I had a personal website since I don’t remember when. I’ve always liked the concept of having my own cozy corner in a giant worldwide network. From a child’s play, it grew to serve me as a way of escape from the environment at which I didn’t feel like I’m being understood. It was like a personal diary, the best and most intimate friend. But as I grew more and more introspective drowning in the depths of depression I, ashamed of its personal contents, refactored it aggressively several times until it shrunk down eventually to a single page with a single question on it that didn’t say anything about me. And yet, it was a question that meant everything to me.
It’s hard to stay happy when you have neither hope nor faith. But isn’t it what makes a man free? The absence of expectations? Who, if not they, are pulling me down after all. Only when I have no hope I can feel peace, the white wasteland I was looking for. But is this a real life, do I actually live?
One day a stranger wrote me an email saying that these lines were heart touching and that he was crying. I was flattered, but at the same time puzzled because it was never meant to be some kind of a reassuring quote that should induce feelings in other people or force them to take action. It was merely a question to which I didn’t know the answer. I simply didn’t have it so I couldn’t give it to anyone else. But I knew that if I found the answer it would set me free.
Several years had passed since I’d asked myself this question. I went through a lot at that time and, luckily, made it out. I even started opening up again. The question, while still stood, was not relevant to me anymore. As the popular Linkin Park’s song goes “I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter”. Only in my case, it sounds rather liberating. I was happy, so I no longer sought the answer. So, I guess that’s quite ironic, that when I need it the least I’ve finally got it.
The answer is yes. Yes, it is real life, the most real life that one could imagine. Without expectations and hopes it has neither meaning nor purpose, but at the same time, it’s devoid of its pain and cruelty. And if you think carefully, it never had a meaning in the first place and it doesn’t need one. Each and every one of us is an accident in the grand scheme of things, space dust that by some miraculous chance learned to contemplate its own existence. We are insignificant. There had been a beginning of life and there would be an end. Our life is immaterial and our death has no consequence. So, why bothering about success or brooding over failure if both are futile? Instead, why don’t we stop for a moment to look around and appreciate the beauty of the world that we live in? Staying happy “when you have neither hope nor faith” is only difficult when you’re bound by the assumption that life has a fundamental purpose. If you cast it aside and instead choose to see life as a piece of art, you can accept anything and learn to revel in its aesthetics.
On my way to happiness, subconsciously, I came to the same conclusions, but it wasn’t until I read “Of Human Bondage” by William Somerset Maugham that I finally grasped how to put it into words. Philip, the main character, devised a very similar theory for himself that human’s life is like a pattern which is unique and beautiful no matter how wretched it is.
Whatever happened to him now would be one more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be. – William Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
At first, I was inclined to call this philosophy the bulletproof stoicism due to its outstanding ability to liberate the mind from the clutches of discouraging external events, but then stumbled upon a great video only to discover that there is actually a term for it. It’s called optimistic nihilism. But the term itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are truly free. We are free to choose our own purpose. We are free not to choose one. But most importantly we are free to enjoy ourselves while we’re here.
As for me, I chose self-improvement as the purpose, not because I expect it to pay off in the future, but because I learned that above all it brings me happiness. I learned that other things, such as challenging work and compassion towards people around me, bring me happiness too. I can only hope that it’s the same for others, but I don’t keep my fingers crossed. If someone finds pleasure in self-destruction, it’s fine with me. After all, in a world without meaning who is there to judge?