Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Rambling on Meaninglessness

We use pots and pans as ashtrays because we cannot afford food, when this soul wants something harsher, something deeper. We live in snares of happy delusions and in smiled disappointments.
Tolstoy said, “The only true knowledge a man can have is that life is meaningless.” And Tolstoy got that one right. If you look scientifically, life is just a chemical accident, a grand result of evolution, all our feelings that we hold so dear are nothing but a few chemicals interacting in particular areas of our brain. And in the most reductionist of ways life is nothing but A, C, T, G, U (the base pairs of DNA and RNA). If Carbon was not the most fertile element of the periodic table, we would not be carbon based organisms. If evolution took a different course, we would look different and react differently to different stimuli. So the question that takes away our sleep arises, ‘what is the purpose of this chemical accident we are thrown into?’. And we all ask ourselves this questions, sometimes we just don’t know we are asking this question. This question makes people addicts or delusionary or depressed or cynical, hollow and dark.It haunts us when we are alone , at night when the trivialties of the world are done, when the neon lights have died ot when the blue computer lights of your virtual life has gone into slumber. Everyone wants to do something meaningful with our lives, but rarely do we find any. You could save a life, but that does not make a man immortal. Fact is our biology betrays us here, and as Camus would say, “Lucid reasoning knows its reasoning.” Or as Blake would say that if only our doors of perception were cleansed.
This absolute lack of meaning causes in us what the existentialists call angst. Or what Camus called the Absurd. The conflict that arises when we look for meaning in a meaningless life. Isn’t that the mistake we all make? And is that not why we want something more from life , no matter how much we get? We humans are indeed a curious lot. We spend our life looking for something that isn’t there. And then we become sad and bitter. Some drown themselves into oceans of vices , and some into the depths of their minds.
This is where Camus’s ‘ The Myth of Sisyphus’ fits perfectly. Sisyphus stole death from the gods and as a punishment he had to carry a stone up a mountain top. When he reached the top , the stone would be pushed down and he would have to continue the end of time. And yes, Sisyphus is the ultimate existentialist hero. We are all in Sisyphus’s juxtaposition.We live our lives , study our books , do our jobs , grow old and die , and then someone else takes our place , and then even our substitutions get substituted.  But then Camus ends Sisyphus with perhaps the most important lines ever written.” The struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Here is what I think it means. Even the saddest of us have had some beautiful and happy moments in our lives. Something that makes you feel a bit wry in our most vulnerable moments. Maybe the summers you spent as a child playing with your friends, or nocturnal winter walks of solitude. Maybe it was your mother’s smile when you were just a kid, and if you are lucky enough you found it another person (lucky you!). So life, does not have meaning. So we are not truly free. As Sartre said,” Man is condemned to be free , because once thrown into the world , he is responsible for his actions.” But we humans have one quality that perhaps stops many recluses from becoming misanthropic. And that is beauty. Beauty in whatever you find it in. Some see it in art, some in writing, some in science , some in saving lives, some in the joy of finding things out. In chaos or order , beauty is beauty . It is not a disease to be classified. To quote Thoreau,” Let every man march to the music he hears.” You cannot make a dying man immortal, but you cannot deny the joy of a birth or the beauty in alleviating suffering. And that is enough to fill an man’s heart. They are like the summer of life in an otherwise cold winter. And yes porcupine tree got it succinitly right….’ Always the summers are slipping away. Find me a way to make it stay…’ You will slip into the winters , but summer shall come and you will feel that intense innocence of childhood summers even if your tongue has been burnt off to taste.
So ultimately, the only real thing in our lives is the beauty wherever we see it. Objectively , there is no meaning to life and the universe. Most people move around in groups of three or five and think the universe is concentrated in their groups. And these people will probably be the real living manifestations of Sisyphus. But you are not one of them. Otherwise you wouldn’t stumble upon this rambling in this corner of the internet. We just have to accept that we never will beat the absurd , but we cannot let it prevent us from experiencing the one singular beauty we find amongst so much angst. We are but grains of sand in a meaningless shore, but that does not deny us the right to experience the calm of the sea. Or as the greatest of troubadours should say,” Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind .Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach .Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow .Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free .Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands .With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves .Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
For some reason I don’t know why,
Everyone is born with a hole in the centre of the chest.
Everyone tries to fill it with something.
Some with religion, some with other people.
But I let it be
Because I know if you run against the wind ,
At the right angle it makes the most beautiful of whistles.

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