Caleb’s Concepts: Why you shouldn’t take life seriously!

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Caleb Garbuio, Editorial Page Editor

What is the meaning of life? Short answer: no one knows. There are many factors that shape existence and these forces push and pull, toss and turn, forging numerous paths. Chosen paths influence us, shape our identity and determine who we are. We cannot control where the path leads, yet, we have agency over which path to pick.

This means we are not completely subservient to life’s twists and turns. We have the option to choose from different paths that all come to an end. Life and existence can take many paths, yet all earthly existence ends and becomes unknowable. We cannot change this fate. Therefore, our personal ambitions are limited because we cannot create our own paths, yet, we have agency to choose which paths to take.

Life is a river, and we are a channel. We can dig in and prepare, but when the river floods, we cannot stop it. However, one could build a raft to prepare for the impact and float in the foaming water. Therefore, we are captive towards existence and must accept the limitations of free will.

This acceptance comes with the freedom of knowing that the limitations of life are by and large out of our control. We can only prepare against the gentle tug of the inevitable, that gets stronger with age, called “the nothing” by Martin Heidegger. It isn’t a secret that life will eventually end. Resist or don’t, it matters not, because time always runs out and we are pulled towards the unknown. Don’t be sad. There is no need to be melancholy. It is liberating to realize that existence doesn’t matter because nothing in this world matters. 

Any human imprint will end in billions of years when the sun swells in size and swallows home. Everything we hold dear will soon disappear over the horizon when our eyes dim and the world goes black. You mustn’t fret. Don’t try to understand what you are not meant to understand. For it is not up to us to decide what we can and cannot do, for we are only servants of existences design. Thus, we are just beings in time struggling to make sense of who we are, and why we are here.

This doesn’t mean we cannot live meaningful lives despite all the uncertainties that life throws our way. How is this done? Through humor, for the presence of existence in and of itself is a cause of joy. Life is a balancing act, and tragedy often appears at the end of comedy. Embracing the tragedy that is the whole of life means that there is only one place left: up. As Isaac Newton put it, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” implying the force of tragedy is equally matched in humor. We have forgotten that we are alive and allow ourselves to wade too deep into nothing. 

There is too much suffering in this world, and beings that embrace the suffering of a fellow traveler will suffer more than the sufferer, sympathetically creating a world of excessive suffering. Sympathy leaves us nowhere. If we cannot change our own lives, how can we hope to change the lives of others? Crush hope, it is a dream for children. Find solace in laughing at the face of nothingness that is spaghettifying us deeper and deeper into its abyss. Laugh at the pain of being pulled apart, in what is unknown; find humor in the little you know, and find humor in existence itself. Life will end, and ignoring this reality causes pain. As Buddha discovered when he witnessed the outside world, “life is suffering.” 

Yet, no two people suffer to the same degree. When faced with the forces of life two people may face identical situations, yet take different paths. Prophet Siddartha Gautama’s life is testimony to this concept; to his followers, Siddhartha is called Buddha, meaning enlightened one. Destined to be either a great king or a monk, Siddhartha’s parents hid him from the world and hoped he would aspire to be a great king. Yet, his parents could not prevent Siddhartha seeking to understand the world, and unable to comprehend its pain, he abandoned his wife and child to understand life’s purpose. Siddhartha’s suffering for others would not have been possible had he been another nobleman: few noblemen of that day and age gave up their worldly possessions to understand the meaning of life. Thus, we conclude that people often find their path on the road others take for them. Since Siddhartha’s parents hid him from the world, they closed the other path that he might have taken, leaving only one path to follow.

Our lives are the same, and hiding from the inevitableness of the nothing doesn’t stop it from disappearing. The dizziness that life gives us as we fall ever deeper into the dark mustn’t trifle us. There is no need to cry for a brief moment in life because it will be over sooner rather than later. As the Roman philosopher Seneca puts it, “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.”