Getting Caught up in the Absurd
A few months back I wrote posts on what the absurd is, and how I feel life’s meaning should be evaluated. I’d recommend a reading of those posts (categorized under “Meaning”) to better understand this post. However, here’s a quick summary of the ideas:
The Absurd: the idea that life is meaningless, and everything we do is arbitrary/accomplishes nothing of purpose.
My view of meaning: Meaning is subjective, and a life is worth it if the person who lived it would rather have lived than never had a chance at life.
The purpose of this post is just an open question for those reading: what would make your life worth it in the end? Or, for every action you do, play the “why” game with yourself. If you are going to college, why? If it is for a job, why do you want a job? And so forth.
The idea is that you’ll ultimately end up with what you view as worth working toward. This is loosely Aristotle’s idea of the ultimate end of all actions. He believed it was a happy life (though his view of happy was a bit different), and I believe most people would agree. To be clear, happiness isn’t a simple evaluation of shallow pleasure. Higher order pleasures, such as love/fulfillment/accomplishment/etc. are often much “happier” than bodily pleasures such as food (though not always, depending on the food).
So for each person, the idea of what happiness is might differ. Personally, my view of happiness involves meaningful relationships, a lot of relaxation, new experiences, and being able to enjoy simple things.
So the “absurd” would involve any actions that don’t ultimately aim toward the person’s ideal of happiness. Getting caught up in the absurd would be obsessing or getting stressed over matters that aren’t ultimately aimed toward that ideal of happiness. Social status, parental approval, and misplaced priorities would be examples.
I can’t really go into detail, as everyone’s lives are different and therefore so are the goals. What I’m interested in is what people think of when they go through the questions above, and how often people do things that aren’t really in their ultimate interest.
A key note: Too often people confuse the ideas of “meaningful” and “useful”. A job, money, success, etc. are all seen as markers of a fulfilled life, and those who work toward those are often seen as using their time meaningfully. On the other hand, games like WOW or things like fantasy sports are seen as time wasters, and people on WOW are often told they are “wasting their lives”. The point of note, and the idea behind this post, is to refute those conceptions. If the career-minded person is unhappy, and success won’t bring them happiness, then they are wasting their life. If the WOW player enjoys his life, then they are living their life with meaning.