For a while I have been meaning to write about the reason I keep this blog. But right now I feel like noting down a thought that occurred to me as I debated whether to watch a movie tonight or read a book instead, namely: “What is the point of life.” I don’t mean that to be read in a suicidal tone at all. I am really enjoying life today. It is more something melancholic along the lines of the observation that Alain de Botton made in his writing on Work.
At some point he is in the jungle watching preparations for the Ariane rocket to take off. On its tip is a satellite being put into orbit by a Japanese broadcaster. It will be used to propagate television signals carrying primarily manga content.
He is struck by the majesty and complexity, the sheer brilliance of man being able to send a little box of metal and semiconductor into a precise orbit around the earth. The mastery of so many types of science and engineering. I was struck by that too. But his sense of marvel gives way to a pang of loss at the idea that all of this brilliance was being put to the service of letting more people watch cartoons.
And that is what I mean. And I think he captures the point brilliantly when he analyses work, how meaningless most work is in its aims. If you think about it, most of us live, die, reproduce and stir up all kinds of drama and that’s about it. For millennia we did not deplete the earth doing this, but now we do. We are like a plankton bloom that has gotten out of control fed by the discovery of oil, coal and how to inject them into the process for making food and extending life spans.
But we are about as useless or useful as plankton. In the end look around, most of us (and I include myself, sad as it makes me) are basically just wasting time here, doing nothing useful. Some of us are kinder, some of us are meaner, some of us are full of love, others hate. Some people live lives of such total desperation that I can’t conceive of wanting their life, and yet they will fight and cling to it just like I would to mine.
It is deeply important to me at this juncture in my life to realise that nothing any of us does really matters much. I hasten to add that I am not promoting nihilism, I am trying to free myself and others from the ridiculous stresses that we willingly endure or even adopt out of mimetic instinct or some such biological invention. I often find myself prey to these stresses, the idea that I am wasting my life. But sometimes I am just happy with the freedom I have and am able in those moments to be truly self sufficient. It’s not quite bliss but it is nice.