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Death & The meaninglessness of life.

Jaded Dreams

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To begin, meaninglessness isn't a negative concept - it's neutral. I never really understood why so many people seek it out as if it's absolutely necessary to have. Meaning is an unnatural social construct…an idea, and nothing more.

I think the reason humans believe they have a need for meaning is because we have evolved to understand cause and effect. Understanding cause and effect has helped gain an advantage over other animals in that it helps us to identify patterns over time, understand the causes for occurrences, and enable us to capitalize on those patterns. We actively seek "why" things happen because that's the core of who we are as a species. But, this all breaks down in the face of death and our short time here. We simply can't explain why We are here, especially YOU who is reading this. It's the ultimate "why" question that cannot be answered. Yet so many pursue answers to this question until the day they die and with ultimately nothing to show for it.

The problem is that humans have difficulty dealing with unanswerable questions. Many will adopt a popular belief system (and some make their own up) in order to ignore the unpleasantries of contemplating how absurd it is to exist. My "why" question is "why can't people just try to find a way to deal with reality as it is without these meaningless crutches?" Acceptance is pretty key here.

This leads to probably the most fundamental human problem that most never really think about: the concept of "nothing". The state of non-existence and nothingness is incomprehensible to most people. Imagining space without absolutely any matter inside is angst inducing, just as imagining your own subjective state of non existence is incomprehensible. There is a timeless infinity before you were born and after you die, and so people scramble to find a timeless something while they are alive in order to hide their eyes from the abyss that lies mere moments away on the cosmic timescale.

From my perspective, asking "What is the meaning of life?" or "Why is life so meaningless?" at least philosophically, is like asking whether or not Santa Claus thinks you've been bad or good this year. I'm perfectly fine without objective meaning, because it was never anything to be had. Meaning is a phantom, an illusion…something taught to us, and I prefer to eliminate illusions in my life. Anyone who claims to know the meaning of life is delusional - and anyone who attempts to convince you that any objective meaning exists is simply trying to sell their idea to you, much like I am doing right now. The only difference with me is that I know that it doesn't really matter what you choose to believe.

During the course of my life, I've realized a few important facts that help support this view:

