I had a minor existential crisis at around 3pm on Monday, Australian EST. The below came out of that head space. Massive thank you to my sister who was there to talk me down off the proverbial ledge.
I’ve been writing for hours, re-working a story I am deeply fascinated with but I’m changing the post-apocalyptic setting and bringing it into the present time . I can’t work out if I’m killing my darlings or taking out what makes it unique and interesting.
I’ve been asking ‘why am I here’ since at least the age of 7. I always struggled to fit in. Not in a cool, quirky way though. I’ve always been an odd person and I started asking inconvenient questions at a very young age. I’ve always wanted to know why I’m here, why any of us are here. I’m told it’s a thing adopted people do, but I think the global pandemic has the whole lot of us questioning our ontological security.
My parents have always had a very simple explanation, one that comes from their religion. They are Christians and believe we are here to praise God, be good, do good, and then we will be rewarded in the afterlife, and in this life if we’re good enough..? It’s all very simple but frustratingly it just never made much sense to me. (Years later I understand why through the lens of Spiral Dynamics.)
Organised religion has always offered people something to hold on to, a meaning-making machine for people to cling to. Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I always felt like Dorothy peeking behind the curtain at the wizard and finding not a tiny little man using smoke and mirrors, but nothing… nothing at all.
The problem for me is that few religions agree on big stuff like where we go when we die and they all have conflicting opinions on the little stuff like what we should and shouldn’t eat. I mean… it’s ridiculous. Eating the wrong thing should not land you in boiling oil for all eternity.
Preparing myself for a good smiting in 3… 2… 1…
I have always wondered if there is an over-arching purpose to any of this. Life, I mean. I think any meaning available to us is meaning we MAKE. We are the meaning-making machines! (Read Viktor Frankl, Dr Eric Maisel, Pema Chodron, Dan Millman, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer…) We choose to attribute meaning to anything in life and we do, every day. For me it’s writing, reading, my family, art, animal rights, friends, meditation.
These things bring meaning to my life through the meaning I place on them. Do they have intrinsic meaning? Is writing a book objectively better than drinking a carton of beer? I think yes, but I might be biased and I don’t drink beer.
One of my friends posted this on FB early in the local Covid lockdown. She wrote “I didn’t realise how much my life revolved around shopping, travelling, and going out for meals until I couldn’t do those things anymore.” Everyone has things they love and who are we to judge if it’s worth doing or not? Isn’t life here on this plane just a great opportunity to use our senses, to create, to feel? I guess there’s a fine line between pleasure and meaning. Maybe the difference between pleasure and meaning is that eventually some things that give us great pleasure; drugs, alcohol, dangerous sex, driving fast, watching TV, clubbing, or eating, can turn around and bite us hard. I know for me, at 50, the idea of getting hammered and going out dancing until the sun comes up sounds amazing but it would destroy me. I mean who can even be bothered with hangovers any more?
It’s subjective isn’t it? Does anyone working in the porn industry find their work meaningful? What about spending 20 hours a day sitting on the sofa watching reality TV and eating junk food. Is that meaningful? See I think even something as simple as taking a walk can add meaning to life… Or am I just Pollyanna? What makes something a waste of time and other things life-affirming and “meaningful.” How it makes us feel? Whether or not it benefits society or even just one other person?
Do I think I am here to write stories? That I am here to do anything in particular? I used to, but now I’m not sure it’s anything more than wishful thinking. Like Dr Eric Maisel, I don’t believe I have any god-ordained life “purpose” but I do think I can pursue any purpose of my choosing at any given time. Maybe this is just semantics.
Maybe we’re all here to do, and be, and make, and sing, write, and yes, drink beer, and dance, and have babies, purely to continue the species?
and added a few days later… Or perhaps to facilitate the continued expansion of human consciousness…