0241 – Revisiting “on purpose”, from 2009

In 2009 I had a conversation with a friend about life that felt really powerful, and I went home and started writing. This was what I wrote. It was long, rambly and incoherent, and I never got around to finishing it. I thought I’d address it now, because I’ve been walking over the same old ground lately.

Life is like a massive RPG. It is well and truly free-roam; there is no central storyline or clear plot. 

This is true.

There is no certainty as to what your mission or purpose is, though there are many who would claim that they know. It’s ridiculous to believe any of them, the same way it is ridiculous for men born on an island to claim that they know for certain what lies beyond the ocean. Existence is temporary.

This is true.

At some point in time you will cobble together a working understanding of life and the universe- a weak idea of how minuscule we are, and how nothing is really quite certain or significant in the grand scheme of things.

When we begin, we are aware of our fundamental needs: air, food, water, warmth, & shelter. This is the same for every living creature. What seperates humans from the rest is our ability to think, and to reason.

Thinking and reasoning is great for a lot of things, but it also raises a difficult problem, which is “the POINT of existence”.

It’s worth remembering this– before we knew how to question, there was no need to have an answer. We simply existed.

When you sit down and try to wrap your mind around it you realise that existence is honestly, ultimately, futile in the grand scheme of things. We all don’t really matter in such a massive context, nothing really does.

This is true.

If you or I disappeared tomorrow, off the face of the earth, the world would go on. This is a very painful truth to accept, but it is also a very important one. Living your life without acknowledging this truth is living a lie.

Important to remember that “painful truth” is painful to the ego, which is an illusion. It’s worth acknowledging the truth, but it’s also not necessary to fixate on it obsessively. Acknowledge it and let it go.

What can I do in this world, and why would it really matter what I do, when ultimately everything seems futile? What’s the point of working hard at what we do?

Joy. Love. Beauty. And more simply, because not-choosing is a choice, and you’re going to learn over the next 6 years that being a bum isn’t fulfilling.

When you look at self-preservation, and then at the fleetingness of life itself, it can seem really, really ridiculous to be concerned about stuff like exams, grades, politics, being popular, material wealth.

This is true.

Perhaps it’s a sense of control- you can do something about your exams, or watching tv, or getting laid, and it gives you fleeting satisfaction. However you have to realize that all these things do not actually do very much in helping you preserve yourself, your entity.

Interesting. I was trying to frame self-betterment and self-enlightenment as a self-preservation problem– arguing that all living things are wired to preserve themselves. I’m not so sure if that’s necessarily the right frame I should’ve been using.

What’s the right frame, then? I think it should be framed as fun. 

If Wayne had in any way inspired anybody to live better lives, and these people in turn inspire others- raise their children better or whatnot, in essence, Wayne will live on in THEIR progress. Socrates for instance got killed for what he believed in, but he inspired plato and his other students, and he lives on to this day by representing an idea. Ideas, as V (from V for Vendetta) said, are bulletproof.

This is true. Though ultimately there will come the heat death of the universe, so “immortality” as we imagine it is limited by the greater upper bound of the Universe’s lifespan. Unless humans or posthumans figure out a way to change that.

But living well is its own reward.

Now think about it- we actually do have a shot at immortality, and self-preservation
if at the very least, in our own communities.

We’re ‘immortal’ (caveats inserted) so long as we stop fixating on the ego, on the self. Just as every wave is ‘immortal’ in the context of the sea. Remember that waves don’t technically even exist– they merely seem to exist. Each wave is just a different configuration of water molecules in a given space at a given time. But it appears to be moving. So it is with you.

If you imagine small-minded people to be in a box, and some of us to be out of the box, it doesn’t make alot of sense for us to be satisfied just floating around outside the box. It doesn’t actually serve any purpose. Some of us going “look at me, look at me, i’m out of the box, and so much better than you losers in the box!”. Some of us floating around thinking “meh, being outside the box doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose. most people are deluded and i don’t have much purpose. Floating around makes me feel ungrounded, with no direction or reason. This sucks.”

