It is doubtful that whether there is a point to life or not is a topic of conversation in the average American’s year. In mine, it seems to have been a theme. Some of the most memorable situations where it has arisen begins with an excellent book I read at the beginning of the year. It also comes up in lectures with students and in one of my favorite television programs. In these forums, the theme is there is no point.
In one part of the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson, he tells the story of losing a college friend and becoming despondent. He decides during that time that nothing matters; there is no point to life. He spends months laying around doing nothing.
In my classes, I challenge students to think about what they determine to be the purpose or point of life. Often in these discussions, I posit my existential belief that there is no meaning inherent in life. The students reply that the thought that there is no meaning is depressing. Their faces become a mixture of shock, empathy for me, and despair at the thought that an educated person like myself could be right. Some people wonder how one can even go on living with such a philosophy; that this philosophy might go so far as making one suicidal.
The theme also appears in a relatively popular show, Rick and Morty. Numerous times throughout the show’s several seasons, the characters have discussed that there is no meaning in life. Possibly the most famous line is delivered by Morty, in Season 1 Episode 8: “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere, and everybody is gonna die. Come watch T.V.”
This may sound bleak, and that is how many take it. However, that is not the point of any of the examples I’ve provided thus far. For starters, in a recent interview Dan Harmon, co-creator of Rick and Morty, points out the positive in believing there is no meaning inherent in life: “Knowing the truth, which is that nothing matters, can actually save you... Once you get through that terrifying threshold of accepting that, every place is the center of the universe, every moment is the most important moment, and everything is the meaning of life.”
Mark Manson, after becoming depressed about his friend’s death and deciding nothing mattered, came to the realization, “that if there really is no reason to do anything, then there is also no reason to not do anything; that in the face of the inevitability of death, there is no reason to ever give in to one’s fear or embarrassment or shame, since it’s all just a bunch of nothing anyway” (p. 194). He goes on to point out how this led him to a better life: “Oddly, it was someone else’s death that gave me permission to finally live.” (p.195).
There doesn’t need to be a point to life. Realizing there isn’t an inherent point that you need to figure out can be freeing. Appreciating that life has no inherent point frees you to create your own point, your own meaning. Recognizing that you can create your meaning, that you can simply enjoy your one and only life, with all of its ups and downs, maybe the most freeing experience of all. As the co-creator of Rick and Morty said, “everything is the meaning of life”.
Copyright: William Berry 2017
Harmon, D., 2017; interviewed in: Rick and Morty: The Meaning of Life; retrieved on October 9th, 2017 from: https://www.facebook.com/adultswim/videos/10155201667911745/?hc_ref=ARTTL7aTuYfRmBhg9yK57qrgbUfdQdw5spdlJ3xsOECLe3ED4BGJClDFI2nueuTkHFE&pnref=story
Kauffman, T., Roiland, J., 2014; Rixty Minutes; Rick and Morty. Dialogue retrieved on October 9th, 2017 from: https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/3e6ln1/nobody_exists_on_purpose_nobody_belongs_anywhere/
Manson, Mark; 2016; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck; HarperCollins Publishers, New York, N.Y.