A Whinge About Existence
Not the best of days, today. So much time wasted, wasted, wasted. Thinking about death, and the fact that I don’t feel that I fear it. Fear of ceasing to exist, that is – I still have some concerns about the process by which my non-existence will come. Nothing I do, I’ve come to believe, will ever fulfil me in a way that will make me fear dying (that is, want to keep living more than my allotted time). But that’s not true. I think at the root of it is that the only thing that could possibly fulfil me in such a way is anything that involves making others’ existence more pleasant. So do I write for Eternity, so my name will be remembered forevermore, or do I write because I want to have a positive impact on the world (in a soul-enriching sense, that is, not a political one)?
Why is it that I feel so guilty when I don’t write? If I died tomorrow, then I’d die tomorrow, and I will have died making no impact, yet I won’t be alive to care about that. Why is it that I, as a young man, feel that I should be writing, when I could just as easily not write, and use the time to do other things that make me happy – to spend my life in leisure, I suppose. Why do I feel the need? Why do I feel the obligation? But an obligation to who? Myself? Humanity? I feel that I’m wasting my time, yet logic dictates that nothing I do will make me feel like I’m not wasting my time, so therefore everything is useless, so why feel guilty about not doing useless things?
Presumably none of the above makes sense. I begin the argument by stating as an axiom that everything is a waste of time, and then try to discover/argue towards why I feel that writing isn’t a waste of time. Surely this is an impossible task. The problem is, I think, that to pull oneself out of existential despair, one has to impose an arbitrary axiom on one’s existence, and then one can argue from that imposed axiom. Yet one is always aware that one has imposed arbitrariness on existence, and cannot therefore be fooled into true belief into it.
But saying that, I realise that assuming that “everything is a waste of time” is also an arbitrary axiom – or is it? It depends, I suppose, on whether you are arguing for a reason to live, or against a reason to live, and each argument presupposes an axiom to argue against – though whether the two axioms are the same, I do not know. But no, it’s not an arbitrary axiom… No, ‘everything is a waste of time’ is a logical extension of the reasonless void, the blank slate on top of which all other arbitrary axioms are placed. It is the null. What is existence but a series of pretences to convince oneself that the black hole is not there? One has to argue from nothing, and nothing comes from nothing, unless one takes the leap of faith into religion, but even the comfort of religion does not fix the logical problems.
Intellectually I realise that nothing matters, yet my whole life is spent either in search for something that matters, or under happy yet fleeting delusions that I’ve found something that matters and am living by it. Clearly my subconscious/conscious/whatever is constantly producing an urge to write, even when it knows it’s illogical. It is as if nature is filling the existential void with something – anything. And so, should it be somewhat significant to me that the ‘anything’ nature has plucked from my mind is writing? Does that make it worthwhile? Does that mean that I can delude myself into happiness more efficiently with writing than with anything else? Because happy delusions happen constantly – no one could stand existence if they did not. Delusion is the only thing that keeps humankind striving forth, or striving inwards, depending on the person.
David Foster Wallace once wrote somewhere about the fact that suicidal people do not not fear death, but rather it is when they fear life more that death becomes an option – the example he used was how people on the ground beside a burning skyscraper can’t understand why someone would jump from the top, that they don’t realise that the alternative is more horrific than the sure death that comes from plunging to the pavement. Most humans – and myself included, back when I was younger – have an inbuilt wall, an inbuilt sense that death is to be avoided at all costs, that what is on the other side of existence is terrifying. Yet it doesn’t terrify me. I demolished that wall a long time ago. The only thing that terrifies me is the act, and the act itself is, in my imagination, not the most terrifying thing that could happen to me – just like the burning building is more terrifying than the jump. I believe I am comfortable with the fact that the fear could overcome me at any time, as I do not fear the ultimate consequence.
But then, why do I feel guilty about not writing – why? I feel guilty because I’m not making an impact, but for me to truly not care, as I just said, about the ultimate consequence, surely I can’t therefore care about something as trivial as having written a body of great literature? The two things cannot coexist. Either my guilt at having not written is false, or my contentment with death is a lie. I believe I’m being as honest with myself as possible when I say I can’t tell which one is false.
None of this explains the creative urge, however. And is there an explanation for it, apart from nature having picked it up first? And do I feel guilty because I have the urge, or do I have the urge because I feel guilty? And is the guilt specific to writing, or is it a general wasting-life kind of guilt that I have unknowingly co-opted into writing-guilt?
One wonders whether, as with most things, balance is the key, and I would find myself the happiest the most often if I was to work constantly at writing, and also spend much of my time seeking out pleasure. Yet I know it will be hollow. But knowing that non-existence is but a blink away, it’s more a choice of whether palliative care for the soul is worthwhile or not. The good thing about delusions is that often one does not realise one is in one when it is happening. Meaning is the delusion, I suppose. To forget – that is the goal. To turn away from the null, even if for only a moment. Which makes me wonder why I’m not a drug-addicted alcoholic, if that is the goal (those, to my knowledge at least, being the easiest methods to achieve it). (Of course I say this after watching the whole of 3rd Rock from the Sun in a fortnight – drugs come in many different forms, I suppose.)
Perhaps happiness comes from finding the most unshakable delusion and following it. The most loyal delusion. The one that, even though you spurn it, comes back to you again and again.
And you know how I know that it keeps coming back, this most loyal of delusions (which for me is writing)? Because, as I come to the end of this entry, and get ready to go out to the symphony tonight (having, rather unusually, written this in the afternoon instead of just before I go to bed), I’m overwhelmed by one thought: if I could distil all that I have written above, it would probably make a great soliloquy for a play. (Shakespeare no doubt got there first with To Be or Not To Be, though.)
Writing as the faithful sidekick, the ever-eager dog that nuzzles at your shoe – the dog doesn’t know that existence is meaningless, and so you pick up the ball and throw it across the yard, living, if only for a moment, for something other than yourself.
The bad days come when you remember the delusion, and it crumbles. Help me, God.
Anyway, back from the symphony – saw Majestic Brahms: The Second Piano Concerto. Quite good. Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony was fantastic.
Wanted to change a season ticket with the Sydney Theatre Company, and decided to go in a bit earlier to walk through The Rocks to change it at the box office, and then make my way back to the Opera House for the concert. Little did I realise that, with the Vivid Festival on, and it being a Saturday, there would be unbelievably dense crowds all around Circular Quay, The Rocks, and the Opera House. It took around five minutes just to get out of the train station, it seemed. I’ve never seen it so crowded before – I imagine it is something like what it would be on New Year’s Eve.
I hate crowds. I am also an excellent crowd-weaver, as I rediscovered tonight. Very good at squeezing between gaps and whatnot, contorting my body in various ways, directing my satchel with one hand around its obstacles.
I’ve decided that I can’t be bothered reading The Tree of Man before the concert – I doubt there’s going to be many spoilers anyway, as I read a review of it online and accidentally discovered that some of the characters die at the end, so I don’t think there’s too much left to have spoilt. Plus it’s not really a book that’s very susceptible to being damaged by spoilers anyway.
Anyway, that will do, that will do for tonight.