Monday, April 23, 2007

Is Everything Meaningless?


This post started as a comment on CultureFeast, but it really kind of hit on things I was thinking anyway.

I've been suffering from one of my occassional bouts of existential dread (or existential anxiety. I guess the first thing I think about the question of meaninglessness is the episode of Six Feet Under where some asks Nate why people have to die. He answers, "So life will mean something." Sure, life may be meaningless and in 100 or 200 years time you and I and everyone we know will be completely unknown and forgotten. However, is responding to meaninglessness with meaninglessness a meaningless response?

In his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl found that living life and searching for meaning IS its own meaning. "It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."

Frankl survived the Nazi death camps and found that people who had a rich inner life and believed in the future survived, and people who gave up hope perished. Having a child is the ultimate act of faith and belief in the future. But for that matter, so is getting haircut. If everything is pointless, why bother?

A very wise person once told me that life is hard and accepting that life was hard actually made living it less difficult. Bad things happen, people die, dreams don't pan out. This is the way things go. So should we forget the whole deal? That's one response, but a pretty weak one. So what's a better one? Well, like the bumper sticker used to say: Keep On Truckin'.

UPDATE: The conversation continues.

1 comment:

The Stash Dauber said...

it's funny, i had come to think of that slogan as a hipi artifact, then i recently heard it from a friend of mine whose band had all of their equipment stolen from their practice pad of the last 13 yrs. in response to my, "that's what you get for being generous," his reponse was, "it does suck. but i guess you can't regret being generous. and ya just have to keep on trucking. no time to cry about it. just move forward."

another line i like came from buddha: "your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."