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The Deadly Boredom of ‘A Meaningless Life’ (quillette.com)
65 points by tomohawk on Aug 9, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments



"Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back"

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. In many ways tradition is disappearing, at least where I'm from, and I can't yet tell if it is for better or worse.


It's easy to destroy things buts very hard to come up with something to replace them. Religion is a good example, borders also comes to mind.

Not saying it's all black vs white but some traditions emerged for a reason and should be fully understood before being destroyed. Again religion is a good example, life meaning was a solved problem for most believers.


I've been a dark place recently (dark enough where I forced myself to find a doctor)- and one thing that came to me is "Why am I still here? What is worth living for?"

And the only reason I could come up is that there are a few people who would miss me. Nothing in my life really provides meaning. My job provides meaning to the world, but me.

Life has become Meaningless, and there are groups out there that provide a sense of community and meaning. How do you fix that- when communities are becoming more exclusionary.


What i am realizing is that you need to get immersed in something outside of yourself and thus find meaning in life. This avoids the constant "navel gazing" which is the root of the problem. Some examples are;

* A devoted family person focused on family members eg. Children.

* A person devoted to filial duty towards his Parents.

* An ardent follower of a Religion/Cult/Group etc.

* A Scientist/Artist totally focused on their respective areas of study.

Interestingly, i had the light-bulb moment while reading Jack London's novel "The Sea Wolf". Here is the insight from the protagonist "Wolf Larsen";

“Do you know, I sometimes catch myself wishing that I, too, were blind to the facts of life and only knew its fancies and illusions. They’re wrong, all wrong, of course, and contrary to reason; but in the face of them my reason tells me, wrong and most wrong, that to dream and live illusions gives greater delight. And after all, delight is the wage for living. Without delight, living is a worthless act. To labour at living and be unpaid is worse than to be dead. He who delights the most lives the most, and your dreams and unrealities are less disturbing to you and more gratifying than are my facts to me.” He shook his head slowly, pondering. “I often doubt, I often doubt, the worthwhileness of reason. Dreams must be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight is more filling and lasting than intellectual delight; and, besides, you pay for your moments of intellectual delight by having the blues. Emotional delight is followed by no more than jaded senses which speedily recuperate. I envy you, I envy you.” He stopped abruptly, and then on his lips formed one of his strange quizzical smiles, as he added: “It’s from my brain I envy you, take notice, and not from my heart. My reason dictates it. The envy is an intellectual product. I am like a sober man looking upon drunken men, and, greatly weary, wishing he, too, were drunk.” “Or like a wise man looking upon fools and wishing he, too, were a fool,” I laughed. “Quite so,” he said. “You are a blessed, bankrupt pair of fools. You have no facts in your pocketbook.” “Yet we spend as freely as you,” was Maud Brewster’s contribution. “More freely, because it costs you nothing.” “And because we draw upon eternity,” she retorted. “Whether you do or think you do, it’s the same thing. You spend what you haven’t got, and in return you get greater value from spending what you haven’t got than I get from spending what I have got, and what I have sweated to get.”


Mmh. I am very pleased to read from the sea wolf. I only have childhood memories. I put it on my list again. Thank you.


Some more reflections from "Wolf Larsen" - https://old.reddit.com/r/books/comments/1jqpar/what_book_sin...


The problem is not that life is meaningless, it’s that you were taught to expect meaning, thus creating negative affect when you discover the truth. This expectation can be unlearned, and, additionally, you can learn to generate positive affect internally if you choose. Life is meaningless, but I can choose to feel good anyway.


Life does not ask “why?”, it only asks “how?”. Just enjoy being alive! :)

Looking too hard for meaning, even if you zoom out a little to the context of our solar system is a sure way of getting depressed.

The meaning of life is to experience life, in all that it has to offer.

If you have made your arrangements well, then your job is a part of that. Otherwise, at the very least, it is what you need to do to survive at whatever level of comfort you need - don’t knock it, it’s not a small thing!

From experience, this “dark place” is entirely self-manufactured by your own mind that is not taking instructions from you. Working to address that is he way out.


>From experience, this “dark place” is entirely >self-manufactured by your own mind that is not taking >instructions from you. Working to address that is the >way out.

