Nihilism is wonderful. It is to philosophy what zero is to mathematics. Multiply it to any magnitude of beauty, emotion and meaning and you end up meaningless. Add it to any of these and you add nothing, but also lose nothing. It’s nothing. It cannot stand on it’s own, yet has the power to void the tenets of human values in a snap on one hand, and to impart incomprehensible infinity to the trivial on the other.
What harm does a bullet do to anyone or anything in it’s brief transit through flesh?
What would that be? Nature’s way of alarming it’s subject of harm to it’s body? Why alarm for that? For protecting it from the inevitable? Pain would indeed be a harm in it’s absoluteness, yet be as absurd as everything fundamental in the universe: life, laws of physics, origin of universe etc because it can’t help at all in preserving life indefinitely, and is thus pointless in the greater picture of life and death.
Death of a man is the annihilation of the universe for him, something that adds great weight to this philosophically absurd event, but only for a while. As always, it gets exponentially absurder as we move out to the greater picture. In this case, the greater picture of one’s death, and thus of his entire universe, is the death of the actual universe at some point in distant future which, again, is absurd since what meaning would annihilation carry when creation carries none? What then makes death a mournable crisis, apart from the emotional connotations? If Absurdism, the philosophy, is the uneasy chronic belief in man’s inability to unravel the answer to the infamous question of “meaning”, death is it’s acute implementation in which you couldn’t procrastinate over the question anymore and finally receive the greatest blow you’ve always feared, even if you philosophically claimed not to give a damn.
If a dying man leaves behind a family which relied upon him for it’s food, there sure is some inconvenience in death, inconvenience to the dependents. Ironically, such harm is again in form of pain or death of the dependents. We’ve already seen how absurd such harms would be.
So, all the bullet did is shout out loud to the world the inherent meaninglessness of the universe, only to be silenced soon by the psychobiological defenses of the listeners. It tried doing something, but failed. It did nothing.
Last week I survived a fatal head-on car collision, owing to some random impulse that had made me fasten my seat belt. The person who had crashed into my car died. I had dropped into an altered state of consciousness and my recollection of those moments is pretty fuzzy and dream-like , something that makes me think that If I died it would have been an easy painless death. It’d be a lovely death too since my favorite philosopher, or more broadly my favorite man, Albert Camus, died in a car accident too.
The aftermath is interesting. It has two paradoxical aspects:
ONE that it has made me see life through a broader perspective, sharply reinforcing my already strong sense of absurdism. I’ve been feeling like walking dead and all of a sudden the ticking of my death clock has started being audible, too audible to let me live a normal life again.
TWO that I’ve realized that I don’t want to die since I was badly craving for life moments after the accident. Previously, I thought I’d embrace death whenever it came upon me with an absurdist’s courage. I was so wrong. The reason, however, for the urge for life was someone I loved. I couldn’t imagine them living a life anywhere near normal without me. I had to live for them. This has made me realize that my life isn’t meaningless anyway. I’m living for someone’s smiles and that someone is living for my smiles. This mutually perpetuating cycle of meaning is absurd too of course, but at individual levels these meanings are real, and worth giving up the obsession for meaning of life for.
I’ll be moving to earth in two days, or so they say. Life is a good thing, a one-time opportunity, I’m being convinced for the last couple of weeks. “You’re not ready for it yet”, they say every time they postpone my transit to earth. “Your questions.” is what they say have to die before I’ve to live. This time, I’d be moving for sure, for I heard the fairies gossiping about some “Plan Z”, something they probably try upon the most difficult of souls, something that always works they say.
Hi, I am Mary. Nice to meet you.
Hey. You’re beautiful. Never seen you before.
Beauty is nothing but order within chaos. It’s everywhere, you just have to look around.
I cannot. In all chaos, all order and all existence, I see deep nothingness.
What about me?
What about you?
You see nothingness in me?
Of course. But, oh wait! Umph… you should exist.
I don’t think I can answer that. Oh wait, I’m hating myself for saying this. This is what the other fairies keep telling me when I ask them for meaning. Umm….
Yes, you cannot answer that. But about that question of meaning, how about asking it from me? I’m not like the other fairies.
What is this mark below your lips?
O soul! That’s a mole.
Why is it there?
Randomly? No. It really makes a difference. You look so beautiful with it. Mary, this randomness is beautiful. This chaos within order within chaos is appealing. Aren’t you wrong when you attribute beauty to mere order.
Hahahaa…. Wow. I’m impressed to see a soul in-the-making intellectualize like this. The fairies were right about you. You are difficult.
So have we reached the “your question is unanswerable” dead-end already?
I told you I’ll never say that.
