Existential Honesty — Why I Find Optimism In The Ruthlessness of Life.
This is is one of those posts that may border on dramatic or self-indulgent but I’ve been thinking about it long enough and I think it’s time to get it out of me.
I’m working on an essay for the For Film’s Sake Publication and while I was writing for it today I wrote the phrase “Existential Honesty” in all caps in a corner of the page. Suddenly, a question I thought about incessantly made sense.
“Why do I find comfort in cynicism and the darkness of being a person?” — Past Me.
Once I wrote “Existential Honesty” on that paper it lit up one of those silly lightbulbs bugs used to signify his latest ACME contraption. I find comfort in knowing that I don’t matter to the universe, that in the grand scheme of things I’m a speck of dust on a pale blue dot floating in the corner of a continent that’s the corner of a planet that’s the corner of a solar system that’s the corner of a galaxy that’s the corner of an ever growing universe.
The Universe doesn’t care about me, despite how much I might care about making life better for those around me, for making the world a better place or even existing happily. All it takes is a well placed solar flare or supernova and it all goes to shit. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in the supernatural and I don’t believe that we’re all here for some innate reason.
I think we’re meant to find our own meaning, control our own futures, make mistakes and learn from their consequences, succeed and learn from it’s spoils and I don’t think there’s a correct way or an incorrect way to do it. (excluding the hurting of others from that statement, shit’s fucked up everywhere).
But this isn’t an original thought, a lot of people my age enjoy the cynicism of dark humour. we’ve learnt to explore complicated ideas and really big concepts through the filter of self-deprecation, through the breaking of the expectations we all deal with on a social level, through comedy and through art. We’ve learned to understand and accept each other’s sadness and happiness not by putting ourselves in people’s shoes but by helping each other walk in their respective shoes.
I think we’ve learned to communicate through an unspoken language. Existential Honesty.
People say we’re disconnected as a generation, that we’ve lost track of who we are, we’re unfocused and lost in time. Living in a generation that either wishes it was the previous one or wants to fast-forward through the next 4, but I think we’re just dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. I think we’re slowly learning how to speak out against the “system” by acknowledging that we don’t know what we’re doing, that we don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, that the anxieties we’re facing aren’t entirely our fault.
We’re increasingly comfortable with admitting that sometimes it’s immeasurably difficult to get up in the morning or admitting that a good day is only as long as the circumstances that create it.
We’re honest about the way we inhabit existence, we’re growing more comfortable with acknowledging that it’s not easy, that the universe doesn’t care, that the concept of God seems antiquated and that the chances of divine intervention are undeniably slim.
We know it’s our job to make the best of what we’ve got, we know we’re the ones responsible for smiling on those bad days, for being able to do laundry or shower on those days we cosplay as Atlas.
We know there’s a problem, and it shows. For every bad news article I encounter, there are three more about people joining together and helping. For every discussion that focuses on how disdainfully we look at our political system’s current state, there are hundreds more on how to try and fix it.
My generation isn’t composed of hopeless optimists or senseless romantics, we find comfort in those ideals, we grew up learning that we should strive for them. But I honestly think we’ve accepted the fact that we live in a society in which those ideals are unreachable, a place where saying you’ll blame your parents in the suicide note means that we don’t have to pretend we’re happy with them just “trying their best.” and everyone knows it.
I think Existential Honesty is the link older generations don’t see in millennials.
We’re not looking for the holy grail of happiness.
We’re looking for Okay.
I believe we’ve learned to not lie about our happiness (or lack thereof), to embrace our dissatisfaction, to use cynicism and nihilism as vehicles for an universal truth.
The notion that all of this is temporary and we should make the best of what we’ve got.
That’s what the jokes mean.
They’re our way to rebel against the previous systems of thought and evolve them into our own brand of comfort.
An Honest Existence.