar to me back when we were preparing for competitive exams.
For a long time since then, I’ve been trying to find meaning in my life. I’ve been questioning everything I do. Each time I reach the same answer. There is no why. It doesn’t matter what I do, because nothing matters.
These nihilistic thoughts were what used to occupy a major chunk of my time. I couldn’t focus on anything else, because I couldn’t - and still can’t - see how any of my actions matter in the grand scheme of things.
Yuval Noah Harari writes in Sapiens, “There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.”
And I believe Mr. Robot when he says, “We live in a kingdom of bullshit.”
The only reason I’m able to question everything I do is because life has been easy for me ever since I was born. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be asking all these questions if I had to spend 60 hours a week working minimum wage to support my family. This brings up another question - is all of this just an excuse? Is this just me trying to justify my inadequacy?
I don’t know.
Cal Newport writes in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, “If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”).”
I think he hits the nail right on the head. Life isn’t about taking, it’s about giving back. How will you contribute to your species? As the way I am right now, I don’t have much to offer the world, honestly speaking. I have to - and want to - keep learning and reading and improve my understanding of the world.
Shoko Makinohara says to Sakuta in Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai, “What I think, Sakuta-kun, is that life is here for us to become kinder. I live life every day hoping I was a slightly kinder person than I was the day before.”
My actions no longer feel inconsequential when my goal is to propel my species to greater heights. I become part of a larger movement. I feel I can bear almost any how, because I have a why. It doesn’t matter if everything is meaningless - I’m okay with taking part in the farce if that is what inches me closer to my goal. Besides, I’m very curious. I like learning about how things work, and how they can be made better. So I guess that, at least for now, that’s how I’m going to be spending my time.
“The mathematician does not study pure mathematics because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it and he delights in it because it is beautiful.” ~ Henri Poincaré