St. Norbert Times

Surviving in Nothingness



In the search for authenticity that comes with the transition into adulthood, I’ve found a beaming desire to “lead a full life.”  It’s a phrase thrown around in corny movies and plastered on the covers of self-help books. We’ve all heard it, most of us desire it, but what does it actually mean? How does one define “fullness”? What does this idea imply about my actions?

I always feel like I’m living fully when I am enriching myself with new experiences. Traveling helps me to greater understanding of this world as a whole. It helps me to be more well-rounded and inspires me to engage meaningfully. These actions seem to have meaning on an individual level.

But how meaningful are the results of these enriching experiences on a large scale? Will your trip to Peru actually have an impact? Maybe you would want to cite the butterfly effect. But even if my actions change the course of life for a person half way across the globe, can my actions stretch to universal importance? Perhaps, but the idea verges too closely on the incomprehensible to provide any sort of motivation.

When I think of historical figures that led full lives, I think of people who have made a great impact. Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, etc. When I see the leaders of progressive initiatives and protests, I imagine them to be living to their fullest selves. They are making a difference. They found a way to make their actions matter and are running with it. So maybe a key component to a “full” life is the positive impact that one has. But if we take a step back and think about how much a seemingly important action actually matters in the grand scheme of the universe, is that action actually important? There will be a day when no one can remember or comprehend what is happening on earth at the moment. Perhaps there will even be a day when the entire concept of earthliness is lost to whatever form the universe decides to take. 

So maybe fullness is actually an illusion. We can’t achieve meaning because if we zoom out far enough with the scope of human existence, we realize how little any of this matters.

My motivation to better my own future and to create a loving world for generations to come is dulled by the concept of nothingness. This isn’t the stuff that Hallmark is putting on motivational greeting cards. It’s deeply depressing to an egocentric race that is obsessed with convincing themselves that their actions matter.

So if one accepts that there is no real meaning to life, what can they do to keep themselves from wallowing as they let the world crumble to pieces? The answer is in the optimism that surrounds them. Our job is to support the idealism of those who refuse to give up on actions that matter. Humans tend to find value in the way that other humans treat each other. Fill the world with goodness and justice for the people who refuse to give up the noble pursuit of finding purpose in this speck of a world.

This is important because the continuance of humanity is dependent largely on itself. If every idealist became aware of the meaninglessness, there would be no reason to care about anything. I’m not sure how depressing this is. It ends with some sort of happiness and it gives us jaded folks some sort of purpose. Humanity has just found a way to be self sufficient in all of this nothingness.