Then quench my thirst for meaning. Hey, wait, there’s another of this mole thing a little above your lip on the other side. You’re lovely.
Aren’t fairies meant to be that? Lovely?
They are? No. Not at all. It’s only you.
Because I have moles around my lips?
No, I don’t know why. Maybe because I’m enjoying being with you.
Oh Soul! If life is like these few moments we’ve been together, is there any possibility we may stop looking for meaning.
There the fairy took my hands in her warm ones and placed her lips over mine. It felt like nothing else I had felt before. It felt like something that couldn’t be put into words, just like life itself. I had immediately begun to realize the existence of concepts impossible to put in words.
Mary, you answered me. You’re the meaning of life. Yes, It’s you.
Oh Soul! Why tears?
Could I beg God for you? Could he let you travel with me to earth? I’ll do whatever he wills in exchange, I’ll stop asking for meanings anymore.
Soul, let me tell you something this bright night. Do you think we, the fairies, have answers to these questions souls like you keep bugging us with? Do you think the peace you see over our faces is real?
Soul, today that I’ve myself found meaning, why would I let it leave me. I’ll go with you.
We will go.
A glass half full is a glass that was previously empty and a glass half empty is the one that was previously full. One deserves optimism and the other pessimism. This is realism. Realism judges the glass by matching it’s current state with it’s initial state.
An egodystonic perfectionist is someone who craves for perfection in the heart but ends up abandoning his tasks because that perfection is simply unattainable. They have thought of the task’s finished product quite a lot. That product is perfect, and finished before the task is even started. They always start with the glass full. A full glass can never get any fuller. It will always get less full, no matter how well they perform, and so they would always be pessimistic towards that task. Had they started with an empty glass, the glass would always be somewhat full, and they’d be always happy.
Starting with an empty glass is the simplest key that could transform an egodystonic perfectionist to an egosyntonic one, thereby converting one’s greatest shackle to one’s greatest weapon. That’s when perfectionism starts sounding like a sweet word, all of a sudden, for the first time ever.
But how to do that?
Well, it requires one’s realization that what one is working upon is yet to be accomplished and is only a blank, imperfect, absurd canvas, and anything one does adds to that canvas. Everything adds to it, literally everything, no matter how little and how imperfect. That’s it. The idea is that simple. Comprehending it may be difficult at first, but once it gets up into our heads, everything starts to change. Not only our classical procrastination begins to fade, our existential troubles start getting solved.
Speaking of existential troubles, I used to be upset when I would think of death, or the absurd. But then I started appreciating that my initial state was death, and each moment I spent was adding something to that initially dead canvas. Nothing could be too depressing anymore. No failure. No imperfection.
Perhaps, shifting one’s focus from the ultimate state to the initial state is all that we, perfectionists, need to do to cure ourselves.
If you know what life is for, this one isn’t for you.
Finding the meaning of life is one quest many of us will venture into at least once in a lifetime. The quest shall be fruitful to most. Others shall end up in the philosophical limbo called Absurdism, the philosophy that the question of meaning of life is unanswerable and shall remain so forever, essentially making existence meaningless. The problem doesn’t end there. Taking life as meaningless but continuing to live it is paradoxical and this paradox feeds the agony that shadows the entire life of many absurdists, more so when life gets challenging. This troubled absurdist then seeks philosophical texts or engages in deep contemplation in order to solve this paradox. Some lucky ones are able to flee it by solutions proposed by philosophers like Albert Camus, others flee it by fleeing absurdism itself, consciously or subconsciously. A few unlucky ones remain clueless in the canvas of their contemplation. I’ve been that unlucky one. I dealt with it through science. How? Well…
We know evolution works by selecting the more viable of organisms and dropping off those not fit enough to face the challenges of the environment. This continuous evolutionary selection reinforces those traits in the living which help them survive. What would be the single most universal trait, amongst these many traits, which if absent would bring down the entire skeleton of life? It would simply be the will to live, called the “survival instinct”. This instinct is the one behavior that all life forms universally share, with no exceptions. So yes, the one reason we live is that evolution has hardwired us to guard our lives. And that’s it. There’s no more to our reasons to live. All else, all those reasons people say they live for are defense mechanisms that keep this absurd instinct cloaked. This survival instinct is the ultimate reason why despite all the absurdity of life, despite all the troubles… absurdists continue living it. We don’t have other options. Our hardwired mind keeps us from committing suicide unless it’s overridden by the strongest of emotions.
The conclusion is simple. Living is a biological obligation. And since, there’s no way out, what option do we have other than expending our energies in making it beautiful and livable for ourselves and the generations to come?
“I loved you”, Sara said as she closed her car door and raced away.
