Goedel’s theorem states that it is impossible to use axiomatic logic to fully describe a complex system. In normal language this means that we observe the universe, and make up rules to show how it works, but the details reveal that there’s more to know than we can describe.
In the same way often the best material on this blog is stimulated by comments or people writing in with questions or criticisms. While not every comment is meaningful in this way, and not every critic is right, among the many duplicates and tangents there are some suggestions that offer constructive openings for more learning.
If us moderns were “intelligent” in the modern sense we’d either dump all of this stuff in the trash or find the most tawdry and simplistic so we could make strong statements and appear to be knowledgeable. Instead, we present to you one of the hardest questions imaginable, courtesy of one of our readers.
Do you ever have trouble ‘caring?’
I find that when I look at the big picture, when I put everything into perspective that nothing really matters. And it’s not really about the value of what I’m doing, I just find I don’t care.
In 80 years I’m going to die. In a thousand years the world is going to over populate and either have to inhabit other worlds or die. In 500,000 years the sun is going to explode and destroy the earth and however many years after that we’re all going to get sucked into a giant back hole.
You said that we’re here to create meaning, but how can I do that? Everything just seems so stupid and pointless when you look at it like that. Everyone I meet is stressed and unhappy. Living their lives, working their jobs, procreating. But they’re all miserable. I don’t want to be miserable especially when I know it’s all for naught.
I don’t know.. I keep trying to find something I want to care about, something to give meaning to, to work towards, build, create as you said. But every time I just end up at the same conclusion.
There are a lot of people in your situation.
We all wish adults had just told us, “We’re in an awful time right now because civilization is falling apart, and so just about everything is screwed up, and since you can’t change that, you need to ignore it and make sure you do something major and awesome with your life so you don’t become like them. Then, your descendants will help create a new civilization out of the selective good bits of the old left scattered among the ashes.”
Instead, you get all sorts of nonsensical advice usually along the lines of “do whatever makes you happy” and then the same people sneer at your failures. It’s your fault that it didn’t make you happy, they suggest. Such approaches are not very useful.
Another way to view your situation situation is to say that life is an opportunity, not a life sentence. You don’t have to do anything, but you will regret not having taken advantage of things that could have turned out to be amazing. This exists on two levels:
This is how you create meaning. Recognize that life itself and your life are both sacred, and that no instant is anything but pure joy. Even the horrible moments have a certain epic quality to them, like a necessary part of the story. You need the greatest darkness before dawn in order to have dawn be breathtaking and inspiring. This means that in order to have good you need bad, and vice-versa. Most people focus on the bad because they feel bad about themselves. The first step is seeing the whole thing as an adventure.
On a practical level, look for things you can do as opposed to things that “resonate” with you. Look for opportunity and poke around until you find an angle that strikes you as interesting. Don’t look for happiness, or a job you love, or other one-dimensional cartoon fallacies. Look for something that’s as much misery as joy but have it be something that when you get to the end, you look back over it with satisfaction. Get good at it. The opportunities to make money from it and so on will come flowing in after that.
This is the least “advice” oriented advice you may ever hear. It doesn’t tell you what to do. In fact, all it does is reveal a possibility. But perhaps that’s what the question was anyway: “How can I view life such that I can care about its outcome?”