“What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies / we’re all gonna be the same place when we die”
-Kathleen Brennan & Tom Waits
“Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different!”
The hardest part of doing anything is confronting the question of why you’re doing it. Every question of intent inevitably leads to further questions – of whether that intent is likely to be fulfilled, of what the costs will be along the way, of what greater intent that intent seeks to fulfill… and each of these then leads to further questions, about what ultimately the purpose of existence and creation are, until eventually, inevitably, a negative end point is reached, at which no more answers are available. The tendency to ask “why?” is innate to us from birth, only given shape when we learn the word itself – the habit only dies off when we come to realize that at the end of the chain of why’s we will eventually find nothing.
So we stop asking why.
It’s only natural to shy away from the end of the knowable by becoming unknowing. There’s always this vague ambition of immortality through art or science, of extending one’s existence by the reputation and utility of one’s accomplishments, but this isn’t an ideal that holds up under scrutiny. One by one, the dominoes will be knocked over, and eventually the universe itself will cease to exist in any meaningful way. Perhaps longevity is possible, but immortality certainly is not.
We are finite – as a species, and as individuals even more so. Perceiving our own boundaries, our limitations, is uncomfortable. Any endeavor, no matter how noble or worthwhile, can be evaluated as pointless and worthless on the scales of long-term universal demise. If you ask yourself ‘why’ enough, you will be left empty-handed and beyond reason.
As individuals, we fight for our survival, because to not do so is to embrace non-existence, and existence is the main thing we do. The society is an extension of the individual, and we fight for the existence of society because if it fails we fail. Humanity is an extension of society, and so society fights for humanity, because if humanity fails society fails, and so forth outwards – if the ecosystem fails humanity fails, if the solar system fails the ecosystem fails, if the universe fails the solar system fails. Though our ability to affect the highest tier is nearly non-existent from our positions as individuals, it’s all still connected. What we are left to strive for is, if not immortality, a kind of sustained long-term health of the systems we are intrinsically part of. We create things for the larger shared benefit of those things having been created.
What’s left is a kind of intellectual and utilitarian shared hedonism. We fight, we build, we work, for the shared joy and understanding of the system we are part of. For our own joy and understanding in making things, for the joy and understanding of others when we share them. There is no eternity, but we can make ourselves stronger, more thoughtful, and happier right now by sharing what we have. There might be no forever, but there is a tomorrow, and we can keep fighting for that for as long as there will be tomorrows.
We’re all in this together.