This is a frustrating belief I have come up against time after time from people who cannot seem to understand that their experience isn't everyone's. Most people I know who live in the dark place have plenty of valid external reasons. I know I do. While my mental state can be influenced by attitude to one degree or another, the root cause are entirely NOT self-manufactured. This is a real problem seeking any sort of care for it since people believe as you have stated either from their own experience of "getting better" from nothing but an attitude or primary situational depression etc, or because others have told them so. It's a universal complaint from those I know who have real issues.


> This is a frustrating belief

It is not a belief. It is a realisation that came from 15 years of inner work, for which I literally travelled the world.

But if you want to play the victim and wallow is self pity that is your right - it is your life to live as you please. For me, I was done with that shit a long time ago and chose to do something about it.

That said, I would never claim that it is an easy thing to do. I also realise that some people’s physical circumstances may make this more difficult still - I am very grateful that I have been spared these extra difficulties.

> the root cause are entirely NOT self-manufactured

Unless there is a way someone can beam thoughts into your head, or inject chemicals into you, or mess with electrical circuitry in your brain, what you think and feel is entirely self manufactured within your own body. It is simply your own inability to control your compulsive responses to external stimuli that is causing the problem for you.


> Just enjoy being alive! :)

Telling this is like telling "Just believe in God". Both would be solutions, if it was that simple to format human minds.

Nowadays, the highest rate of suicides is no longer among the young men. In Western countries, the maximum rate is for elder people (65+). Another (correlated) change of demography is that women are much more prone to suicide then a century ago. To these old people that feel that their life is behind them, that they have seen enough of the world so they don't expect anything really new, that their joys have dulled with repetition, is there a universal way to enchant their lives again? I doubt it. Some people will feel dampened at 80, some at 40, and others never will. This can certainly be mitigated, but probably not much.


> Telling this is like telling "Just believe in God".

It is nothing like it. Believing or disbelieving actually means you don’t know, but are not accepting it as that.

If you know something it is useful, if you admit that you don’t know something it is a possibility for knowing, so it is also useful. Belief and disbelief have no such usefulness - it’s just forming an opinion based on what you don’t know. Basically, it’s bullshit.

As for the mind, it’s similar to the body in that it can be trained. It’s not easy but plenty of people have managed. But if you don’t work on it it will never happen. If you wait until your are 60 to start then you will need to do a lot more work.

Nobody can “enchant” your life except for you. If you are willing to put in the effort there are plenty of tools available, after all this problem is as old as humanity. But it is your responsibility to fix your own life.


Science seemingly removed meaning from our lives, with many of us reducing ourselves, like Hawking, to “just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet”.

But what if that’s a bad explanation? I recommend reading David Deutsch’s books. This father of quantum computing makes an incredibly convincing case for restoring our specialness in the universe.

Every single person you see walking down the street, no matter how offensive or incapable, has gifts not found anywhere in the observable universe 92 billion light years wide. That’s a nice thought.


Fwiw, I also had something of a "why" moment in my life - and after a lot of soul-searching, it was establishing a map (flowchart) of values that helped me feel oriented. It guides my "why" for a lot of things, including why I choose to still be a live.

If you're life has become meaningless, perhaps the solution is to give it your own meaning.


> And the only reason I could come up is that there are a few people who would miss me. Nothing in my life really provides meaning. My job provides meaning to the world, but me.

Do you ever wish that nobody would miss you? Or wish to plan a secret getaway and disappear into a new place where nobody knows you so you can live out your life alone?


Disappearing somewhere is my goal. When I grow old and learn that I have this xyz incurable action, I will say just disappear and die a John Doe.


Yep. If I disappeared, I'd tear a hole in some people's lives that I just don't want to do.


Life and existence itself are meaningful. Short as it may be. Given that you will be dead for more than a billion times a billion years at least, why would you rush to that inevitable end instead of wondering for a short while about life and death and the peculiar universe we find ourselves in now?


Life may not have meaning in a fundamental way but it has beauty and fun bits. It's probably best to focus on those and try to enjoy the ride. And maybe try to change your circumstances if they are rubbish.


For a great many people starting a family provides a lot of meaning. It seems as if moving away from that has left people existentially adrift.


