In my previous life (now thankfully abandoned) as an unpaid life coach to depressed males, I was often asked (well ok, bleated at) ‘What’s the point???’.
Humans have this thing about asking WHY – just because we can. When Ms M was small, she’d ask things like ‘Why can’t I go on the road?’ ‘ Because you’ll be hit by a car.’ ‘ Why?’ Because they’re faster than you.’ “ But why? ‘ (that and ‘No they’re not!’). Whys are like Pi, they go on and on for as long as you want them to, and the further they get away from where they started, the less they make sense. There is no first cause, any more than the universe has got a picket fence around it (though it may have).
So where does that leave life? In the same place it leaves a piece of cake. You have it, you eat it, and eventually it’s gone and you don’t have it any more. The question is not really why, but HOW.
HOW encompasses everything that why leaves unanswered. For instance, how do I live a satisfying life when nobody likes me, my job is boring and I have bunions?
Well, you either like it, leave it, or change it.
Leaving it seems drastic (and anyway, what if it was just about to get better, like a slow party). Liking it is so much easier if you’re one of those people who can transform something unpleasant into ‘it’s not so bad, all things considered’. And change isn’t always possible. Some things you’re just stuck with. Like kids (I tried to get rid of them once but they kept hanging around the back door!). Change is a matter of recognizing what the bottom line is, and what are just the lines on top of that – which can be deleted, which can be bent, which can be decorated with little squiggly coloured things, you know?
Attitude is the key ingredient and you seem to be born with it. Either your brain is wired to tell you everything’s going to be alright and it’ll work out somehow (even if it never, ever does), or it’s wired to say ‘stuff this, this is a heap of shit, I’m off!” And sometimes you think one thing one minute and another thing the next. Here is what some famous people told Ms M, when she asked them if THEY thought life was pointless.
Sir Roger Penrose (famous mathematical physicist & explorer of consciousness theory)
I wish I could really answer your question, but a lifetime of science doesn’t really help too much! All I can say is that for some reason I do NOT think that life is “pointless”. I think that my feeling this perhaps does have something to do with the reason that I do science, but I’m sure that there could be very many other reasons for a feeling that life indeed has a “point” to it. In some sense, I tend to think that the whole “point” for the universe as a whole is the presence of conscious existence—which, as far as we know requires the possibility for “life” to come about somehow. This probably isn’t too much help, so I should stop waffling.
Noam Chomsky (famous conspiracy theorist)
If I thought life was pointless, I’d end my own. Why do something pointless? I don’t end it, meaning I don’t find it pointless. I’m sure you don’t either.
Steven Pinker (famous, well, in his own circle anyway, experimental psychologist, and I hope that doesn’t mean nasty experiments with guinea pigs)
No, I don’t think life is pointless. People can find fulfillment and happiness in countless ways, both sensual (food, beauty, sex, travel) and spiritual (love, children, art, and the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, justice, and peace).
Paul Ehrlich (you know, The Population Bomb)
I think it is pointless in the cosmic sense, but I think we all give a point to it. We’re lucky to have evolved into smart social animals, and if we learn to treat others and our environment right, almost all human beings could enjoy fun and interesting lives — which would be the point for me.
Alain de Boton (famous popular philosopher)
Weirdly, the pointlessness of life I take as a given, yet it doesn’t bother me day to day. Only occasionally, late at night… But overall, miraculously it doesn’t so much.
That said, I think we kind of missed the point.