Take a Marker & Fill-up that Whiteboard! With new raison d’être. And march on!


Sometimes, you get that feeling that you’re tired of Life. Like you’ve already experienced everything there is to experience. Life is just a bunch of repetition anyways. Like how much longer do you have to keep dragging on & on? Like it’s never-ending, and somehow, for some inexplicable unknown reasons, you have to find the will-power to persevere & keep putting one foot in-front of the other. Sometimes, you feel what’s even the point? How does it matter if you don’t keep putting one foot in-front of the other? Would it not be easy to simply give up & let go? It would be a huge relief to pretend that I have any clues as to what I’m doing, or where I’m going. It would be a huge relief to stop playing this ridiculously arbitrary & mysterious Game of Life – where everything seems to be so random & absurd, and there’s no sense of proportionality or justice or fairness. Someone gets Cancer. Another scales Mount Everest. Yet another falls in Love. While another withdraws inwards & runs away from all the Love in the world … As Audioslave says, be yourself is all that you can do.

Letting go is extremely emancipating & cathartic. You don’t have to give two shits about anything. You don’t have to keep eating & pooping for no reason. You don’t have to keep wearing a mask, pretending that you know what you’re doing, other than awkwardly stumbling your way through the Fog of Life … Like, what’s this compulsion that one HAS to keep living. For what? For whom? … I mean obviously, most people get married or have kids, and through that, they find a sense of familiarity & comfort. They find a sense of Meaning/Purpose. Fine. Fair enough. Point taken. Family (in the form of a caring partner or through nurturing kids – either through birthing new Life or offering care to existing Life in-need, via Adoption) can be an excellent antidote to existential emptiness … So I guess the age-old Indian remedy (by Uncles/Aunties) has some merit: शादी करो। सब ठीक हो जाएगा। (get married, everything will be fine, Life will sort itself) … But  for now, for various reasons, I am not looking for marriage or kids at this point in Life. I guess I could find a substitute through volunteering, which might help me to nurture & give-back in some way, and make-up for what I can’t get in the form of Wife/Kids. That’s an option worth exploring for sure. But even so, it’s just not the same thing as having your own Family. There’s no substitute for Family, for kinship, for a sense of belonging, for a yearning for connection or bonding or togetherness … So for me, it already feels like I’ve seen/experienced enough. I don’t see much point in stretching this thing for another 20 years. Life is long & boring. I’ve already seen my share of ups & downs … All I’m gonna do by being alive another 20 years: is to drive-up Oil prices marginally, and contribute to Carbon Dioxide emissions … Not that I’m gonna take any drastic steps right away. Don’t worry. I’m not there yet. There’s always things to be done, people to meet, places to be explored. The mind can be very creative in conjuring up new reasons to live (and that’s the point of the post, further down) … But I’m just wondering, what’s even the point?

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The legendary (and debonair) existentialist French Philosopher, Albert Camus famously said: suicide is the ultimate philosophical question [1][2][3][4][5] – to assess whether Life is worth living or not, from an existential point-of-view: that’s the ultimate question indeed. Although, Camus himself admitted that Life is meaningless & absurd, but even so, he urged that suicide is a pointless destructive response to the comical nonsense that’s Life. However, he didn’t really say how to deal with all the absurdism. Camus insisted that meaning couldn’t be found, no matter how hard you try. That Life is thoroughly pointless, and searching for patterns or meaning is doubly pointless. And he exhorted that in response to the absurdness of Life, you must simply dive headlong & do whatever it is that you enjoy: and so, true to his word, he lived a grand Life, indulging in all kinds of hedonism, being quite the ladies man, and generally being suave … Anyway, some might say Life is worth living, and to them I say amen. Good for them. If it works for them, then I’m all for it. Others might come to different conclusions, and honestly, that’s fine too. There’s no objective universal truths that hold across all of Space & Time. Life is what you make of it. And if you make nothing of it, then that’s as valid as making everything out of it. There’s no correct answers. And there’s no wrong answers either … You can be a quadriplegic & decide Life’s worth living & live well into your 90s, doing whatever is humanly possible in that state, and making the most of it. Or you could be completely physically fit, and decide Life has no meaning, and it’s not worth it, and end it all … Who is to say what’s better? Or which is more preferable? Not you, not me … When you look at things dispassionately, you come to the conclusion that there’s no concrete yes or no, correct or wrong answers. Certainly no answers that’s applicable to everyone.

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We’re all basically searching for Meaning & Purpose in Life. Victor Frankl (a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp), wrote the famous existential book “Man’s Search for Meaning[1][2][3]. Despite being stuck in a concentration camp, he couldn’t help but be existential & wonder: why we do what we do, what makes us tick, and why the search for Meaning is so central to the Human Condition. We’re seeking patterns through this myriad jumble of randomness. We’re seeking clarity through this dense fog. He came to the conclusion that as bleak as the situation is, we must attempt to find some meaning in it, and thereby find a way to cope & survive. Because there’s always something to do, some new reason to Live for. And if there’s none, let’s invent one … His point is well taken (and has a lot of credibility, considering he himself managed to find meaning & a reason to live – through the most horrific conditions), but sometimes, it’s way easier said than done. Sometimes, it can get so dark in the tunnel, that it feels the tunnel is never-ending, that there’s no Hope, and you forget that there might be a light in the end. In those moments, it’s difficult to invent meaning or to find a reason to live for, where there’s none. Nothing but darkness.