As noted in the initial post, the sociologist Durkheiem did show that people living with a partner and children were less inclined to suicide. But I wouldn't build an advice from it.

In a similar way, I've seen a few couples making a baby in order to patch their vanishing relationship. It never ended well. I've also known two fathers that ended their life despite the love of their wives and children. Having a family reduces the rate of suicide, but it also increase its potential damage. I don't think it should be recommended as a therapy.


I’m not saying it’s good therapy. I’m saying that at a macro level that the disintegration of the family unit is one of the root causes of this particular type of existential depression.


I thought the same way for a while, perhaps I still do in a way. After thinking about it a while, I settled on this. It might help. Probably wont.

The universe indeed, has not prescribed in its laws, a purpose for human beings, or a set of morals to uphold. The only purpose evolution gives us is to pass on genes. Hardly inspiring. I think instead, that we should spread our beliefs. How should we treat people? What is moral, what's not? Let's move humanity ever so slightly and slowly closer to our ideals.

Its true that we all only have a tiny part to play, and that really goes for all of us. Society is huge, and it changes slowly. People act on their beliefs, and anyone could change a few people, contributing to the slow shift of rhetoric and societal values and beliefs.

Another somewhat unrelated thing that might help you is the disbelief in Free Will - for that, check out Sam Harris' seminar on it: https://youtu.be/pCofmZlC72g


Life never has a meaning. Whatever you do, will be washed away with death. As death is inevitable, you don't have to worry about it. Until it comes, try to enjoy things. Practical way to do this is - stop thinking. if-else won't work. get some physical activity or some creative work. chck book - wisdom in insecurity by alan watts. initial pages may not sound good, but after that it is gem. once you start enjoying each moment without worry (even worry of meaning) of future and past, death is also just another moment.

For boredom, stop using cellphone, facebook, HN and everything for few days. And invest in building, creating or watever work you like, with focus. If you don't like anything, just start with something, after few days you will see difference. key here is patience.

Above both statements seem contradictory. But that is how life works. Get away from instant pleasures. Devote to process without thinking about fruits. See nature. Gist is start doing something, stop worrying outcome and focus on finishing it but don't get obsessed with fruits. This is also meaningless but it will give some involvement in life and take a away from thoughts.

Remember always, life is all about journey not destination. Make your ride enjoyable. Either you enjoy or not, destination is fixed. Your ride is your responsibility, not others. If you keep thinking, you will miss beautiful scenery of life.

if you're spiritual person, look into indian advaita philosophy and stoicism.

http://theory.stanford.edu/~sbansal/geeta_saar/geeta_saar.ht...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8MeqJxs4iM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi#Self-enquiry


American society, led by its rich, capitalist elites, divides people into winners and losers, from the time children are born through their whole lives. People are buried in a system of hierarchy and dominance. If you want people to feel like they belong you have to put an end to that system. There can be no more winners. Get rid of the private schools, the prom kings, machine guns, homelessness, “good” neighborhoods, private planes, the whole damn system. Build compassion and equality and accountability into everything. Deprive the winners of the satisfaction of dominating the losers.


Hierarchy and dominance are built into our DNA. If you believe in evolution, then you might believe that we have evolved this way.

Winners choose the outcome because they have won. There’s nothing American about this.

What you’re asking for is: you won using methodology A, so now provide an environment so that methodology B might thrive.

This doesn’t change the fact that methodology A is the route that got us here.


i think this is a bit hyperbole. There are a lot of Americans who live happy, quiet, and mediocre lives. Every society from the beginning of time had a hierarchy, and this will never change. It is just how is the hierarchy formed? Is it through meritocracy? or is it through nepotism, divine rights, and what not.


I found reading the bhagvad Gita gave me a lot of direction when I get into that state


Can we really look at the past for direction? It was more or less full of conflict. We need modern solutions to modern problems (or not so modern problems), not regress towards old points of view.


Progress is getting closer to achieving a goal. Just because something is newer or 'modern' does not mean that it is progress. Look at the regress of the 20th century with the modern regimes that were going to usher in utopia.

Progress may also mean avoiding dead ends. If you goal is to get to the moon, climbing the nearest tree is not progress. It's regress.

So, no, we don't need modern solutions. We need effective solutions. If the solution happens to be modern, that is besides the point.




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