Why Don’t I care?

I answered a question on quora some time ago:

Question: Why don’t I care? This has been a symptom for many years, but I am struggling to find my passion. I don’t care. Nothing intrigues me anymore, it seems like nothing is new under the sun. Everything is logical and predictable, and nothing is interesting. Nothing matters. I used to care about excelling, whether with people or with grades, or just whatever I do. Now I struggle to find a reason. It feels like a deep hole that I can’t climb out of. People have also told me that this is a problem only I can solve myself. I’m tired. Sex sometimes helps, but only in those moments, and it is not sustainable.
Is this depression? Existential crisis? Or is it just that I haven’t found my passions yet.

My answer:

All of the pieces of advice given here are good tips for getting off the couch and back into the swing of things, but there is a deeper reason why you don’t care, though it might not be what you want to hear.

The real reason you don’t care is because nothing means anything.

When you are young you are told everything means something: achievement, passion, love — they are all presented as concrete parts of some large, very real system. And while they turn out to be great ways to pass the time, as you get older you start to see that they are fleeting.

In fact all of life is fleeting. And even if you consciously try and believe in an afterlife, part of your brain knows that death ends life as we know it. And that looming prospect begins to give things a surreal and separate feeling. It is as if the world begins to float away. Your natural response, out of self preservation, is to stop caring.

Sartre wrote a book called Nausea about a man who felt ill and could not understand why. He went to many doctors and specialists but none could tell him the cause of his “sweet sickness”. Eventually the man realized the sick feeling was the certainty of his own death; the limits of this existence. The “nausea” he was feeling was his conscious mind’s inability to accept that reality had very little to do with his aspirations; A dread that lived in the pit of his stomach.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Stranger, Waiting for Godot,Either/Or: A Fragment of Life, Beyond Good and Evil are other great books about how hard it is to care when we are all just dust swirling in the cosmos.

Well here is the good news, although it is terrifying as well: Because life is meaningless, you are absolutely free to make up your own meaning. You can borrow someone else’s if you want (most people do) but you don’t have to. You can write your own bible, get your own stone tablets from god. You can look into your own crystal ball and create a future you want to see. And what is the purpose of that? There is none! Or maybe there is. There is no way to know! Exciting, right?

It’s not that you don’t care. You are afraid to care. And you are right to be, because everything you care about will one day be destroyed. But so what!? Fear is as much a result as anything else you might be afraid of. Choosing to not choose is a choice. There is no opting out of this test. Even suicide is a statement of caring. Withdrawing and isolating won’t save you from pain, they’ll just make it duller and less fun to blog about.

You are in the middle of the weirdest experiment ever; it’s called life. Find one thing that piques your interest or makes you feel even a little curious. Start there. Focus on it every day. Learn about it. Teach others about it. Make it into an empire or a religion or a movement. Experience success and and or failure. Have a family, impose your views on them and then learn to let them be their own people even though it hurts your pride. Grow old with them.

And then you’ll die! You will disappear and in 100 years no one will remember anything about you or anyone you loved! You are doomed to vanish and because of that you are unimaginably free to create whatever you want. Have fun!

Image credit: http://thesixpac.blogspot.com/2013/04/staring-into-void.html

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