Sitting in a cafe, with my no-longer-hot hot chocolate, pondering the meaning of life, and – in the immortal words of Bobby Darin – “all that otha motha jazz”. Wearing quite a few layers (I count two so far; the other two are still drying on the back on my chair), and fingerless gloves to keep my writing tools warm. It’s not easy to type with these things on. No credit for not trying, though, seeing as you wouldn’t be reading this if I didn’t put it here. Of course, you might avoid reading it anyhow, but if I didn’t make the effort to tiptap it away on my keyboard, you wouldn’t be the wiser, would you?
Anyhow, not exactly glamourous, is it? Life, I mean – not my current state of affairs. We all try to figure out its meaning and some revel in the delightful “enlightened’ statement of there being no meaning, which doesn’t really offer much the conversation. Of course, while it is a valid opinion or whatever saying there is no meaning doesn’t really tell us anything. it’s like someone asking your opinion on an artwork and your response being:
“I like it.”
“Why do you like it?”
And here, instead of any long-winded explanation and pompous jargon about the nature of art and life, you simply say: “Because I like it.”
Personally, I suspect we assign meaning to life and to actions rather than it carrying an inherent meaning. Even so, why is it important to chain ourselves to meaning? After all, looking at it from a logical point of view, we can do whatever we please – our agency is our own – but the fact that an action could mean or signify something seems to terrify us.
Example? To kill someone (I’m by no means encouraging you to do this – this is a thought experiment EXAMPLE). On a day to day basis, killing someone usually is associated with a certain “type” of person, a certain absence of morality, a certain alignment of ideals or even perversions. And yet, somehow soldiers are exempt from this idea. Of course, there are a bunch of psychological consequences that go with war, such as post-traumatic stress and all that, but when you get down to it, isn’t it part of what you sign up for? A soldier killing someone in the throes of battle might be given medals of honour (of course, these won’t help with the psychological side-effects), but someone killing someone just because they can i.e. the person we would call a murderer, they pay for their actions. So… it’s ok to kill because the other person has a gun? Or because you are paid for it?
This is not to say the soldiers are at fault; it is easy to blame them for this, but I think the problem doesn’t lie with the people who execute the orders, although they do so with their own agency. I simply find it a little bizarre that we place so much value on human life, but then create situations and circumstances where that value is poured down the drain.
Of course, another problem is the fact that we identify certain actions as “bad” and others as “good”. When you are a child, if you are caught stealing – even if it is the simplest thing, like taking a cookie from the cookie jar when you are “not allowed” – you are told it is wrong. Sure, stealing is wrong in certain situations, but why is it anyone associated with this act is demonized?
About a year ago, a man stole my phone from me while I was texting. I tried to take it back, we wrestled for about 10 seconds, he headbutted me to the ground, and he ran off. I tell this story to people, and most people’s response is “what an asshole” or “you got it back, right?”. The fellow sold the phone off within minutes, but to be fair, it is just a phone. If he sold it for drugs, he suddenly becomes this villain; but if he stole it and sold it off to feed his family, he’d be hailed as a family man, no?
After all, unemployment is rife in the UK – I can’t speak for the situation worldwide, but I don’t think it’s too different – and the economical system has proven it is more inhumane than we thought it was. Wanting to separate the unemployed or a specific group of people from the rest of the cogs in the ‘machine’ is pretty easy to do – just have an economic crisis and those who are unable to fend for themselves will be filtered out, because they will be the ones who need the benefits and the state help that you are cutting off.
Being unemployed sucks, but mainly because it means you have to rely on someone else for money and survival. It also sucks because it means you get to be portrayed as this immensely lazy genitalia-scratching (apologies) person who sits about doing nothing all day. And somehow that equates to having no purpose. I seem to remember someone – either my parents or my cousin or whoever – telling me that my job doesn’t reflect who I am (more recently, I think Red Bastard did this), and that I am allowed to have ‘hobbies’ and a life outside work. Ultimately, however, the waywardly unemployed are considered to be either unlucky, lazy, or lost in a sea of purposeless matter.
So here’s a message for all you do-gooders with jobs out there: We are not the lost children. Work is not our only purpose, and it doesn’t have to be for you either – if you want a purpose, of course. I’m not entirely sure I want a purpose in the first place; it narrows down the perspective and the experience of life in the same way an extreme obsession can. I am not lost, lazy, or unlucky. I am me, and “me” is a wolf with a keyboard and an internet connection.