  1. People say and do things as if they will care about the result when they are dead. Leaving a lasting legacy, caring about your grandchildren's future, serving your community, etc. It's pretty normal and "good" to be like that…I'm sure we all appreciate it. But, ultimately, nothing you do ever matters. Whether it's the homeless guy on the street or Elon Musk, nothing will last and none of it will be carved into infinity. When you are dead, you won't care, and the people you affected will die as well and not care. Eventually the planet will be engulfed by the sun, or, if we are lucky enough to evolve to be space faring, the universe will end one way or another. Everything will be erased, including all personal achievements. The great equalizer! So, I do what I need to do in order to be satisfied in life, but beyond that, all else is a waste of time and life. Don't do things that don't give you satisfaction. This is very important for me personally, and for you (maybe), but it doesn't matter in the end.
  2. Either the universe exists on its own and is meaningless or we are in a simulation. Or maybe both. Who knows? "Absolutely no one" is the correct answer. When you find the answer to how you subjectively exist, then you may be able to answer why the universe exists. The universe is this thing that became and now is, and it's mind boggling to think about. I realize that my attempts and latent desire to assign a purpose or creator to my own existence and the universe is just one of the many limitations of my own human mind.
  3. I highly suspect there is no afterlife. There is nothing more tragic than being born into existence only to grow thoughts and reflections on how someday you will stop existing….and then stop existing. That's where religion and "spirituality" come into play. Why can't we try to understand nonexistence instead? One way I can think how to observe and experience a null state is by observing your own blind spot. You stare straight ahead with one eye closed while holding up your index finger on the same side straight out in front of you. Keep staring straight ahead, as you move your finger to the outside towards your peripheral vision, it will pass through an area where it will disappear. This is your blind spot - the one place where nothing exists (at least visually), and your brain does a great job helping you to ignore it. It's not black or dark, it's a manifestation of your brain, where it fills in a blank. You can almost see all those nerves doing all they can to hide that place from you.
  4. Anesthesia is simulated, temporary death. In this state, you have no awareness or memory of anything. It's only oblivion, just like people who are in a vegetative state…their body is alive but they (what makes them them) simply aren't there. It's frightening to think about at first, but over time you get used to it. In August 2020, I had sinus surgery and went under anesthesia, making it a point to really focus on my experience of going under. It wasn't like being "deactivated" and then waking up…it was experiencing null. There was no discernible transition - one minute I'm laying on the table staring at a monitor, and then I sort of re-materialized immediately in another room 2 hours later. But the most important part of the experience is that there is no observable crossing point into nothingness - it was a spectrum of deactivation without the ability to monitor the deactivation. Again, the best way to describe this is with the analogy of your visual blind spot, except you can actually observe the "nothingness" of your blind spot - Anesthesia is fully experiencing it. The descent into nothing is real, and I'm pretty sure that death is an identical experience except with maybe some interesting additional virtual reality that your brain gives you as you fade away. So if your mind consciousness came from nothing and will become nothing, what are you?
  5. "You" are not one thing. You are just a vast set of neural pathways, processes, and stored memories that perform many different tasks both simultaneously and continuously and make who you are. You emerge from those processes (and you have been emerging from these processes since you were born), which is the single greatest thing in all of reality. But if you were to be able to shut off those processes one by one, you would fall to lower levels of consciousness and existence until (quite possibly) you reach a binary simplistic thought state made possible by only a few neural pathways. A series of blips and flashes with the null state in between. This is one area of neuroscience that is ripe for experimentation - the possibility of turning on and off specific parts of the brain that we know perform specific tasks (such as self reflection, risk assessment, meta thinking, goal creation, future state simulation, etc) and then objectively observing AND subjectively experiencing the effects. Surely, any person that goes through this study (and has a strong mind to deal with the realizations afterwards) would be much more informed on not so much "who" they are but "what" they are and "how" they are manifested in their own brain.
  6. Consciousness isn't a thing either - it's a phenomenon. I keep hearing new age people say that the universe is pure consciousness - it's not, because there is no such thing as pure consciousness as I've described above. It's like saying pure sight - the concept makes no sense at all. There are varying degrees of sight, from total blindness to eagle vision. Consciousness is the same.
  7. When you die and stop existing, the universe stops existing for you as well. The universe and the self are one in the same - one cannot exist without the other. "Of course" the universe doesn't really stop, but your experience, ability to contemplate it, and relation to it certainly does. So for all intents and purposes, from your perspective, the universe ends when you die.
  8. …but it also began when you were born. And there's the twist; from your own subjective perspective and experience, there is nothing before you and nothing after you. You might even consider that you are the eternal being (just you) willing yourself and reality into existence into a reality that seems too simple to be true. You are essentially a god of sorts - the god of your own experience, and no one else's. A "god" who exists, experiences, and then doesn't. You are a god who can be powerless or powerful depending on your circumstances. You lurched into reality somehow, and now here you are. Your entire relationship with reality is you and nothing but you, and you will never know if everyone else you know is experiencing likewise. It's unprovable either way….this reality has plausible deniability integrated at the bedrock of all those unanswerable existential questions - everything is conjecture in the space between our ears.
With all that, what's the point? There is none. None whatsoever. At least not outside of your own experience. And what's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing is wrong. It's been this way all your life, and nothing has changed knowing this. You can give meaning to life if you want to. Although there is null infinity before and after you die, you also have an infinity between your birth and death. Take a minute, divide that in half, and again, and continue doing so to infinity. That's how much time there is in your life. Well, maybe that's not so great at providing solace. But, that's the space where you can make your own meaning and live your life the way you see fit. If you believe in god and experience it in a subjective way, just remember that it's just you. All you.

Do what you want. Work. Or play. Or do nothing at all. Legacy is nothing but a sandcastle waiting for the tide. Live for your life…or live for someone else's. It doesn't really matter. Personally, I generally like life, have had a wide range of experiences, and wish it to continue indefinitely. Accepting non existence doesn't conflict with wanting to live indefinitely - it actually drives the desire for life more. One way to have a chance at extended life is to sign up to be cryopreserved knowing humanity is projected to have technology in the far future to revive you and enable near immortality. - I suggest checking out Alcor or The Cryonics Institute. Those are your only chances for now. The two things you definitely have are the will to make decisions/adapt and the ability to experience. And if you want to take it even farther, reflect upon oblivion….reflect on incomprehensible Null and be at peace with its incomprehensibleness. That most certainly helps me deal with it all. Finding meaning in the universe is nothing but chasing a rainbow. It appears beautiful and inviting, but the more you try to approach it, it will always be out of reach until it - and you - is gone.

So in short - "everything is ever changing in an unpredictable pattern that we try to understand (and may one day wit the advent of AGI understand) but can't and at the event of death it all ceases to matter and mean. The only thing that should subjectively matter to the individual is the present life. "
 
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EtymonLegomenon

Well-Known Traveler
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"Meaning is an unnatural social construct…an idea, and nothing more."
Unnatural? Where does nature end? The quest to interpret, define significance, and make meaning of things is a genetic, evolved instinct and one that has only been interrogated in the past 180 years or so. And you condescend to "social constructs" like they're nothing - is sanitation nothing? How about religion? Meaning sounds like a lot more than just "an idea."

