Meaning, purpose, reason, truth, or rather the lack of a concrete answer to all of the above, has often been a struggle for me. An irregular nagging hidden at the back of the mind at the best of times, a deep all-encompassing depression at the worst.
I remember the trigger for the first of these depressions with great clarity: First year university, living away from home for the first time, the height of that post-adolescent, newly-found freedom. Non-stop excitement and entertainment: parties, drinking, new faces, novel experiences, self-discovery, not a care in the world. Flying high and free. Young and alive.
In the midst of this positivity came sad news. An ex-housemate had died. Hit by a train. This was upsetting for sure, but like most negativity at the time brushed off pretty quickly – he'd only lived with us for a few days and had never been very sociable. Seems callous and offhand now, but we were distracted by our infinite ever-expanding horizons, our invincibility. Death was sad, sure, but something that happened to other people.
Lying in bed a couple of nights after receiving the news, a cold realisation descended. There was nothing that really separated the two of us – him and I – we were both meant to be young and invincible. No reason for it be him instead of me. In fact, inevitable that my turn would come. I was, in reality, fragile and insignificant, a tiny temporary life-form in an infinite, uninterested and uncaring universe. What was the point?
Understandably I felt a little low. A feeling that eventually developed into a crushing depression. Depression isn't just being a little blue. It suffocates from the inside. A dark heavy fog on the mind, a barrier against the outside world. You forget how it feels to have any other mood, can't understand how other people manage to maintain their charade of happiness. This detachment and despair is all that exists and there seems to be no way out. You want to forget and go back to the way things were before, but you can't.
In short, it isn't very nice.
A jolly way to start a blog, right? Well, I just wanted to get down as low as possible before bringing things back up. Yay! If there's even a chink of light way down there then that's quite something. And I believe there is. All that's required is a shift in outlook, a realisation that all this negativity and pointlessness, this lack of meaning, is of your own creation. Given the choice of two distinct possibilities, two explanations for something, my natural inclination would always be to err towards the most negative. However, these weren't negative 'facts', it was my own negative appraisal of neutral information. A change of mindset was required. Much easier said than done, and even more difficult to maintain, but most definitely true.
Why do I feel the need to write about this? Because I think people shy away from these things too much. We all think about the big questions, but it's almost taboo to talk about such matters publicly. It's better to maintain a façade of disinterest, a raise of the eyebrows, retorting “Well that's a bit deep”. As if deep thought is a bad thing. “Sorry, I shall try to be more shallow”. Musing over these mysteries is what makes us human. We should feel more confident sharing these thoughts and theories with the wider world. So I'm going to embrace that and attempt to find some positive meaning (through the handy medium of bullet-points). This is what works for me currently. It won't ring true for everyone, perhaps not even for me in a few years time, and many people will disagree completely. But as the first point accepts, that's exactly the way things should be:
- First off, there can never really be a universally accepted meaning of life due to the nature of free thought and human consciousness. People are free to think what they like and this is a good thing. This doesn't mean there is no meaning. On the contrary, it is hugely liberating as you get to create your own.
- For me, the clearest 'Meaning of Life' is to find happiness, because once you do that nothing else really matters.
- Your own search for happiness must not imped the happiness of others. In fact, helping other people find happiness is of equal importance to finding your own. If someone else is happy, their whole world is happy.
- In essence, other people can often provide this path to happiness. We can all help each other.
- Happiness is attainable to all, it may just take some work.
- Happiness doesn't need to be constant – short glimpses, milliseconds of clarity like that instantaneous epiphanous spark on receiving a smile from a stranger, are just as important.
- Happiness and love are synonymous.
- Love is the key and a force for Good. When you love fully, as when you are truly happy, nothing else matters.
- The present moment is all that can be experienced, therefore all that really exists. Embrace it, spread love and happiness within it. Don't worry too much about the past or future. Both have their place, but not NOW.
- Live in the moment but plan for the future. Not only your own future, but for those who will follow you. They too deserve to enjoy their moments when they come.
- Embrace the mystery, the wonder of now, the unknown. Enjoy the moment while preserving the future.
- While catastrophising about the fate of the species/planet/universe is pointless because the future is unknowable, we should do whatever we can to ensure that future generations are safe and able to enjoy the planet as we do. The people of tomorrow are just as important as the people of today.
- All humans, past present and future, are born equal and deserve the same chances. This can only be achieved by acting, thinking and living in a collectivist sustainable manner, rather than individualist, selfish and short term.
- Everything in nature is how it should be, and we are responsible for preserving that.
- Our tiniest actions can have huge effects. Smile at someone today, put them in a good mood, and this will be shared an infinite number of times into the future. You never know the long-term outcomes of your actions. As such, we have an obligation to be mindful of how we behave and to do so from a place of love and happiness.
- Regardless on your thoughts on death, the inevitability of it doesn't render all that's gone before null and void. Everything you say, do and teach will continue to have an effect long after you're gone.
- While you can still have an influence on the world and make positive changes within it (no matter how small) this is a great responsibility. Seize and cherish it.
- Spread hope, not fear.
That'll do for now.
In summary: Be nice.
In summary: Be nice.