Life, looked at from a purely biological standpoint, is pointless. We are born, we reproduce, we die. Sometimes we don’t even reproduce. So what is the point of extending life? If we’re not into suicide, isn’t the best thing to let old age have its way and get all that over with so we can go back to the far less taxing business of oblivion?
Of course, for those who believe there is life after death, the whole point of life is a learning, consciousness-expanding exercise. But atheists would say spirituality is the obvious knee-jerk response of all those billions of human beings who cannot cope with pointlessness. Futility is a concept that encompasses lack of importance, absence of purpose and being of no practical use. The Latin root means leaking away. Perhaps Nature went too far in giving us self-awareness. She should have stopped developing our brains at the level of cows, or fish. Then we’d be blissfully happy when alive and blissfully unaware of the concept of futility. Our lives would be sufficient unto themselves.
Feelings of pointlessness affect everyone from time to time, and some people feel it regularly, and are diagnosed with depression. Stress can lead to feeling fed up with life, since we are overwhelmed with things that need doing and seem to have no time to live ourselves. Being on the work treadmill, working as fast as we can just to pay the electricity and food bill, is the most common reason for a sense of pointlessness, combined with struggles in our personal relationships. When life stops being good, it is time to stop and think.
Our small lives may have stopped being enjoyable, but the universe is so full of wondrous possibilities, this does not mean we cannot let some of that wonder in.
Is the life of a sparrow pointless? It is worth something simply because the sparrow is what it is.
Is the life of a bluebell pointless? Of course not, since without beauty the universe would be dark, and that would be pointless.
Are momentary feelings of happiness pointless? No they are not; they are worth living simply because they exist.
Why is there something rather than nothing? Because empty space would be pointless.
Trying to find a point to life is akin to living constantly projecting towards the future, but life is worth living because of what we experience in the present. If that present is unpleasant, we must move ourselves gently to something else. One foot put gently in front of the other, as in a Tai Chi lesson where we must only follow the teacher’s movements without any emotional or mental input, a slow and gentle walk towards a theatre, a park…changing our environment will change the lie in our mind that it is all pointless.
“I felt so down, so depressed at the end of my working day,” said Donna, a single mother, “that I just wanted to throw myself off the railway bridge. I was working so much just to pay the bills for my children’s education that I didn’t have time to have any fun. I couldn’t go on holiday without my children because I had no childcare, and yet desperately needed some down time without them to remember who I was. I was fed up of working outside and inside the home serving everyone else. What about me, what happened to my life, I wailed inside? That day I had signed up for a wine-tasting evening after work in an attempt to get myself to do other things. I did not want to go. I was too tired, too depressed and didn’t want to see other people. But I made myself, and to help put one foot in front of the other I bought myself some chocolate; it helped, lifting my mood just enough to get me to the wine bar.
When I got there, I saw everyone else had come alone too. I began to talk to some of them, and forgot my dark thoughts. The wine expert was fascinating, and we all had a good giggle about how much wine we were putting away. I was astonished when I got home how my mood had changed. To think earlier on I had been contemplating suicide.”
One act – deciding to go to the wine-tasting – changed Donna’s perception. Life was worth living for the experience of tasting French wine with a group of friendly strangers.
And therein lies the truth.