I’m not being cynical by asking this question. I think that each of us has to answer that question at least once in our life sooner or later, eventhough we Don’t take time to ponder on it and Don’t come to the same conclusions.
From time to time we can have the feeling that What we do is shallow, empty. A feeling of « what’s the point ? », like a French singer Balavoine asked in a song « pourquoi je vis, pourquoi je meurs ? » (Why do I live, why do I die ?). Here is a wonderful performance by a Young modern artist.
There are times when our actions seem useless, we pretend to give people lessons on how to live a better life, how to suffer less, how to raise their children, etc. Everyone of us has a vision of What life is about, what’s « fair », « normal », we form categories in order to know if a person is included in the society, in the norm, benefits from their rights, and if not we have the ambition to set them right. We Don’t admit it openly, so we talk about « protection », « autonomy », « empowerment », etc. All of which can look like a huge hypocrisy. Isn’t life itself hypocrisy in general ? My thought has to be viewed as a general existentialist quest, the one consisting in looking for the meaning of life. Why do we do the things we do ? Is looking for the meaning of like even worthy ?
I was thinking about Sartre’s existentialism, but unfortunately I Don’t remember enough to share it with you here. On the other hand I think of another author, Albert Camus, who wrote about the myth of Sisyphus, a character of the greeck mythology who was condemned to push a rock on top of a mountain, when he has accomplished the task, the rock goes back and he has to start again, over and over for the rest of his life. There are two aspects of the situation, first there is What Camus called the « cycle of the absurd », and there is also some fatality to it. About the absurdity, one can Wonder what’s the point of Rolling a heavy rock on top of a mountain, except the physical exercice it provides. The action is pointless and vain, just as some of our actions may appear to us ; then the punishment of the gods seems stupid and gratuitous.
Life can seem so harsh, of course it varies from one person to another, that you can Wonder what’s the point of being born in a more or less welcoming environment, go through a series of more or less agreable events of which you survive with integrity or not, and then you die in a more or less good state of health. For a healthy mind, that has no sens, and gives the feeling that it’s not Worth it. In front of this absurdity, the human being has two options, either they get out of this life (figuratively or literally), or they decide to put up with life and develop some strategies. There are many ways in which a person gets out of life, there is suicide, it is direct and radical, but that’s not the only way we retire from life. For example, when we take refuge in certain behaviours or in consumption in order to inhibit our sensations and distort our perceptions, it helps us leviate the suffering. So many lives are no-lives since the person goes through life via a filter, adopting habits or ways of being which are meant to silence the inner voice and the questions about life, its meaning. It’s also when we take psychoactive, inhibitory or hallucinogenic substances. When we get lost in hyperactivity to avoid being alone with ourselves, alone with our nagging thoughts about the meaning of life, the emptiness of our actions, the inevitable end. It’s also asceticism which aims at cutting oneself from the world in the hope of living differently and finding a meaning to life. When we Don’t retire from life in a way or another, we use strategies which take various forms. Some of us find a meaning by believing in a divinity, some others set goals, the meaning of their life relies on building a family, persuing a career, or both. For other people, the meaning of life lies on consuming and accumulating various goods or experiences. Having strategies in order to go through life and survive is the most encouraged way in the majority of societies, it shows that the person is committed, that they take their share in making the world a better place. There is no strict boundary between the different lifestyles, each of us goes from one way to another, depending on the moment and the person.
The other aspect besides absurdity is fatality, the idea is that, no matter What, the end is the same for all, we are condemned to live. What we Don’t know is the content of that life. Paradoxically, it gives us the impression or the illusion, that we can choose the way we want to live. But What real choice do we have ? So many things Don’t depend on us. We Don’t choose where we are born, our family, or its absence, the biological, cultural, social background, or the lack of it, the handicaps we might have. Those are things we can’t act upon and which can already set the tone of a life. What choice does little Kadi have for example ? She was born with a severe deficiency (both mentally and physically) in a context where she can’t receive the appropriate health care which could help her. She is condemned to depend on someone else all of her life for the slightest aspect of her Everyday life. Other things may depend on the choices the person makes and their consequences, but I feel that some situations are doomed from the beginning. That is regardless of divine intervention or fate (call it What you will), which can change the course of a life for better or for worse. Little Julie is born in a poor country, in a very poor social environment, her mother does her best but she is isolated from her family and the father of the child left. The first years of this child, despite the care and love of a mother, Don’t let us expect a brilliant future for that little girl. In fact, What is the fate of a child whom the mother cannot Always afford to send to school in a country where even if this was the case, the daughter would not have a chance to have a decent job. When you look at it, the odds are great that she would end up in prostitution, pregnant early, or depend on a man all of her life for her subsistence. The intervention of fate can change her life all of a suddent. Thanks to an fortuitous encounter, she ends up living in a developped country, she can study, work, travel the world and have a life that is at the opposite of What she knew. It makes me think of Waris Dirie whose life also changed to the point that she became the international embassador of excised women. On the contrary, a life which had started « well » can become incapable of going on normally. Almost everything stops.
What really depends on me ? What doesn’t depend on me ? I can’t control the place where I’m born, my family, my health. I can’t Always decide on who I encounter, or the events which happen to me. On the other hand, I can often choose the way I react to What happens to me, I can take the opportunities or not. I can choose to continue seeing someone or stop, to experience this or that, to take potentially addictive substances or not. To engage in activities knowing they might be Dangerous, or I can refrain from doing it. That capacity to decide depends on people and on the moment too. In front of the absurdity of life, we have a choice to make, either we fight, or we accept. The first option seems very tiring and I’m not sure it’s productive. The second option on the other hand, mobilizes our capacity of to adapt, it forces us to be creative, while being realistic about the absurdity of life. Like Camus says, we must imagine that Sisyphus is happy with the situation against which there’s Nothing he can do, he decides to be happy despite it. By doing so, he becomes the actor of his life, and he can decide how he will push the rock, slowly, fast, making pauses, screaming, singing, etc. He might not have the choice of the initial situation, but he chooses the way he goes through it, and probably finds out that it’s the best thing that could happen to him. Just like Philippe di Borgo (his life inspired the movie Intouchables, I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it) who considers that being paraplegic is the a good thing for him because it made him switch the way he viewed life for the best.
Would I be the person I am if I had found my Professional way immediately after college ? Would I be the same woman if I had found my husband right away ? Would I be the same kind of human if I didn’t ask myself questions about the meaning of life ?
Let’s end this post with this beautiful quote.
Change What can be changed, accept What can’t be changed and have the Wisdom to differentiate the two.
Let’s take care of ourselves.
See you around !