We crash and collide with objects in our paths, endlessly bustling through our seemingly random lives. We’re ants criss crossing the same worn down trails, following the ant in front of us, to an end we barely acknowledge, much less understand.
We build, we breed, we increase our footprint on this chunk of rock hurtling through space. We exist to exist. With no preordained grand purpose, we occupy our time with menial tasks because we’ve been convinced of their meaning and value. We keep busy, in deep denial of our own mortality.
Jesus Christ, I haven’t had my coffee yet and THIS is where I am? Of course. Purpose and meaning are man’s greatest struggles, going back millennia. Some people spend a lot of time contemplating this, others remain blissfully unaware. For those unaware, a massive shakeup of life often opens their eyes to these questions.
I think a lot of us, even those who’ve never given it much thought, are really reaching to define our purpose and find meaning right now. 2020 has been a fuck all year and has upended everyone’s lives to some degree. With disruption comes questions. When your illusion of control is shattered, you’re left with nothing but your own mind to pick up the pieces.
You can go three directions with it. You can glue it all together, forever struggling to make it look like it was never broken. You can glue it all together, using “kintsugi” to accent the breaks with gold, because the breaks are part of the beauty and the story. Or, you can sweep it into the trash and start over.
No matter which direction you think is viable, you have to approach it with self awareness and acceptance. If you choose to try to make it look like it was never broken, ask yourself why. Is it because you liked life how it was before shit got wild? Do you think you can return to how things were BEFORE?
We all know that nothing will be the same after this year. Australia burning to the ground, Brexit, Covid 19 pandemic, riots in America, Beirut explosion, a collapsing economy, the breakdown of supply chains, the looming election that’s already being contested before voting even starts…the list can go on and on. Our lives will not be the same, whether we want to admit it or not.
So get that out of the way. Cry your tears, punch your walls, and fully accept that you can’t control this fucking chaos spiraling downward around you. It’s not your fault, and the truth is, when we come out the other end of this bullshit, nothing has to change.
Wait. Nothing has to change? You heard me right, Chauncey. The problem here is that you’re throwing your weight behind the trappings of your life, and the comfort you established. You’re putting all your money on wild uncertainty that you never controlled in the first place. The only thing you can have control over is your own mind, and if you’ve been ignoring that until this point, then you have work to do.
If you work to make sure that your happiness and enjoyment of life aren’t dictated by what’s happening around you, then it really doesn’t matter what’s around you. I won’t pretend that worse situations won’t make it difficult to find happiness, because they absolutely do. The worse shit is, the harder it is to find joy. But the truth is, if you can’t find happiness during hard times, then you’re only fooling yourself during the good times.
Possessions and things can give us comfort, but they’re fleeting because they can come and go at any time. Real contentment is inside.
In the same way trying to fix the break by gluing it together and pretending nothing was wrong is clinging to the past, sweeping it away and starting over is rejection of the past. They both kind of suck, to be honest. Aversion is just as bad as desire. It’s healthier to live with things than to push/pull them away/toward you. They’re both anxiety waiting to happen or a depressive crash when you finally realize you can neither keep nor reject the past. You just have to let it be what it is.
Just let it be what it is. Let the past be part of the story, and understand that the present will soon be the past. Do what you can to improve things, but don’t deny the situation. Accept it all, even when it sucks, because this is what’s happening. How can you expect to carve out anything real for yourself if you can’t even accept what’s going on around you?
We all know (or have been) someone who stayed in a relationship where the partner was abusive or a serial cheater, and that person wouldn’t leave them. They’d always be holding out, saying it was a mistake, or that things would get better, or sometimes flat out denying and refusing to see abuse or infidelity. And everyone around them could see they were in denial, and that the situation was bad, but they still kept going, thinking they would be able to fix it and have a happily ever after.
That person? That’s you when you don’t accept what’s happening around you. Don’t be Nero. Nobody likes Nero. I mean, really, NOBODY likes Nero. If you intentionally don’t take in the full breadth of the situation, how can you expect to create something of meaning? How can you find purpose when living in a fallacy?
What it comes down to is that we create meaning and purpose through our circumstances. Attempts to do so while ignoring circumstance will always fall short, because we’ve neglected the reality we live in. Face what’s going on so you can move forward with stoicism. Don’t be a dick.
Look, I’m not saying this is the gospel. I’m not even saying that I’m real good at it. But from everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve experienced, acceptance of the situation at hand is the only thing that allows you the ability of unhindered introspection. Within that, you’ll find the stepping stones that can lead to meaning and purpose, however you may define it.