I just want to clarify that these words are not meant to drive any particular argument home. If you want to discuss any of these things, feel free to contact me by any means you choose. My intentions are not to change anyone’s mind, but rather to allow them to see things from my perspective. The philosophy of Absurdism isn’t something that someone can teach you, it’s something that you learn and identify with on your own terms. The only real point in discussion is to help those who do realize the absurdity of reality to find a means to move forward in spite of despair.
I had a very interesting discussion with a fellow thinker the other day, and I thought I would share what we discussed. Three questions were posed to me in such a fashion as to perhaps convince me that I could still find God, but I don’t believe he was trying to change my mind. I think he was really trying to understand how I could continue my life in such a mindset. Specifically, I was asked if I could come up with personally satisfying, non-theistic answers to the following three critical questions:
1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
There is no “reason” why there is something rather than nothing. There just is. This answer might not satisfy everyone, but it might satisfy an absurdist. It would likely satisfy an existentialist or a Nihilist, but do very little for a theist. Having gone back and forth on the question more times than I can count, I’ve simply learned to accept that “it just is.” I’ve come to this conclusion because the other alternatives are absurd to me. With consideration to the Kalam Cosmological argument, that concept rests on the major assumption that the universe has a beginning. There is great speculation, but most scientific theories point to a singularity. A singularity doesn’t necessarily mean that there was nothing before it; it just means that it is impossible to predict what was before or after it, depending of course on your point of reference. Assuming (which I don’t care to do to begin with, but for the sake of argument) that there was a singularity, it’s impossible from our perspective to assume that there was nothing before it. We are starting to make assumptions based on assumptions. In light of this, I simply accept what I can know. I can spend my entire existence seeking the answer of “why” only to ultimately fail at finding it, or I can accept that I cannot know and therefore it doesn’t matter. “It just is.”
2. Why do anything in life? Major accomplishments that seem so important initially tend to become far less important over time.
Happiness is a temporary thing. Even in moments of great accomplishment, eventually you start to question why any of it is that important to begin with. The harsh truth is none of it is. Because of my limited perspective and abilities, I have no alternative but to accept that that there is no “grand scheme” or meaning to the universe. I could just as easily make up any reason or explanation, and it would be just as satisfying to me in the end. I don’t know, because I can’t know. I have no other choice but to accept it. I will continue to entertain other possibilities that people present to me in hopes that I have exercised that major human flaw of imperfection, but unfortunately for those who wish to present an alternative, there is no way for them to prove for a fact that they are correct without making assumptions. Perhaps another man can lay their head down peacefully at night assuming that a grand being conjured up all of this awesomeness, but I can lay my head just as peacefully knowing that it is beyond my capability to know. That being said, from my perspective it is truly irrelevant as to what caused us to be. If I am to place a value in anything that I do or accomplish in my life, I do so at the limitations of my own will and motivation. If over time, those things become simply meaningless (or less meaningful) to me, that is because my judgment on the value of them has changed. If I can stand here and tell you it is all meaningless and has no value that is because I give it no value for the sake of this conversation. The fact that I earned a degree in science may carry great value in the job market; it plays zero value in philosophical debate. Furthermore, it carried zero value before I was born and will continue to carry zero value after I am dead. If it carries any value to anyone, anywhere else in the universe, then it is valuable only to them not to the universe as a whole. The universe doesn’t “care”. Essentially, the only reason to do anything in life is whatever reason you give it, and nothing more.
3. Why are there things in my life that I want to change that are so difficult or seemingly impossible to change that I cannot do it, even with the help of others?
For me, there is no ultimate reason to change anything about myself. If I have a passion or love for anything that could motivate me enough to change, then I’ll change. That’s all there really is in life; the passion and love we find for certain aspects of it, and freedom from the pain and suffering it brings. It’s not always easy, as sometimes the change never comes. The change doesn’t come because it doesn’t matter enough. I applaud and respect the person who recognizes that something they were doing was negatively impacting others that they care about, and even more so when they take action on it. Perhaps it required influence from others to recognize it, but that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it required that person to make a change themselves. Many people choose to ignore one or both aspects of that, and live psychologically unhealthy lives because of it. I don’t think of myself as any better than the next person when it comes to such things as this. We make those changes because they affect our own wellbeing. Sure they hurt other people, but it’s our love for those people that make us change ourselves, not the pain the other people feel. If one was hurting other people, but it didn’t hurt them to see that, they wouldn’t likely change. This doesn’t mean that the act of changing is selfish, as other’s benefit from the change as well. It wasn’t exactly selfless either, as there was something to be gained from making the change. As for me, yes of course there are things that I do that harm others without intention. I don’t do those things because they harm others; harm to others is a side effect. I have to weigh out the two from time to time. A good example would be getting up late in the morning. I will sometimes sleep in a bit later because I’m aware that the criticality of me being in to work precisely on time isn’t so great. I’m fortunate enough to work somewhere I can do that from time to time. Does it affect my peers and coworkers in the work place? Yes, sometimes it does. If they are just irritated because they are jealous I got more sleep then they did, then I could honestly likely care less. If they are irritated because they needed me and I wasn’t there, now that is important. It’s important enough for me to make a change, and not sleep in for a while. It really depends on how big the consequences are. If my boss told me to get to work on time or I will be fired, well I’d be far more likely to make a permanent change if I really liked my job. I could take the same logic and apply it to relationships at home. I’m more likely to get up earlier in the morning if my wife nagged me than if my coworkers did. Whether it is because of a greater love for my wife or the fact that I value the peace and quiet I have at home, it is irrelevant. The same logic still applies.
If you find that you can relate to these answers and wish to expand, please feel free to elaborate. I welcome criticism, both good and bad, so long as it is constructive. I don’t wish to build walls between myself and others; I’d much prefer to build bridges.
“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”
-James Kirk, Star Trek into Darkness