The Search for Meaning

The search for perfect happiness has worn out the soles of many men. Throughout history, philosophers have pondered and wondered about the remedy of a happy life. Ultimately, the consequential terms Existentialism, Nihilism, and Absurdism were coined. Before telling you which group I relate to, I want to explain their meaning.

Existentialism deals with the idea that humans must create their own meaning and find joy in the face of an arbitrary world and focus more on our free will and responsibility in defining one’s essence While Nihilism emphasizes its counterpart. Nihilists argue that life has no inherent meaning or purpose; they are free to live however they choose without being bound by any moral absolutes or you know, they may succumb to despair.

Last but not least, absurdism acknowledges the contradiction between our desire for meaning and the universe’s indifference but does not necessarily view this as a cause of despair. In essence, an absurdist embraces a form of optimistic nihilism as they find their own subjective meaning in life through conscious choice while also accepting and liberating themselves from the pressure of objective human purpose.

My take on this is, like most of society, I have spent a ridiculously copious amount of time searching for my ‘what’ and ‘ why’.  The pros of having radical freedom are that I can emanate my own significance through my choices, actions, and subjective experiences. However, I also have undeniably dealt with a lot of anxiety, dread, and loneliness in the name of finding my purpose.

While I can appreciate an existentialist’s point of view, it can foster a kind of excessive self-absorption which can lead to isolation, and lack of social responsibility- by emphasizing more self-determination- if not dealt with discernment. Once in a while, I flirt with the idea that nothing really matters aka Nihilism. How convenient is it that I’m drawn to this philosophy when nothing exciting is happening in my life? It is easy to say ‘time is a societal construct that has no deeper significance ’ when you do not engage with your inner creative critique. As biased as that sounds, only the rich have the luxury to pipe down, relax, and watch it all crumble.[sarcastic laugh] How refreshing to simply cast meaning and purpose in life!

A few years ago, my brother recommended me to watch a play called ‘ Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett. I have never been more bored in my life is an understatement. The entire play is about two characters waiting for a mysterious figure named Godot, who never arrives. No climax; no resolution; only a repetitive, meaningless dialogue. It was simply absurd. I thought I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand modern literature.

It was after a few searches I found out the play’s theme – absurdism, also my first encounter with the term. As I understand it, an absurdist might find meaning in the most random and absurd actions outside of objective societal attributes. If I decide to spontaneously break into dancing in the middle of a crowded public space or to wear ten different color outfits every day, or if I quit my demanding job and commit my life to being a nun, a painter, or embracing anything with authenticity despite the ultimate futility – I am a graduate from the school of Absurdism.

To sum up, we live, learn, and unlearn. While on the journey, we encounter, experiment, listen, and adapt in a million different ways. Walking in a linear line in a magical ball of cosmic creation is impossible. Amongst our intertwined walks of life, we zoom into our personal, abstract beliefs and ideologies and zoom out to acknowledge our community, the edges of our continent far to the corners of our planets and galaxies. So, is it quintessential to choose one guiding principle to live by? I’m certainly hesitant to commit.

Written by: Ruth Mekasha

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