Regrets, What It Means To Be Human, And Nihilism

The thing about regret is that it’s a dish always served cold, by life. The moment you take a decision, it is never clear if the path you choose will cause you regret and heartbreak later in life.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the probability of there being regrets, later in life, is what causes people to skip or delay making tough decisions. It’s literally a game of chance and most of us choose not to take a risk. So we put off making the actual decision. We yearn for information on the choices we have, as a mean of avoiding regrets, but being able to see how each choice will unfold along the line and comparing them is impossible. This is why we dislike tough decisions, and to a certain extent, change. Where there’s change, there’s bound to be decisions waiting to be made as part of the response to the change.

This past week, the question that’s been running around my mind is “What is a life well-lived?“. Needless to say, I was pretty clueless about the answer. I posed the question to a close friend of mine. Ever the optimistic, cheerful existentialist, she replied thus.

For me, a life well-lived consists of being of use to someone. Making at least one person smile every day. Doing things with passion and effort, no matter how mundane or small the task might be. Filling my life and the lives of others around me with positive thoughts. All the good in this world far outweighs the bad, so why not be positive all the time?

A life well-lived is one where a descendant or friend gets teary-eyed decades after your death, reminiscing of the role you played in their life and the respect and adoration they have for you. A life well-lived is not one in which you were happy, but one where the people around you where happy, because of you. A life where you gave back to the world instead of just taking. A life where you didn’t just win, but also learnt from your mistakes and failures.

Purely out of coincidence, Oh Wonder, a musical duo I’d just discovered (seriously, check them out!), published a music video at around the same time. They reached out to filmmakers and artists around the world and asked them “What does it mean to be human?“. The resulting video, with people sharing their thoughts and answers to this question, and the music mixed in, is a pleasure to watch. 2016 has been a pretty shitty year and this video was like a ray of sunshine amidst the storm.

To be able to connect, with another person, to set aside all your differences and to just treat each other as equal humans is a truly surreal experience. We’re all equal and we all deserve this world. Sure, there might be differences and disputes, but that doesn’t mean we forget the fact that they’re human and start hating them. This year has been really stressful, with a lot of lives lost and hatred, bigotry and xenophobia spreading on a global scale. Personally, 2017 can’t come fast enough and I just hope things are much brighter next year and people around the world connect with each other on a more human level.

Though the answers to the two questions above are hard to find, there is a part of me that finds this exercise futile. Maybe the search for these answers is yet another way of trying to attach a meaning to our lives. Think about it this way. What’s the point of life? What’s it all mean? Who are we living for? Why are we even alive? There are no answers to these questions. Why do people go around chasing jobs, fast cars, huge mansions and money, when, in the end, nothing goes with them to the grave. And it’s not just the material possessions. I’m also talking about the friendships and relations that are forged over a lifetime; things that have an expiry date, but people just choose to ignore the hard truths, and pretend there’s no such thing.

Now, there might be people who counter with “Yeah, all lives come to an end and we know it. So we enjoy it the best we can.”. I’ve tried, but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is yet another vain attempt to stick meaning and purpose to life. Maybe what we should be doing is to stop trying to find a meaning for our lives.

Humans are naturally curious and we have this innate desire to understand and caregorise everything. It’s almost like we have this obsessive compulsive need to label everything, define it all in terms of ’cause and effect’, to be able to explain everything and find meaning in everything that happens. Maybe that’s why we try to find meaning in life. And we shouldn’t. Maybe we should admit the fact that life has no value intrinsically, it has no purpose, no motives, no goals and it only gets a meaning or purpose when we attach one to it. 

We’re all insignificant, roaming around every day with a false sense of purpose, while everyone ignores the basic truth, there is no purpose. Nobody knows why we live, but we all feel compelled to invent some meaning for it.

“There is no justification for life, but also no reason not to live. Those who claim to find meaning in their lives are either dishonest or deluded. In either case, they fail to face up to the harsh reality of the human situations.” –  Donald Crosby

Sure enough, the philosophical path one takes is their own choice, and before I wrap this entry up, I’d like to know what your perspectives are, with regards to the questions above. What would your answer be? Let me know in the comments below.

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