That’s because there’s an infinite series of boxes, or an endless staircase. See: Tobias Lutke and Tim Urban.

That’s where the emo goth teenager meets the bummed out philosopher who climbs up the tower of Babel and realises that there is no God. Sometimes it feels like “enlightenment” or “intellectual awareness” or whatever you call it is simply a cruel joke- it’s like finding out you have an incurable disease. Sometimes it seems like you’d much rather die happy and ignorant.

There’s a step after that. When you realize that “you” is an illusion. There is no incurable disease, because there is no “you”.

But it doesn’t seem right, does it? We know that there is no predestined notion of what is “right” and “wrong” and that it’s all defined by ourselves, but from a scientific and logical perspective it does not make sense that what sets us apart and puts us ahead would NOT empower us.

That’s an errenous assumption. It would be nice if it were true, but we can’t assume that it’s true just because we feel it ought to be true.

Imagine that we’re all in a well, and some of us climb out of the well to see a barren land and think, fuck, why did I come out of the well in the first place?

You come out to realize that there is no you. And because it drives you mad to spend your limited life in that limited well.

While we all think we’re so smart and big-picture-y, we miss out on the EVEN bigger picture which is that our roles as individuals are inherently limited! We are part of societies, communities. We are like individual cells of a greater living organism.

This is true.

Every day, our skin flakes and falls off. Yet if you think about it, we still have a “greater” skin that covers our entire body and has a condition, regardless of each individual skin cell. You can have nice glowing skin or dry flaky skin. Each individual skin cell doesn’t really give a damn, and were it capable of thought it would probably think that its life seemed really pointless.

What’s buried in there is the realization that the “point” of life can only be discerned by being connected– to yourself, to others, to everything.

Going back to the well, or the box: The idea of getting out of the box, or out of the well is to lead other people out as well. We need a direction to work towards. If say 80% of the people in the box or in the well are firm and happy with being in there
we can’t do much about it, but there are 20% more who are also enlightened, or confused-but-on-the-way- people who essentially realise that there is more to existence than meets the eye, but it isn’t religion or something silly or arty farty.

That… is a bit presumptuous. There’s an infinite series of boxes. Thinking that you need to get other people out of their boxes is a sort of box in itself. Get out of that one.

To be gracious human beings, respectful, critical thinking, moral. To inspire them to do the same. We will never see the final fruits of our labour but we can tell when we are making progress. Every day, we make decisions. When we lose track of the bigger, bigger picture, we make decisions based on minor personal needs. Someone once said it’s a choice of being on the angels or on the beasts. I genuinely believe that there is a purpose, a reason, and that it is inside us all along- a reason to live life to the fullest in every sense through the means that we define ourselves.

Good decisionmaking is a pleasurable end in itself, because it leads to more pleasing outcomes. I would redefine that “inner purpose/reason” as our innate utility functions.

We always think that we should do that because we’re told to do so. But see the dilemma is: if you’re being good because you don’t know what it means to be bad, are you really being good? If you do something just because you’re told to do it, does it still count?

The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Kicking up a dust won’t help you see. If you’re worried about being “really good”, or whether something “really counts”, you’ve probably fallen into a sort of recursive analytical strange-loop cycle.

As you said at the beginning, life is truly free-roam. You get to decide what counts and what doesn’t. You may run into people and environments that disagree with you, and that is complexity that you’ll have to navigate. But nothing really counts. So let go, and enjoy yourself.

In Summary:

It’s interesting to observe how passionate I was about trying to solve this conundrum. It’s easy for me to take all of that stuff for granted now, and to see how much simpler and cleaner my thinking is.

I think I was overly fixated on the Self and the Ego, and I was really in love with this idea of becoming some sort of badass. I now realize all of that is just baggage, and that I can discard most of it– probably all of it.

More to #think about.

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