The Paradox of Everything Being Simultaneously Meaningful and Meaningless
The furthest visible regions of the Universe are estimated to be around 46 billion light years away and are expanding at an unimaginably fast rate. Here on our meager Earth, an estimated 117 billion humans have ever lived and many billions more will be born in the future. The humans alive right now are producing more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, making each of us relatively less remarkable with every photo, message, and search.
Feeling insignificant yet?
Any one of us hardly registers as a blip on the radar in this raucous world that has endured for an unfathomably long time while hurtling through space like a single droplet of water thrashing about the ocean current. How can we be so pretentious to think we matter more than any other water molecule, let alone at all?
This is where we arrive to my current outlook on life: nothing matters.
It may sounds depressing but, in fact, it’s liberating. If nothing matters, it doesn’t matter that nothing matters.
Nihilistic? No. Absurdist? Perhaps.
This perspective has given me the freedom to create the life I want to live and pursue the things that make me happy. I often wonder: what if, despite my own insignificance, this pursuit is actually the only thing that matters simply because it matters to me? In the big picture it’s nothing, but to me it’s everything.
Life is a sequence of experiences from the moment we are born until the moment we die. The poem “The Dash” captures it beautifully:
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
In every experience — how we spend our dash — lies a story. Our stories mean something to us, to our loved ones, and to those who live in our wake. They help us make sense of our lives and create meaning in a fundamentally chaotic world.
If nothing else, our stories are proof we existed. That we learned, loved, laughed, and cried. That we made music and art. That we explored our cosmos and planet, our cities and neighborhoods, our bodies and minds. That we understand our environment, each other, and ourselves. That — if we’re lucky — we made someone else’s meaningless existence just a little better, brighter, or bearable.
In short, everything matters.
Every experience weaves the fabric of who you are and who you will become. Our lives are a collection of moments strung together between birth and death. Our dearest relationships are a combination of shared experiences living, working, and playing together. Every instant is an opportunity to realize our potential and find joy in our journey.
In the end, what will have been important to you? Money? Fame? Power?
I suspect it will be the challenges endured to make life worth living. It will be the hard-earned wisdom, the time spent with loved ones, and the ability to say “been there, done that.” We should intentionally cherish and celebrate these things before the end arrives.
Each of our journeys through this world is uniquely amazing even if, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We might be insignificant but so were Gandhi, Mandela, and Mother Theresa.
Perhaps our stories will live on forever. More likely, our stories will eventually disappear, leaving no evidence of the human being who felt love and sorrow, had a voice and perspective, and took risks to make a difference.
It sounds paradoxical to say everything is simultaneously meaningful and meaningless, but this is reality.
So, why not experience life the way you desire? Do what you want but don’t be cruel. Intentionally fill your dash with the people, places and activities that make you happy.
Because in the end nothing matters, except everything.