By Tarun Chandy
The Meaning of Life
A couple of months ago my life took an unexpected turn when I accidentally graduated from college. I say accidentally because up until recently, I was supposed to have at least one more year in the adolescent paradise of Chapman University. One more year of reckless freedom and carefree immaturity, before being consumed by responsibilities and obliged to grow the fuck up. So how did I manage to unwittingly miss out on that extra year of my life? Who knows! The American college credit system is a mystery that not even the Professors fully understand. What I did know was that this summer marked the end of an era for me. A turning point that I felt somewhat unprepared for. And as I contemplated the person I had been throughout my college career and the daunting path I had ahead of me, something made me feel like my identity needed a little reevaluation. As part of my passion project, I thus set off on a journey aimed at inspiring personal growth over the months to come. A solitary quest in search of the Meaning of Life.
Though it might sound like an elaborate feat in principle, my approach makes it far more straightforward. I simply aim to engage with people from a wide cross section of society, and find out where the meaning in their lives lie. And though it has been rather enlightening thus far, this morning I stopped and asked myself WHY. When the whole world seems to let meaning find them naturally, and to be merely influenced by the situations fate sends their way, WHY was I going out of my way to address the question head on? What was it about my personality that needed such desperate reconfiguration in the first place?
Well, as far back as I can remember I’ve prided myself on being a critical thinker. Yet, somewhere along the line, I went from being an intellectual to being a cynic. I could see the flaws in everything and the meaning in nothing. It reached a point where there was practically no ideology I came across that I couldn’t find a way to criticize and mock. Here are some examples…
If you told me you were religious, I wouldn’t argue that God didn’t exist but simply that he didn’t really seem to care about either one of us.
If you told me you were ambitious, I’d find a way to tell you that what you were really chasing was either social status, parental approval, or material rewards, then translating into a Tyler Durden-eque critique of consumerism.
If you told me you were an environmentalist, I’d argue that in a world where no minor social movement is ever going to curb climate change, the only real solution is for everyone to stop having children. Because when there is no next generation to worry about, we can exploit our resources to our hearts content and let the species go out with a bang.
If you told me you were a vegan or animal rights activist, I could give you my elaborate philosophical argument for why no life (humans included) has any inherent value, as opposed to the unfounded idea that all of them do. And when laid out logically, it would make sense, even to you.
If you told me you were a capitalist, socialist, communist, libertarian or simply a believer in democracy, I’d tell you exactly why every form of social order is either an infringement on our freedom, an inescapable path to inequality or just way too reliant on the opinions of the misinformed.
If you told me you were a patriot I’d probably just laugh my ass off, regardless of the country.
My cynicism turned to pessimism and often just plain narcissism. I had too readily accepted the idea that life had no meaning, without considering the consequences this could have for my personality. My passion project has been an effort to escape the person I used to be. An urge to give humanity another chance to prove itself, and to actually listen before I criticized. It isn’t about finding something to believe in as much as simply admiring those who still believe. And in order to survive in the world beyond the college campus, I feel like it’s something I have to do.