Some people believe that the realization that nothing matters necessarily means falling into despair, laziness, and apathy. Believing that nothing matters means nothing without consequent action, and it is up to each individual to determine how they react to this realization. Again, the belief that life is meaningless comes, at times, as a complaint against the world and against existence itself. Some people say that nothing matters and then throw everything in the air, as if this belief suddenly makes everything uncontrollably arbitrary, yet this is not the case. You exist, therefore some action must be taken, and this action will either enforce your belief that your existence is useless or whether you are doing something with your time that you think is worthwhile. Refusing to do something that is potentially worthwhile is not the right thing to do. It is an act which is portrayed as intellectual superiority, yet is in fact a result of cowardice. Nietzsche said that suffering, and only suffering, has created ‘all enhancements of man so far’.
New year expectations always seem to be somewhat unrealistic. We seem to want to change ourselves so much over such a short period of time that when we realise that our hopes and expectations are not becoming a reality in the time we wished, everything collapses and we fall back into the old habits we so desperately wished to remove or replace. Heraclitus, one of the most notorious pre-Socratic philosophers, wrote that everything is in a state of change except change itself. We ourselves will change, whether we will it or not, and so it is not whether we change, but how we change. You can never become the person you once were, yet what is possible is that you begin to become the person you want to be, yet to do this it is necessary to start directing change in a positive direction at a pace that is realistic and attainable-‘once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed’ Schopenhauer. A sprint will not get you to the top, but a steady jog will, and once you reach the summit, things will become easier and easier.
The title is from Fight Club, and is pointing to inherent pointlessness of improving oneself, particularly in the context of a consumerist society. Moreover, it critiques the ideas of individuality in consumerism. Tyler Durden goes on to say ‘Now self-destruction…’ suggesting that self-destruction is the way forward. Rather than focusing on our own improvement through meaningless consumerism and so-called achievement, Tyler Durden seems to be suggesting that we should look outside of ourselves and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of others. Of course there is the contrast between masturbation and sex-masturbation is lonely and fundamentally pointless, whereas sex is an act with another person. If we spend our time merely improving ourselves, we will become lonely and partaking in acts that are meaningless, yet if we turn away from this we can really live as we should, and we can begin to accept ourselves as we are, and embrace our dissatisfaction, rather than trying to quell it with self-improvement, which eventually does not change anything. It’s about removing that part of yourself which relies on the recognition of others, which only wants to impress others, and then pursuing what you want to do without the pressures of the opinions of other. It’s about destroying the self that society gives us, and creating something new from the ashes. The things thrown at us by society don’t make us better human beings, but they do make us feel like we are better human beings, thereby deluding us. From this we must break free.
We are programmed to find comfort. It’s natural. We seek pleasure and avoid pain because that’s what our brain is trained to do, through years and years of evolution. Putting ourselves through exhaustive or exertive circumstances is a fight against ourselves. Everything our brain has been programmed to search for savagely is at hand-food, water and (potentially) sex. It’s easy to sink into a state of doing nothing, since all our needs, says our brain, are fulfilled, and so we don’t need to do anything else. Our brains are right, but they’re also wrong. All our survival needs are met, but that does not mean we, as people, are satisfied. The things which we want to achieve are usually hard work to attain, and this involves a battle between your will and what your brain wants. Your brain wants comfort and pleasure, but you want to push yourself, to experience hardship now for the sake of gain later. This is what you must do then-fight yourself. Battle against your brain’s instincts and if your will is strong enough, you will win.
Lingering inside our own heads is a habit which is, at least in the world of work and commute, becoming less and less common. On the way to work adverts are everywhere, telling us how to think and pulling us away from entertaining any thoughts of our own. Phones and other devices enable us to distract ourselves from our minds, also controlling our stream of thought. Little opportunity is there for quiet and distraction-free time just to live inside our own head and explore the vast extent of our own selves. Real time alone is becoming more and more scarce, and it is harder, in a world obsessed with haste and getting as much done as quickly as possible, just to stop and sit in a quiet room. Why is it, though, that Pascal says that all men’s miseries stem from this? Not only does sitting in a quiet room enable us to explore ourselves, but it also provides time for deliberating upon our troubles and contemplating the generally trivial nature of our misery. Without this time, we are unable to separate ourselves from our problems, and thereby we become deeply engrossed and entrenched by our problems, simply because we do not distance ourselves from them, something that can easily be done through simple quiet thought. Sparing time for this basic yet effective action is crucial for dealing with life’s troubles, and gives us time to reflect, a thing which might at first seem scary, yet is on all accounts necessary.
The future you is already someone else. Some other person has written a book, some other person can run a marathon, some other person has the job you want. The goals you have today have most likely already been achieved by other people. This fact can do two things:
I) it lets us know that what are aiming for is possible, and so we know that, if we try hard enough, we can attain it
II) it can be used as a target. Using Ovid’s quote about horses running fast when other horses are in front, we can use the fact that people are ahead of us as a booster and a motivational tool to work more intensely and passionately towards what we want to do.
Another quote of Ovid, the notorious Roman poet: ‘Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.’ This quote expresses the good of sacrifice and suffering. Not all suffering is good, but not all suffering is bad either. The pain you experience now is worth the gains you will experience later. It’s a simple fact. If we want to be good at something, we have to be willing to hurt for it, for our goal, for ourselves.
First, then, be willing. Be open to pain, and soon enough, if used in the right way, that pain will open the doors of satisfaction.
We all have comfort zones, accustomed places and routines. It’s not surprising really, given that it’s in our nature to seek comfort. Comfort is what it is-comforting. Yet, should we always seek comfort so easily? One might say that comfort is both uninteresting and mediocre. Little worthwhile is gained from comfort. Alain de Botton said that people only start to become interesting ‘when they start to rattle the bars of their cages.’ Great things come from pain, sacrifice, discomfort. How can we evolve if all we spend our time doing is working for money and watching endless TV and endless social media feeds? A life of comfort is nothing to be ashamed of, yet is it something to be truly proud of? Comfort is good, I do not deny that, but is comfort always good? Perhaps, you might say, it is. But if you always lived in ‘comfort’, would you have created anything you thought was worth anything? The best of things are made from the worst of times.
If you want to come near to experiencing the feeling of being alive, first you must leave your comfort zone.