Of Existentialism and Decisiveness
What is the purpose of life? Nihilism is an easy answer to accept. As I was talking with a friend tonight, I do believe in the core of nihilism, that there is nothing out there, no ultimate goal or purpose to reach, and in that sense, our lives are, in essence, meaningless. I spoke of people having a false ceiling — like a stained glass of god to reach to, aspire, or at the very least, orient oneself to.
After learning more about Sartre and Camus, I realise this picture need not necessarily be of a god, but of any meaning we choose to ascribe to our own lives. How long shall we live by constraints that others place on us? Aren’t we the captains of our own ships? The masters of our own fates? In this matter, I do appreciate how Camus lived his life — “enjoying” it to the fullest, in the most traditional sense “enjoyment” is perceived to be, epicurean, or outright borderline hedonistic. That painting on glass can be whatever I want it to be — there is complete and absolute freedom to choose it. It is advisable to be prudent and considerate of course, but in theory, I am free.
Sometimes I envy those who have a purpose in life, in their careers. Save people’s lives, fight for your country, bring up your kids well. This freedom to choose that I talk about — it’s supposed to be a luxury, but can easily be a burden, particularly when coupled with a predisposition to indecisiveness. And as such, I occasionally envy those who are decisive.
However, I often do appreciate this indecisiveness, for without it, I might not have explored a matter deep enough. After all, we are often presented with simple choices (simple at least in the fact that it is binary): strawberry or pistazie, black or blue, to believe in god or not to. What if we never stopped and thought of our decisions? The argument for thoughtfulness is that we do tend to want to get the best outcomes possible. There is often an optimal solution to many if not most problems that lies in between the extremes. It can also be argued that whatever the choice, it is important to have thought it through and be comfortable and secure with that choice. It is, I guess, mighty easy to get lost in indecisiveness, to even be driven mad by it.
An obvious answer here is to be reasonable and to know when to stop. Decisions are made in an instant, but the process of thinking it through takes time. During this time, circumstances might have changed, rendering the decision useless. One might come up, as a cricket team captain, with a perfect strategy for the ODI game that results in the perfect cover drives, the most beautiful yorkers and the cup-winning 10-wicket victory, but is of no use when you find out that the game ended 2 hours ago and the boys are currently out drowning their sorrows in the pub.
At this point, the “telos” or the purpose of the inquiry also matters, I suppose. It makes lesser sense to ponder about a flavour of ice cream than to ponder about career-changing decisions. Yet, I find the time constraint most applicable here as well, perhaps in a slightly different scale.
Having thus championed decisiveness, what ever happened to my purpose in life? Apparently, it no longer suffices to say that I will figure it out on the way, for one needs to be more decisive. Whether it can be written in sentences, I do not know. However, I am of the opinion that it needs to be decided upon quickly. In the long term, we are all dead, as Keynes efficiently puts it. Yes, life is full of suffering anyway, why not give it a meaning and try and make it more fun? After all, we have but one life, and it would be a pity not to see what it has to offer at its fullest.