"We simply can't explain why We are here, especially YOU who is reading this. It's the ultimate "why" question that cannot be answered. Yet so many pursue answers to this question until the day they die and with ultimately nothing to show for it."
Absolute nonsense - it's not clear that people have nothing to show for it (I think almost ANY religion with an explanation for creation would have to disagree with you there!), and most people do NOT question why they exist. It's not a question most people are equipped to grapple with, nor one they are interested in, because they aren't interested in challenging thought. Instead of attempting to answer the question, or any related question of existence, they simply follow everyone else's lead and say something like, "We simply can't explain why We are here."

"My "why" question is "why can't people just try to find a way to deal with reality as it is without these meaningless crutches?" Acceptance is pretty key here."
"Acceptance" is the opposite of "confronting an issue." I see why it's key!

"Anyone who claims to know the meaning of life is delusional - and anyone who attempts to convince you that any objective meaning exists is simply trying to sell their idea to you, much like I am doing right now. The only difference with me is that I know that it doesn't really matter what you choose to believe."
But surely if meaning is constrained within man, it should be entirely plausible to figure out at least some bits and pieces of it? That's not a very skeptical claim. It doesn't follow that, since you can choose to believe anything, it doesn't matter what you believe. If you have any kind of value systems greater than yourself at all - such as "pain is bad" or "procreating is good" - then it greatly matters what you choose to believe, such as whether to brush your teeth twice a day or to pick up women.

"People say and do things as if they will care about the result when they are dead. But, ultimately, nothing you do ever matters."
Then it doesn't make sense not to kill yourself. In fact it's manifestly intellectually dishonest not to. You assume that you are the actor of your decisions - not, for instance, your genes, which WILL, literally, live on after your death, and of whom you are merely an operation.

"Either the universe exists on its own and is meaningless or we are in a simulation. Or maybe both. Who knows? "Absolutely no one" is the correct answer.""
So you ONLY do things when you are CERTAIN about them?

"I highly suspect there is no afterlife."
Meanwhile: a paragraph ago "no one knows anything about the universe!"

"So for all intents and purposes, from your perspective, the universe ends when you die."
Did your parents never tell you "you mean the world to me"? Did you not get it? Was that meaning too meaningless, subjective and socially-constructed for you to get?

"One way to have a chance at extended life is to sign up to be cryopreserved knowing humanity is projected to have technology in the far future to revive you and enable near immortality. - I suggest checking out Alcor or The Cryonics Institute."
ahaha the hypocrisy is unimaginable
"Everything is meaningless, everything is permissible, but life gives me dopaminergic titillation, so you should go to my website WWW dot GetFrozen dot Com, where I sell cryopreservation kits and also Frozen on Blu-Ray and DVD."
 
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aga

Nihilism is boring.​

meaninglessness isn't a negative concept - it's neutral.
This could be true, but then what? You can call a newly minted dairy, a book; It has almost all the physicals characteristics a book has, and the only difference is one has meaningful words printed on the pages and the other has the empty pages. But a empty dairy is boring and a book, however boring, is more interesting.

Even if objectively Nihilism is the truth of the universe, but it is still too boring
Time passes whether you're bored or engaged. Why not engage yourself in something interesting.

plus, there is no way to become space faring species if we all embrace Nihilism
 

DKKHA

New Traveler
Meaninglessness is also a mental construct, since it's merely an inversion of another mental construct (meaning). If one fails to recognize this, they are bound to cycle through periods of meaning and meaninglessness in their personal life. Letting go of both is the key to balance if one wishes to reduce unnecessary stress.

Actions may not have meaning, but every action definitely has an effect. Even your tiniest actions may send cascading ripples across time and space in such a way that, with enough time, two timelines may look completely different. You smiling and saying hello to a person who looks sad may be the difference in them committing suicide versus continuing to live. In this view, no action is meaningless. A meaningless action would be one that would have no effect. Are there any causes without effects?

As to the question of afterlife, I find the nihilist view more hard to believe. If there was nothing before birth, out of that nothingess somehow came out this sequence of conscious moments that I call my life. If there is nothing after death as well, how come it cannot happen again? To me it makes more sense that if something can happen once, it can happen again. An infinity in such nothingness would feel like an instant, as you felt during your anesthesia. If the subjective passage of time is altered by the degree of perception, then even an infinite period of time with no perception would pass as an instant. Only my self view was born at birth and will die at death, but since the self is just another mental construct, its dissolution does not imply the dissolution of the mind stream. The stream of mind will most likely crawl its way out of nothingness just like it did before birth, in another place and time. An amnesic journey with no discernible beginning or end. In other words, samsara.
 
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