As I have mentioned before, I wanted to have a page number goal for this year. I tallied up the pages I read in 2016 (via goodreads) and was surprised to learn that I read close to 11,000 pages! So, I decided to choose 10,000 pages as my goal this year. Already, I find I’m enjoying the freedom of being able to put down a book (and maybe pick it up again later), and not feeling the push to finish a book that I’m really not enjoying.
Along with this goal, I’m reading 6 books with a friend with a focus on nihilism, humanism, and other related or secular philosophies.
Our first book is The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. I saw this book on a reddit thread and decided to give it a try. I am not very familiar or well-read in the area of philosophy, so I hadn’t heard of absurdism until I started reading this text. I liked wikipedia’s summary of the philosophy: “In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean “logically impossible”, but rather “humanly impossible”. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.”
So far, the book is relevant to my life as I have been questioning how life is worth the struggle. I don’t have depression (at least I don’t think I do), but I struggle with hopelessness, lack of motivation, and low confidence or self-esteem. Especially now, where I am waiting on my license to practice my profession in my new home state, and I can’t work until I get it. I’m stuck in limbo at the mercy of faceless state boards, and find I can’t even be bothered to finish tasks like keeping up with the dishes. Low productivity often breeds lower productivity, and I am slowly falling into a “why bother” stage.
I used to run from emotions, or try to squash them from existence, or get angry at myself for having any “negative” emotions. One thing I’ve learned is that some emotions, you just have to sit with. I’m still not very good at it, and I’m realizing I haven’t been sitting with this emotion. I’ve just been avoiding it by playing video games or finding other little pointless distractions. When I first became an atheist, the meaninglessness of life was so freeing to me. I felt like the world was open, vast, and full of possibilities. The meaningless nature of life opened to me more ways to learn how to love and serve others, to explore my humanity, and to live without the anxiety caused by the God I grew up with. Now I feel like I need to come to terms with the hopeless side of that meaninglessness. I also have difficulty not having control over the situation and just having to wait on others to get things done, and that’s really challenging for me. Not to mention the added helplessness and anger I feel any time I read a headline about something else that’s happening with our political situation in the U.S..
I can think of plenty of things that bring me happiness or satisfaction – a warm cup of coffee, falling snow, getting to stay home all day, hugging my husband, the feeling after a good run. And I know I have a lot of privilege that makes it possible for me to not work for a few weeks, but everything is ok – my husband has a decent paying job, I have employment opportunities lined up as soon as I can get the license, I’m able-bodied and healthy, and we have supportive, middle-class parents who can help us financially if needed. This helps give me perspective, but I still have to respect what I’m going through and validate my own emotional experience, even as I recognize that life is going pretty well overall.
Life is inherently meaningless, so we get to make our own meaning. What gives your life meaning? What is important to you? What makes the struggle of life worth it?