A long time ago, when I was a brooding existential teenager (now a brooding existential adult; not much has changed, except I’ve grown old by 15 odd years), I remember watching Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring & Two Towers (the first two films in the EPIC LOTR trilogy), and I remember thinking to myself: I better not die before watching the sweeping finale (Return of the King). I even voiced this to a couple of friends: that I have to be alive for an entire year, so that I see the finale. I have got to be careful – about what I eat, and stay clean from infections. And hope I don’t get into an accident. Because God forbid, I shouldn’t die before getting to see the grand finale: ROTK … Point being: we’re all trying to find something to look forward to. Trying to find new reasons to keep living. To keep ourselves going. To hit the next milestone/goal.

Of course, ROTK came & went. And when I watched it in December-2003, it was beyond spectacular. I remember being moved to tears several times. I was practically bawling at the end, when Frodo leaves with Gandalf on the boat, and Samwise watches them disappear into the Horizon … Since that time in 2003 – full of powerful emotional response & passionate memories, when I felt incredibly alive through that rush of surging emotions, & I was grateful that I stayed alive one full year between Two Towers (2002) & ROTK (2003) – I have seen my reason to live wax & wane. The Reason/Will to live has come & gone, in stretches. It has ebbed & flowed. There have been times when I felt it’s all rather pointless. There’s no point going further. The journey must end here. Better to just quietly slip away into oblivion & nothingness. The existential silence was deafening … Somehow, I got through those moments, and I’m glad that I did. Because soon, those low/dull moments full of existential anhedonia & profound emptiness – they got replaced with moments involving a lot of color & vibrancy. The tide turned, as it usually (almost always) does. So, I’m glad I stuck around, and I got to experience a lot of good things that followed … Life is quite cyclical in that sense. The cycle of birth, growth, stagnancy & death. The cycle that everything that goes up, eventually comes down. The karmic cycle involving sowing as you reap. The cycle of pain vs pleasure, of anger vs calm, of grief vs joy, of anxious restlessness vs blissful contentment … So anyway, I’m glad I persisted, but the point is, you have to keep finding new raison d’être. Fresh reasons to Live. New things to look forward to. Fresh items on To-Do lists … Once more unto the breach, dear friends … And miles to do/explore before I sleep (for good). And (keep finding) new reasons to keep living before I sleep (for good).

They say you have to keep renewing your vows in marriage once every few years. Well that’s true for Life as well. You have to keep renewing your Will to Live, your resolve to keep persevering. You’re making a sacred covenant with Life itself. And you have to keep renewing it – with vigor & passion … It’s almost like an insurance contract; you have to pay the premium to keep living. Just like you maintain your car, you have to keep maintaining your body & mind; keeping it well oiled. Ultimately, all of it stems from the Will to Live. And so, once every few years, you have to keep renewing that Will to Live. The sacred oath that you take for marriage – of commitment, of sticking through thick & thin, through sickness & health, through good times & bad. You have to take that same sacred oath with your own self: not abandoning yourself in your low times, not losing faith, not beating yourself up too much, and above all, somehow keep holding-on through the hurricane-force random-shit-show called Life.

So now, I once again find myself at a crossroads moment in Life: where the whiteboard inside my mind – that’s supposed to list “reasons to keep living” is once again blank … There have been a few times this has happened, and I’ve managed to take a metaphorical marker & fill that whiteboard with old & new reasons. Learn a new skill. Get a new job. Develop a new hobby. See a new place. Meet some new people. If nothing else, keep hanging-on for existing people (for close family & friends) … And so now, once again, as I have done many times in the past, I have to once again populate that whiteboard with new made-up reasons to keep living. To keep breathing. To keep drinking, eating & pooping. It’s a Sisyphean Task It’s like the Vikram-Betaal fable: Vikram keeps lifting the mischievous troll Betaal out of the tree, carries him on his back, and Betaal keeps going back onto the tree. Each time, Vikram must maintain his composure, and keep patiently going back to the tree, and fetching Betaal, to kick-off yet another iteration of an endless futile cycle. And yet, Vikram does it. Patiently. Diligently. Repeatedly. And so must I. For this is what Life is all about. This is it. This is the deal. This is what living is all about … I know filling up the Whiteboard this time is just a temporary fix. Even if I keep marching forwards, in a few years, things will crumble again. The tide will shift again (for the worse), and the troll Betaal would be back on his tree, laughing at the mess, taking devilish glee at my misfortune. Entropy prevails. Always. Life is messy & chaotic … But even if that’s the case, even if it’s all pretty pointless & futile, and even if it’s just a temporary bullshit quick-fix that’s not gonna last, even if I’m gonna take another existential tumble in a few years, I must pick up the marker & cover that Whiteboard with all the ink it has. Trying to desperately find new reasons to Live, new things to accomplish … Because that’s what Life is all about. That’s how to roll in this one & only Life … As my Mom keeps saying (correctly), if Life was easy, there would be no fun or spark to it. It’s the difficulties & challenges that gives Life meaning, that shapes the larger narrative-arcs of our lives, so that we’re able to construct grand tales of our heroism through our struggles, that ultimately imbues our lives with a sense of gravitas.

Time for me to take a marker & go find some new reasons to Live. Hope you guys are ready with your markers & whiteboards … Together, let’s keep filling that whiteboard, only for it to be wiped clean every single time. And yet, each time, let’s come back with our markers & fill up some new stuff. Until our last breaths.

(Originally written on Facebook, at Marine Drive. Adapted here (with modifications/refinements) for wider audience. Mirror-Published on Medium here).

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