September 29, 2023•997 words
Like most things of significance in my life, I can't pinpoint when this phase started. No specific event triggered it; I just know I'm stuck. So much so that it's taken over my life.
Welcome to my Existential Crisis.
I'm not depressed, anxious, or even sad. My life functions normally. Unless you ask me to reveal my inner world, you wouldn't realise how burdened I feel by the weight of existence. I am not looking for advice on escaping or exiting this phase; I definitely don't need any help. I am doing fine.
But that's the irony: you don't know why anything matters, yet you go on living, participating in society and its fictions, constantly wondering why others aren't equally burdened.
How is everyone acting normally? Why are they not asking the ultimate questions, like:
What is life? How did we get here? Why is there something rather than nothing?
What things truly matter and what are just distracting constructs? How are we supposed to live? Is there any moral order we are supposed to follow?
Is there a creator? Why is the universe the way it is? Where did mathematics come from? Why do we have this specific set of physical laws that governs everything? Are they different in some other universe?
Are we merely products of biological evolution, with all our actions being responses to evolutionary pressures? Is love real? Why does it matter? What is the purpose of our lives, and are we supposed to find that purpose or create it?
How did we gain consciousness? And what is consciousness? Do we have free will? Are we in a simulation?
What's the truth? What is truth?
All this stuff. I don't understand how I can go on living without having some sense of where I stand on these questions.
I'm not eighteen; I'm thirty. Shallow, casual arguments no longer satisfy me. I crave depth. I want to know where I stand on these questions and why, and what others think and why. And how did they get there. And how did their answers inform how they live their lives. Truly an existential crisis — the answers will dictate how I exist in the world.
I don't seek ultimate answers (that's not possible); just workable ones—enough to help me move beyond these questions and live a little more.
Honestly, I don't know how long this will last or what it means for my present and future. Because, frankly, I feel like I know nothing.
One thing is certain: sharing these thoughts online in my bloggy voice does something for me. What exactly? Unclear. But even in the face absolute meaninglessness, writing and sharing my conflicts feels meaningful.
Which is why I am starting this online Existential Diary. As I find my way through these questions, I will blog about what I am finding out and thoughts on the way. Clear?
Since I'm already deep into this, let me share two things.
First, a short poem — can we call it a poem? — I wrote last week.
Nothing matters. Do anything you want.
But nothing matters. Why do anything at all?
We’ll all die. Have fun while alive.
But we’ll all die. What’s the point of life?
I am myself. Be authentic.
But am I myself? Really?
Everything is a lie. Chase the truth.
But everything is a lie. Fiction is the only truth.
Life is meaningless. Find your meaning.
But life is meaningless. Don’t find anything.
Everyone is delusional. You find sanity.
But everyone is delusional. So how can I?
There is no moral order. Just be kind.
But there is no moral order. Do whatever.
Existence is complex. Understand.
But existence is complex. Nothing to understand.
There was nothing. But here is something.
But there was nothing. And there will be nothing.
There is no purpose. Act for its own sake.
But there is no purpose. Just eat pizza.
See? This is the mental khichdi I'm dealing with. Sigh.
Second, a snippet from my Turning Thirty blog:
I did go through a bit of an existential crisis over the last year. You know, all those questions that I would sometimes discuss at 2 a.m. with friends in our IIT dorm room: What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? What’s the point of doing anything if we’re all going to die anyway? What’s the point of ‘making a difference,’ or ‘making the world a better place,’ or ‘leaving your mark,’ if the Earth will, someday in the far future, just disappear? There was nothing, there will be nothing, and in the tiny trillion years between that nothingness, we exist. So why?
I’m not completely out of the crisis phase yet, but I feel I’m almost there. So what did I figure out?
At this point, I’m in the camp that believes life has no meaning. No universal blueprint, no grand scheme that sets the stage of our lives, and no higher powers pulling the strings. We have no predetermined purpose. We are products of biological evolution; at some point, we became a thinking species. We started telling stories, creating myths, which led to large-scale cooperation and ultimately, us becoming the dominant species. We’ve developed enough to ask questions about our existence that other species don’t. But at its core, we’re just another species, and someday, extinction will happen.
It’s a little grim, I know. But it’s also liberating. No grand meaning means we get to decide what our own lives mean to us. We’re free to choose what we want to do with our time here. This freedom does come with responsibility, so be mindful of that.
I dread the words I wrote: "I’m not completely out of the crisis phase yet, but I feel I’m almost there."
Almost there? No way.
Let's see where this goes. My next post will be up soon.