Shameless plug: the website I sourced this from, Brainpickings.org, is run by an honest & hardworking team, and deserves attribution as such.
Much of life does not make much sense (is this my 2015 thesis? stay tuned). We as humans are constantly looking for ways to create meaning. The Bible, The Qur’an, The Tao — pick a religious text, any religious text. Whatever your beliefs or investments, the overarching idea is a system of guidance.
Maybe your system is not infallible, though. Maybe you never prescribed to one in the first place.
What do you do, in that case?
Embrace the void. Take it all in stride. Stay weird. Alan Watts understood this decades ago. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he delivered a series of lectures on the multiple facets of Zen. The below is from the 6th in the series (of 8 total), in which he explores how we arrive at meaning, by surrendering to meaninglessness.
Why do we love nonsense? Why do we love Lewis Carroll with his “‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe, all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe…”? Why is it that all those old English songs are full of “Fal-de-riddle-eye-do” and “Hey-nonny-nonny” and all those babbling choruses? Why is it that when we get “hep” with jazz we just go “Boody-boody-boop-de-boo” and so on, and enjoy ourselves swinging with it?
It is this participation in the essential glorious nonsense that is at the heart of the world, not necessarily going anywhere. It seems that only in moments of unusual insight and illumination that we get the point of this, and find that the true meaning of life is no meaning, that its purpose is no purpose, and that its sense is non-sense.
Still, we want to use the word “significant.” Is this significant nonsense? Is this a kind of nonsense that is not just chaos, that is not just blathering balderdash, but rather has in it rhythm, fascinating complexity, and a kind of artistry? It is in this kind of meaninglessness that we come to the profoundest meaning.
Being profoundly stupid, just for the sake of — maybe the most fun you can have in life.
Oh, and there’s a big (huge) difference between uninhibited mischief, and being a belligerent asshole.
Trust me on that one.
Grateful to know the difference these days. Didn’t used to quite have a grasp. Still working on whittling my ego down; he’s resilient. We’ll get there. In the meantime: