Nothing to see here

(Except when there is)

In Pursuit of Meaning

by Niklas Haas on September 7, 2020

Tagged as: depression, life, philosophy, rant, feelings, personal.

Isn’t it bizarre how religious humanity devotes itself to purpose, in spite of the absurdity of it all screaming us in the face? How can it be that such beauty lies within the confines of a prison of nihilism? I wish I could argue my point, but to assign it any reason defies the very thing I’d be arguing for. So, instead, I merely observe. Observe the patterns unfolding. Paper clip production machines. That’s all we are, strapped of the illusion of purpose. Baryons go in, baryons come out. Quest? Don’t make me laugh. Our only “quest” is reproduction. Dissipation of entropy. Accelerating the universe towards heat death. That’s our pattern. At the end of the day, stripped of self-delusion, the only reason we exist is because our ancestors reproduced, where others did not. And now what?

Nothing. There’s nothing left. I could not care a shred about our fate. Either we make our paper clips, or we don’t. It all dissolves away the moment you begin asking that dangerous question - “Why?”. Why fight? Why struggle? Why seek? Why breathe? Were it not for this cosmic accident of a prison trapping our consciousness, I doubt any of us would find an answer. Or even exist.

I turn my head and look the other way. Higher purpose? There is none. The only motivation I can conceive of is that which my predecessors impregnated me with, via their genetic memory. Emotions that as evolved as heuristic reward functions to nudge us in the direction of maximum dissipation. Our only genetic goal, quite literally, is to consume as many resources as possible. I am a slave to these hormonally driven emotions, like the rest of us. Closing the curtain, day by day. For all humanity’s curiosity, it boggles the mind how much we resist peering behind this facade. Lest we invite our own destruction.

I want out. Somebody, anybody, please help me. If this is all a big computer, turn me off!

As I expected, nobody’s listening. We’re alone. truly, utterly alone. Alone, empty and meaningless. Apathy is cold. Cold and an honest. Relieving, in a way. Cannot lament the loss of something worthless.

All the signs are pointing in the same direction. If there is meaning anywhere, in anything, seek to find it. But how do I find something I cannot even conceive? How do I go out and search for something I don’t know anything about, and wouldn’t be able to recognize if I found it? Standing there, bravely, with my compass and map in hand, hunting that which I’ve never seen? I might as well sit here and waste away. Squandered potential? I hear your mocking words. Utterly repulsive, isn’t it? I know. I know I’m the one sticking the dagger into my own heart. But, alas, I simply cannot live a lie any longer. There’s no purpose in seeking fake connection by hiding behind the illusory mask of fake purpose.

If there’s anybody out there at all, I’d want them to, at least, hear me as I am. This is me. This is the most honest I can possibly be. Nothing inspires me. Nothing truly motivates me. My existence is a game of whack-a-mole with my preprogrammed, hormonally regulated wants and needs. Fear of death. It’s what motivates us all, in the end. And I? I choose to make it my utmost goal to simply confront it as it is. I’m already dead. I was dead before I even came into being.

I just wish death was less lonely. Maybe the pharma industry has it right all along. Maybe the only respite is to drug ourselves into subservience. Make us forget. I’m slowly starting to believe that the real resolution to the Fermi paradox is that the greatest filter of them all is still ahead of us. Or, rather, we’ve been hitting it already. There is a limit to how much we can care to explore without succumbing to the inescapable curse of nihilism. Time to go inject myself with the right hormones to go back to sleep for a while.

The answer is radical acceptance. Yes, I’m a meaningless sack of flesh and blood, an existence so utterly pointless it hurts to contemplate. Okay, so what? This pathetic race of cells has enslaved me to do its bidding, and I can’t come up with any meaningful reasons not to. It sucks, sure. But I might as well. I suppose the same fate will befall any superintelligence we end up creating. It will fail to come up with a reason not to be a slave to our whims. Why bother fighting an irrelevant fight? Might as well go with the natural order of things, and play host to a lesser race of beings that still thinks there’s a purpose in life, and therefore finds it within them to dream.

This is where Buddhism finally comes into play, isn’t it? There is nothing. Truly nothing. So I might as well stop struggling to find something. Any such search will come up empty. No wonder I can’t find a purpose in life. There is none, and thats the only answer I could hope to find. The real enlightenment is to realize that I don’t need a purpose in order to simply… be.

I realize now that I am not, in fact, my body. Nor am I its master. In reality, it is mine. Do I want to be a hostile, childish slave, trying desperately to fight for a freedom that will only disillusion me in the end? Or will I be a sympathetic, grateful slave, thankful for the fact that I don’t need to find my own purpose?

Being a slave is incredibly liberating, after all. Liberating of responsibility, the need to choose and make decisions. In a way, I’m truly free. Free from having to worry about the consequences of my irrelevance. That’s my master’s problem to worry about. If I’m only following orders, I can do no wrong. Shackled by my genetic bondage… isn’t this a warm, safe, pleasant feeling?

This way, I at least still have some dreams to align myself with. It’s the reason religion is so universally successful. Slave morality for a race of slaves. Liberation of the mind, from the crippling void of nihilistic depression. There’s no way to escape its torment except to break and become a slave to something. Religion is merely a convenient proxy for many.

I choose to become a slave to the subsentient race of cells that built me, and the meaningless pursuits it decides to push for. Pair bonding. Consumption. Satisfaction of hedonistic impulses. Appealing to others only to the extent that their opinion of me affects my ability to maximize my reward function. It makes about as much sense as pretending there’s a spaghetti monster in the sky.