As a child, I wanted to be an inventor, architect, or engineer. I am no closer to any.
Freud, Hitler, and Stalin accomplished goals that utilized their strengths despite of their weaknesses. As students in Vienna, they were in similar positions to mine, drinking coffee, reading books in coffeehouses, and looking for answers. Yet at some point, something changed, they became set on a path, and today we look at them as paragons of a specific ideal. How do intelligent people discover their life’s purpose and go about it with such confidence?
Well, maybe they never do, maybe they pretend, or maybe it’s luck. As a young adult, I hope it’s not too late or futile for me to do the same.
You see, there’s reason to be doubtful. Our lives are short. Even if we live to 80, many of those years won’t be spent living. Mental and physical ailments destroy our faculties and freedom. And if we do live long and healthily, it will likely be an extraordinarily lonely existence. How does one cope with this prospect and live a fulfilling life?
Maybe Hobbes was right – life is abject. We’re ill-reminded of this each time we succumb to hunger, thirst, and cold. We’re animals trying to survive, but yet, we’re also something more. Our minds give us tremendous capabilities and cognition. We may not know what to do with them, but to give up on life is preposterous. To make a better life and in the face of meaninglessness is a righteous cause, right?
I offer the advice of the stoics and Camus. You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of – you will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
While this may seem contradictory, the idea is quite useful. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, very little do you have control over and you will die very soon. Accept this and give yourself up to the present. Suck up the marrow of whatever is thrown at you and love it. Acknowledge your life is determined but go after what you want with ferocity and conceive it lest it sits on the shelf. Allow yourself to change and improve yet realize that who you are is who you were meant to be. The meaning of life cannot be boiled down to words. All we can do is live in every moment knowing that life is absurd and insignificant, believe it is truly worth living, and live it deeply and wonderfully without distractions or regret. Life can be beautiful but only if we make it so.