All of a sudden there was nothing to do anymore. No one to live a life for. No one to think of. No one to bear the troubles of life for.
I loved her too. I had made lots of mistakes, yet had never stopped loving her. She was lovely and she loved me too. But there was probably much more completing the equation of our relationship than mere love and faith. Only that we always failed to find out.
I was at Lahore Mall Road outside the café where we had just taken breakfast. My eyes were following Sara’s car fading into the distance. The car disappeared . I continued seeing it with the other eye. I was too addicted of her sight. My mind wouldn’t let her go.After having stood there for ten minutes, I moved back into my car, turned on the AC and turned off the music that started playing as I ignited the engine.
Nobody was looking. Tears rolled out. So opportunistic of them. I couldn’t think. De-realizaton was seeping into my sentience. Oh! Derealization! I loved it. It detached me from my synthetic vision of the world and flied me to heights from where people looked like grains of sand. It was amazing. They were all the same from there, sharing similar fears, desires and instincts. I could not appreciate gender, race or destiny from those heights. All I could see was movement. Random movement. As random as the atoms shooting haphazardly in air. The movement gets those atoms nothing, yet gives the gas all it’s traits. Same goes with man, I thought. All the randomness of our activities sums up to a major change in our collective existence but carries little meaning on it’s own.
“I’m sorry”, said someone. Oh! It was her outside my car. But I was too too high at that time to respond. My gaze was fixed over a nearby tree. Nothing, not even her, could break my flight into the Absurd. Apparently.
“Are you listening?”, she repeated in a neutral tone. Of course I was listening. Not me, exactly. It was my somatic half which I couldn’t take with me into my flight. That somatic half, rotated it’s head and looked at her and there… In a snap I was back on earth. Sara was so beautiful, seeing her was the only thing that could break my mind trips. She was the only thing on earth that had meanings in my vast meaningless desert of life. I didn’t know what meanings. Meanings that were beyond rational comprehension. Meanings that defied reason.
I got out of my car and, forgetting where I was, placed my lips over hers. It was time for another flight out of the physical world.
This is so “special” that I wrote it in Urdu, a language that delivers straight from my heart.
har taraf shor hi shor hai, log bol rahay hain, waqt chal raha hai. ham falsafay ke jhartay drakht se girtay patay samet rahay hain. yun nahein ke sukoon nahein hai, ya kam hai. shesh jehat sukoon hi to hai. aisa sukoon, aur itna sukoon, ke zehmat bannay laga hai, dard denay laga hai. aur wo, joh qatra qatra mera maqsad-e-hayat ho chuki hai, meray paas to hai nahi, iss purtakaluf sukoon ko uss ke takhayul hi ka raag nachata rahta hai.
main to ussay janta bhi nahi. wo hai zuroor, mai ne uffaq kinaray ussay mehsoos kya hai. par wo aati hi nahi. wo darti to nahi? wo kyun darti hai? main ussay kaisay bataon mein to uss ko sirf sunna chahta hun, uss se kehna chahta hun. uss ke saath beth ke inn taareek aansuon mein ulajhna chahta hun. daastan-e-safar ke qissay cherna chahta hun. sadyon ke chupay raaz uss kay fahem mein sajana chahta hun.
ussay choo liya to main rakh ho jaon.
main to sirf uss ke wajood ki parchayi mei sona chahta hun.
This story is of a boy who tried to make sense of life rationally, as soon as he opened eyes into this world, but eventually gave up as nature intervened. The conclusion I draw from my life and this story is the same: You can not really make sense of the thing we call “life”, rationally or otherwise, unless you are entangled in one of those teleological philosophies.
Blunt gloom. No people. No emotions. No stories. No life. No Affliction. Only absolute blackness stretching all across the cosmos. Behroz didn’t know what to make of that limbo. He was even doubtful of his existence.
One day, though there were no days in that end of the Universe, Behroz saw a girl approaching him. She was a fairy without wings, an embodiment of light, and the first thing Behroz had ever seen. She carried with her a basket with glowing pearls. The pearls were blue. Their light was immense and vanquished the darkness all around. In no time the girl was sitting next to Behroz.
“Lord Nature has chosen you for a visit to life.” Said the mysterious girl.
“Life?? What’s that ?” Asked Behroz. These were the first words he ever spoke and the girl the first physical thing he ever saw. It felt strange.
