Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Increasingly Frantic Search for Novelty (or: Philosophical Segfaults)

...or at least that's how life feels some days.

I am, in general, a purpose-driven individual; as long as I have something to be working on I'm pretty contented. The flip side is that, when I actually don't have anything to be doing, I handle the listlessness pretty poorly.

About a year and a half ago, I went through a pretty dark spot when I started wondering about my overall purpose in life; what was I actually aiming for? Up until that point, I had sort of powered through school on a weird mixture of arrogance and obligation. That had started to crack as far back as high school, though, and so I decided: I would figure out my purpose in life!

As it turns out, this is a terrible idea. Because, after not finding an answer for a while, I started to wonder about my life so far. Maybe everything I was doing was actually meaningless, maybe everything I had done so far in life was meaningless, maybe there wasn't a point to doing anything anymore, because I couldn't find a reason for any of it... It was the philosophical equivalent of dereferencing a null pointer.

Eventually, I grabbed at a lifeline. Forget about the long term, I decided, because I could just do whatever seemed interesting in the short term, and keep going like that until I found a better answer. It was a total cop-out, but it also got me out of the pit I had dug for myself, and keeps me out when I wander too close to it.

This story has no resolution; I'm still basically operating in magpie-mode, chasing after whatever looks shiny when I find myself with nothing else to do. The alternative is to seriously think about the possibility that there is no purpose to what I'm doing, and that I'm just an empty puppet acting out a script that was written over the past billion years of evolution. (I'd rather not.) It's not exactly fulfilling, but then again, fulfillment isn't a thing I expect anymore.

Honestly, this blog post is about as close as I feel like coming to the topic, and even writing this much sent me on about an hour's worth of meandering melancholy mental tangents. I can't say that I've given up on the problem, that I'm satisfied with not having an answer, without setting off the intellectually honest part of my brain... but if I end up living my whole life without actually finding a reason for having lived it, well, I think I've made my peace with that.

oh god did I just write a blog post about the meaning of life, dammit I think I did


Kiriska said...

Heeeeeey, that dark spot reminds me a lot of my life and mental processes for the last... three and a half years! ...~_~ It is a terrible thing to be a nihlist trying to be an existentialist trying to be an absurdist and circling in circles a lot.

For the most part, I suppose I've settled on the same conclusion as you, though it is supplemented with fits of wanting to prove something. Dunno. Actually, I think I've mostly tried not to think about it at all and just keep myself busy doing whatever regardless of its inherent worth or lack thereof. Distractions. Fulltime job? Best distraction ever.

Frank Church said...

I think it was Bill Bryson who said "It really does seem that the purpose of life is to perpetuate DNA." Ever since then I haven't been much worried about my purpose in life, or what life means. No, my goal is to live a happy, comfortable life - whatever that may mean. I haven't decided yet.

OK, now I'm getting reflective and my thoughts are winding around. D: I definitely go through periods where I feel a need to prove myself, though. There is a conflict between what I intellectually believe about myself and what I instinctively believe about myself.

tort said...


I have nothing to add. This post is perfect. GET OUT OF MY HEAD.