In recent weeks, I’ve been considering the rather logical but extremely depressing possibility that life has no meaning.
I know, I know. It’s senseless to debate it, because it does and yet it kind of doesn’t. You get what I’m saying, right? As I’m sure I’ve quoted before, Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”
There’s no real arguing with that point. Joseph Campbell was a wise dude.
But that’s not really what I’m talking about.
No. What I’ve been considering is much darker: that perhaps there’s no meaning at all. That even being alive isn’t really anything more than a biological fluke, not to mention wholly unimpressive and pointless. And when you consider how many billions and billions of people came before you without so much as impacting a blade of grass in your own life today – an idea that occurred to me while reading Guns, Germs, and Steel and realizing how long humanity has been here doing what we do (basically making more people, driving other species to extinction, and eating ourselves stupid) and how many people there have been over that time – well, you start to feel a bit insignificant.
You start to feel extraordinarily insignificant.
However, the serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine levels in my brain being what they are, I stewed in that feeling of insignificance for a little while, got sad and uncomfortable, and bounced on to a new thought; my own extraction from the Joseph Campbell postulation, I suppose.
You see, it occurred to me that while it was true that billions and billions of homo sapiens and cro magnons and homo erectuses (erecti?) have come and gone without note, there were also people who made music or paintings or sculptures or wrote words that we still read today. Things like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, and The Torah, and the Chinese Book of Songs and the Vedic Brahmanas. And beyond religious texts or guides, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Aesop’s Fables, and the Art of War, and Oedipus the King, and the works of Plato. These are texts that date back thousands and thousands of years, and yet somehow they still matter so long after their original authors and their descendants and their descendants’ descendants are dead and buried and otherwise completely forgotten.
And that’s where I’ve settled now: there may or may not be real meaning, or certainly nothing we can prove until we’re dead and – by all accounts – it’s too damn late to matter. There may not be an afterlife or reincarnation or heaven or even purgatory. I might not get a chance to put on a bathrobe and rattle some chains and scare the crap out of people as a phantom apparition in their bedroom at night – well, not as an actual ghost anyway.
In short, I have no answers.
None of us do.
But by golly, I can try to write a book that will still matter a few thousand years after I’m gone.
And so it is.
Thus, enjoy these pictures of me editing over the last few weeks as I tromped toward the finish line on Tuesday – when the fully completed project – begun just thirteen weeks earlier – was printed and shipped to the woman who will be copy editing it for me.
My own attempt to make leave a semi-permanent mark is almost complete.
Next step once the edits come back? Incorporating them and contacting agents.
And the moment of truth draws ever closer…