“I’m sorry. Enigma is the nucleus of what you’re going to experience. Lord’s creation is not supposed to know answers to these questions”. She affirmed and advanced a glowing blue pearl to Behroz, “Here, take this. This is called soul. Do not lose this, you’ll never get one again, ever… “
As soon as Behroz touched the pearl, the girl disappeared and the darkness all around started vanishing. As veils drew apart from the window of his sentience, he could see himself standing in a meadow, by a roaring creek, with myriads of creatures hoping and creeping and flying all around, some horrid, some adorable. Some shrieking, some barking, some mute. He looked at his hands, his feet and realized that none of the creatures he was looking at were like himself. So this is Lord Nature’s Life. Behroz wondered and smiled.
He wandered across the meadow, tried communicating with random animals and plants, and enjoyed watching the stream water flow with and without patterns until he started feeling very tired and hungry. Feeling tired and hungry was something new to him and having those feelings take him over made him very perturbed, partially because he didn’t know how to deal with those. He cried to the top of his voice in anguish. If only he knew how colossal were the sufferings that stood ahead compared to mere hunger and fatigue, he might have wished to perish. After getting exhausted of the fruitless endeavor of crying for help, he fell asleep.
Plain darkness. No people. No emotions. No stories. No life. No Affliction. Again. Behroz, apparently, was back in the black universe and he was glad for that. Life was painless once again. Colorless too. But who cared ?
Then, all of a sudden in the black viewport in front of his eyes, a river started flowing. A heron appeared at its bank and started gobbling fishes laid symmetrically along the bank. It was looking at Behroz. Then, patches of green started appearing, interspersed all around the jet black viewport. Behroz immediately realized that those were Lord Nature’s creations but couldn’t figure out their purpose in the black universe. He stood up from the shallow muddy trench he was laid in to approach the heron. This wasn’t the original black universe, Behroz started feeling, because in the black universe he couldn’t get out of the trench, nor see anything other than perpetual darkness.
Behroz walked briskly to the proud white heron. He wanted to talk to it. When he reached the river bank and tried communicating with it, to his dismay, the heron didn’t respond as if it was too proud to answer him or too dumb to comprehend his words. Then, to his surprise, the heron walked through his body and vanished. So this isn’t physical. It’s all a delusion. He was quick to educe.
Behroz was now craving to touch something. Anything. He was longing to talk to someone. He was longing to see something more than sporadic patches of green and a flowing river, both of which appeared and disappeared randomly. He realized that, all of a sudden, he was addicted to the life he had just experienced. He was ready to take the pain that came with that life but couldn’t bear the meaningless darkness of the black universe anymore.
“Son. Wake up.” said someone from somewhere. Behroz looked all around but found nothing. The voice echoed again. And again. And again. Then, once again, curtains drew apart from the window of his consciousness and once again, he could see himself lying in the meadows surrounded by life. “Son. Wakeup.” someone said again. But this time he could see that “someone” as he moved his head to the side. It was an old woman.
“Oh great. I thought you’ll not wake up. Alright listen carefully; I do not have much time.” said the old woman as she moved her hand over Behroz’s cheeks, “You’ve been endowed with what they call life and you have to take care of it no matter how unbearable it gets because you’ll never get it again, ever! “
“Oh. Thanks. But what do I make of it?” Asked Behroz.
“Son. That remains a cipher to all of Lord Nature’s creation. There, in fact, are people all around who claim to have deciphered these mysteries. Never fall for such rogues. Buying a purpose-of-life from anyone around here will only make your life wretched rather than meaningful” Replied the old lady while combing Behroz’s hair with her ageing fingers.
“But there must be something I’m expected to do. For Lord Nature. After all, he blessed us with such a beautiful life” Inquired confused Behroz.
“As I said son, we do not really know. Because it’s a one time opportunity, just have fun with it and avoid getting into situations which take this fun from it. And do not forget helping others having fun with it too.” Said the old lady.
The idea of the whole thing being just for fun was very fascinating. Behroz couldn’t stop questioning, “And will this last forever?”
“No”, the old lady said with a sigh, “We all have to return to the black universe we all came from, no matter how much we dislike going back. And we are not allowed to carry back any recollections or experiences. The good news, however, is that we will exist there forever”.
“No? Really? If we’re all to return and that too empty handed and empty headed, what’s the point of having fun here or even keeping this ‘life’ thing you’re talking about?” Inquired Behroz. He was much too upset now.
“I’m going Son. I can see banshees arriving from across that horizon. They’ll be taking my blue pearl back. And Son, stop being obsessed of these questions. Answers to these do not exist.” She said.
The next moment she was gone.
Behroz looked at his right hand. It had the glowing blue pearl. He caressed it and pledged to take care of it. Mysterious forces, which Lord Nature had commissioned to prevent its creation from unraveling the dark secret of worthlessness of life, had eventually overcome the last drop of rationality in Behroz’s blood.
The Life thing had started making sense now.