by: IOW Staff
Readers, today is the third installment of our Reasons to Live series, where In Our Words writers respond to our open question about things that make life a little easier, that make the day wonderful. Today, we’re going to talk about Woody Allen, existentialism, the beauty of the seasons and waiting for the mystery of life to unfold. Shit got deep.
As an atheist, but most of all a human being, I’ve always struggled with finding meaning in a universe that’s empty of ultimate truths. I’ve also had a pretty chaotic childhood, which has made me sensitive to the threat of change and, at worst, panic-stricken when faced with life’s ambiguity and uncertainty. There were moments in my life when I wondered if it’s worth carrying on, since happiness and security will always be replaced with disappointment and, ultimately, grief- no matter how you were raised.
I hope that the people reading this, who have also struggled with major childhood baggage, can begin to understand that such a loss is actually our gain. We know, perhaps better than others, that everything meaningful eventually goes away. But that knowledge can allow us to live freely and without the kinds of ruinous attachments that plague other people. I’m definitely a more spontaneous, enthusiastic, free-spirited and free-loving person because of my deep understanding of life’s ups and downs.
And just because life is empty of inherent meaning, doesn’t mean that it’s fruitless to go on living. It means we have a responsibility to ourselves, and to the people we love, to create our own meaning and our own truths for how to live and love authentically. That’s where my sense of purpose comes from. The emptiness of existence actually frees me up to be creative about the kind of person I want to be for the other people sharing the planet with me. We’re all in this together.
Plus, as the great Woody Allen put it in one of my favorite movies, Hannah and Her Sisters, if life truly is meaningless then we lose nothing by taking part it in and enjoying it while it lasts. It bears repeating: even if life is meaningless, and there is no afterlife, we lose nothing by taking pleasure in living.
Keep your head up! As you can tell by all the contributions, you’re clearly not alone.
What gets me through really bad days is knowing that I have an amazing opportunity to get a lot of unconditional love from the 2 year old and his family that I nanny for. There’s nothing like somebody cherishing you and you getting paid for it. Well, just in general, there’s nothing like somebody cherishing you, period. Knowing I have a good support group during a really rough time in my life right now (I am trying to stop drinking and a relationship I wanted to depend on just ended, and I’m dealing with a pretty bad depression all at the same time) keeps me going as well. I know beautiful people and even though I don’t always believe them, when they tell me that I am also a beautiful person, it takes the edge off. It at least keeps me from harming myself, because I would never want to hurt any of them. Also, Lake Michigan and the sunshine on a Chicago Spring or Summer day, and trees and bright little flowers cropping up all around. There are so many reasons to live; I’ve come thus far, and made it through some terrible experiences, and I’m faking it (feeling strong) until I make it (actually believing in my own strength).
What excites me most about this world we live in is the simple pleasure of seeing each characteristic smile on a person’s face. Every one is so amazingly different and reveals the great chance variety they each have to offer. Each face presents another opportunity, another adventure; at love, at friendship, at thrills, at compassion. It is the knowledge that these opportunities exist everywhere around me, that allows me to find beauty. The world is one amazing adventure with mysteries untold, waiting to unravel.
When I was fighting against my zombie mentality, my addiction to self-harming, I put every single ounce of effort into searching for something that I would miss. I know how difficult it is to find purpose every day when you are stuck under the weight of depression, abuse, and conflict. However, there is something. There is something, no matter how small, that you would miss if you left this Earth. Maybe it is the smell of the first dewy spring morning when the tips of the blades of grass are wet but the ground is dry and warm. Maybe it is the feeling of your cat softly kneading his head into the back of your calf for attention. Maybe it is the brilliant white light of the moon surrounded by the deep, dark blue twinkling sky that sends your mind to outerspace, to other worlds and galaxies that sparks some small feeling of hope within you. This world, fucked up and ungiving as it can be, is a beautifully complex rock circling a bright gaseous ball of fire in an infinite universe with infinitely unknown aspects. There is something. There is something in this universe that you could miss. I held onto that something for dear life and it gave me hope I would be here today. I am.