A life of courage, joy and independence.
Thank you for writing. Your message means more to me than you might know as videos like “Life without purpose” are still rather difficult for me to make due to the negative reactions I sometimes receive from strangers, family and friends. Nevertheless, I make these videos for precisely the purpose illustrated in your message, as there seem to be a good number of people like you and I who, for the most part, live our lives alone and without much connection with others who think the way we do or who even understand our position on life. So you see, getting an email like yours helps me to find the courage necessary to share such potentially controversial and inflammatory messages. And for this I am very grateful.
As for motivation, I believe that it is possible to create meaning in our lives and then to apply ourselves with purpose towards the fulfillment of goals intended to further and improve whatever meaning we choose to embrace. For example, though I honestly believe human life has no inherent meaning (something I have great difficulty saying on YouTube) I nevertheless choose to believe that each life is special, worthwhile and full of potential meaning I may simply not yet understand or perceive. With this consciously applied belief, I then live my life as though each of us were very meaningful in the universe. I know that it’s a sly game of self-deception I’m playing with myself, though it seems to work as most of the time I forget my doubt and simply live life treating my fellow humans as important entities chock full and brimming over with meaning and potential. In a way, I’m hedging my bets that I’m wrong in my overall conclusion that life has no meaning, and living my life as though it does in anticipation of some better understanding our species may uncover in the future. After all, the only other option may be despair, resignation and despondency which suck, are no fun and not the way I want to spend my remaining 20 odd summers. So I fool myself into action and find a whole range of emotions by living out a life of contrived meaning where in fact I see none. In a way, it’s kind of like a sailor who is shipwrecked on an uncharted island where he knows he will never be found. If he dwells on this fact he’ll likely die alone and miserable, yet if he creates some meaning for himself out of the wilderness and applies himself towards it’s realization and fulfillment then he might likely survive. And if he begins to doubt that all his efforts are lies and self-deception then perhaps he might console himself with comfort in the possibility that his conclusions about his situation may be wrong and in fact he may one day be found and rescued. Likewise, wouldn’t it be a sad thing if some day in the future scientists or philosophers (I don’t include theologians as I rather doubt they are really looking) discover some real, tangible and substantive evidence for meaning, which we only missed through accident of when we were born? And wouldn’t the people of that time look back and pity you and I if we had given up living well simply because we couldn’t know for sure if our species or life had any meaning? So yeah, my contrived meaning might not be the right meaning though it’s the best I can come up with at the time and it seems to not hurt anyone and in fact it may be doing some small good. So I’ll run with that and guard myself against taking my meaning too seriously by recalling always that it was formed from thin air, borne of observation and select understanding yet founded on nothing very real. With this in mind I will likely never proselytize or even take myself too seriously, though I hope I will live well and perhaps have some fun and leave the world a little better in the end for my living. I hope that this helps to explain how I try to find meaning, joy and purpose from nothing.
Have a great day friend and please keep in touch.
Here is the email which prompted this response:
First of all thanks for your video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7sbHt-9xdA (Life without purpose – Secular Thinking), which is the inspiration for this email.
Over the last 10 years I tried to find a/my purpose in life (I’m 39), but as I have the same basic look on life as you, I haven’t come up with a permanent solution. I tried living by “Enjoy and have fun while your here” which has been ok for years, but for the past six month, it just haven’t been enough. This has resulted in a depression diagnosis a week ago and antidepressant medication. But then by pure coincidence, this weekend I stumped upon the above mentioned video 🙂 It made me happy and I found myself smiling in acknowledgment. Knowing that you have the same look on life and have found a way to live with it and being positive about it, is just fantastic. 🙂 Before I saw your video I couldn’t see how a psychologist would be able to help me, as my basic belief is what it is, but now I know that he/she probably won’t be able to help me find a grand purpose in life, but he/she will be able to help me learn to accept life for what it is and find islands of purpose and/or abstractions to allow me to enjoy life.
I’ve started working in soapstone and find the abstraction wonderful therapeutic, and at the same time I create something beautiful, I think. 🙂
A question, how do you find motivation to go to work, do larger projects and so on? I find myself having problems motivating myself to do anything that takes more than a few hours to complete. Any insights would be appreciated.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your life, it really helped me accept that this is the way it is, and that it’s ok. 🙂 Thanks.