What’s the Point?

Every day I talk to at least one person spiraling with existential dread. When I ask friends or work connections “how are you?” I normally get “just try’na stay afloat” or a “hanging in there” or often a sarcastic “ya know, living the dream!” (as in living a pallid nightmare). Most people I know are consistently overwhelmed and self-judgmental even though they are “winning” at life on paper. Good jobs. Health insurance. Solid relationships. But the golden ring of self-actualization and “happiness” remains an arm’s length away.

I’ve caught myself making these same negative statements about life over and over again over the years. I’m hardly immune to the crushing weight of modernity and the simple injustice of being a mortal human. Yet, when I’ve managed to crawl out of lengthy depressive episodes in the past, there is a unifying factor: I stop trying to make a “point” out of everything. Including life.

There is a nagging feeling, either inherently or indoctrinated over time, that life has an answer or purpose to uncover. If we could only unearth exactly who we ARE and what we are MEANT to be we’d find endless joy and peace among the wreckage of existence. This incredibly common thought process is a red herring leading to despair. I know because I’ve lived it; this mentality has dominated most of my life.

To poorly paraphrase Joseph Campbell, there is no universal meaning to life, and we each make a meaning out of it through our own actions and thoughts. This notion is a step towards fulfillment. If we can believe this sentiment, we can stop looking for the golden key that unlocks everything, because the truth is there is no lock guarding a secret life treasure. We can chart whichever course we please, even if we don’t know where the course leads.

At this point you may be thinking the above thoughts are a bunch of flaky platitudes. And you might be right…but, there is an action item that I firmly believe brings this mentality into fruition: doing something “pointless” every day.

In the moral wasteland of Youtube, Instagram, Tiktok, etc., we are fed toxic positivity nonsense and “grindset” memes and quotes meant to transform us into a higher achieving, unstoppable productivity monster — as if our emptiness comes from not doing enough (cue the many charts about how humans have never been more productive at work in human history). Yet, in most cases this advice will simply lead to more burnout, less fulfillment, and higher existential anxiety. We can work as hard as we want to reach the achievement podium, but it won’t solve the riddle of peace and joy that we lack in our lives. This is because, you guessed it, there is no riddle to solve at all.

Find a “pointless” thing you love to do. For me, there are a couple: I love playing guitar and writing music for no one but myself, taking long and silent walks along the beach, and journaling. None of these things are going to make me a multi-millionaire, win me any prizes, or earn admiration from others. Yet, I think these three aimless endeavors have been the key to driving me out of a long-standing emotional rut. They are casual reminders that life is not structured to be won or achieved, but observed and experienced with curiosity and fondness.

The side effect of more “pointlessness” is that you may accidentally backpedal into a passion or goal. By walking along the beach for miles, simply looking out at the ocean and mountains in wonder, I unearthed a passion for design and interior architecture, inspired by the bold yet harmonious colors found in nature and the stunning homes I walk by twice a week on my strolls. I recently became certified as an interior designer and have hungrily subscribed to as many design classes as possible after work hours and on the weekends. Who knows where the newfound interest will take me, it might not have a “point” after all, but it will at least engender curiosity and a delight in the everyday tiny miracles we ignore while pursuing meaning.

This notion will seem depressing to some. Clumsy sentence incoming: if life doesn’t have meaning or a point, then…what’s the point? The “point” is that we, by a divine miracle or some cosmic accident, are here now. And in any moment, an almost infinite amount of possibilities exist. Kids intuitively understand this much better than we do. My nieces and nephews will put on bike helmets and gently bonk each other on the head with toys, falling into rolling balls of laughter. They will clang pots and pans together in dissonant harmonies. And there are always smiles in these moments. They are in the stage of life where they still feel like the world is a playground; why shouldn’t it be that way for us? That’s not to say we should do whatever we want, whenever we want with reckless abandon. Playgrounds have rules after all. We should do less harm. Care about more than ourselves. Wait for our turn on the slide. But we should most definitely play.

By viewing life as a mystery to be solved through interminable focus and drive, rather than a blank canvas to “Jackson Pollock” our paint on in a spontaneous pattern of expression, is a one way ticket to more of the current dread that permeates our society. Enjoy the moments that have no explicit purpose. Foster them. Make time for them. In looking back they are often the times that have the most meaning after all.

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Just a very tall human occasionally unearthing joy and wonder amidst the chaos of life

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Stumbling Towards Happiness

Stumbling Towards Happiness

Just a very tall human occasionally unearthing joy and wonder amidst the chaos of life

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