Come On People: Let’s Cut the Crap!

This is a plea against humanity and its deeply ingrained narrow-mindedness.

For as long as we can remember it has been the same old story: people have different beliefs –> people believe that only their beliefs are true –> people feel endangered by other people’s beliefs –> people find it okay to attack those who have different beliefs. This is the ever repeating cycle of human ignorance: a cycle we – apparently – cannot escape. Just when we think we’ve figured it all out, just when we believe peace is within reach, a new group of people takes over control and yells: ‘Listen guys: this is what we’re going to do.’ This is how far we have come as a species, and it pretty much seems like we have reached the limits of our capabilities: we simply cannot do better than this.

Instead of focusing ourselves on the real issues we earthlings could be dealing with, we are too busy feeling insecure and in need of protecting ourselves against other insecure and vulnerable people. While we could be treating each other as part of the same big earthly family, which could help us in protecting ourselves against the vast and unknown universe out there, our perspectives are so limited that we cannot even come to peace with the only ‘intelligent’ creatures we know: ourselves.

When will the time arrive that we will come to comprehend our ignorance and, which is one step further, accept it? Because only by accepting our ignorance will we be able to move on. Only by admitting that we are all the same in our journey through the absurd situation we call ‘life’, can we can shed of our cloaks of pretentiousness and appropriated authority, and come to treat the earth as our own little cosmic garden.

On a cosmic scale, we are nothing more than a group of particle-sized monkeys, fighting each other over whose banana tastes better. And although none of us has any idea of what ‘the best’ banana would taste like, we keep on acting as if we do. I am not going to beg you to throw away your banana, or to acknowledge that ‘taste is just in the tongue of the taster,’ but it would be so much better for all of us if we could just cut the crap and start making some progress. Let’s go people.

Religion and The Absurd

There are times at which I envy religious people. Their sense of determination, of knowing where all of this is about and what to do with it, can seem very alluring at times. Like it can really put your mind at ease. And why wouldn’t it? After all, religious people always know that, no matter what they are faced with in life, they will always be able to come up with an explanation that is 100 percent bulletproof. An explanation that always points to the one single source of everything. Down to God himself. That truly must be a peaceful mindset, right?

Wrong. Reality contradicts this assumption. For it seems fair to say that religions, or differences in religion, are an important – if not the most important – cause of war in this world of ours. And since war is – by definition – not peaceful, it is fair to say that not all theists experience peaceful consequences through adhering to their religion.

But this article is not an attempt to criticize religion. This article zooms in at the different positions regarding religion, and the reasonableness – or unreasonableness – of each.

Teapot
First of all atheism. I have established that I am not an atheist. For to be an atheist, one must reject to believe in the existence of deities. And I most certainly do not reject believing in deities. At least: not as long as it is someone else who does the believing; not me, for I don’t believe in any deity.

Neither do I consider myself to be an agnostic. An agnostic claims that one will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of deities. Therefore one should postpone judgement (possibly indefinitely) about the existence of any deity. Agnosticism as thus defined doesn’t seem to be unreasonable. However, it leaves one with an unwanted consequence, being: one can reflect only on those entities that definitely do or definitely do not exist.

Let me clarify this. Suppose I say that – somewhere in space – there is a teapot floating around. The existence of this teapot can neither be proved nor disproved. Should we hence be agnostic about its existence? This seems unreasonable, for we might have reasons to suppose that the existence of such a teapot is extremely improbable. But notions such as probability do not make any sense from an agnostic point of view. For how can something be more or less probable, given the fundamental assumption that one cannot make any reasonable judgement about the existence of entities that cannot be proved or disproved? If the latter would be true, one cannot talk about probability; for probability – or at least everything between 0 and 100 percent – is not absolute like a proof or disproof. If one cannot accept this consequence, one should not be an agnostic.

But then the unavoidable question pops up: what then am I? Is there a group of like-minded people I belong to? Is there a religion or a philosophy that suits my particular ideas and intuitions? Or am I forever doomed to wander around lonely on this earth of ours, searching for my very own, not yet formulated, views on life?

Baby Jesus
The answer is no. Because recently something special happened: my very own baby Jesus was born. My lord and saviour. While surfing on the internet, I stumbled upon the philosophical position called ‘absurdism’, and I was hooked right away. What is absurdism? The best way to explain it, is to zoom in at its fundamental notion: the Absurd. The ‘Absurd’ refers to ‘the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any’. Note that absurdism does not consider it to be ‘logically impossible’ to find meaning in life; it just considers it ‘humanly impossible’ to do so. That is a subtle but very important distinction. It is this distinction that implies that, even though there might be an absolute meaning of life floating around somewhere in this universe of ours, we – simple human beings of flesh and blood – will never be able to find it.

And that’s it, right? We simply cannot come to know how things ‘truly’ are, including the ‘true meaning’ of life. We are doomed to live within the boundaries of our own little worlds. We are unable to trade our points of view for any other humanly conceivable point of view. The latter implies that we can never come to an absolute grasp of ‘the truth’; supposing that such a thing would exist. Surely: if everyone would develop the same beliefs about what is true and what is not, about what is right and what is not, seemingly universal ideas tend to emerge. But the question we must then ask ourselves is: were these ideas universal before people considered them to be so? Or did they become universal because everyone believed them?

Meaning
A note of caution is in place. For an absurdist does not always lead a happy life. There is always one major danger hiding in the corner. Absurdism implies the absolute freedom of humanity, the non-existence of any shackles besides the ones we have created ourselves. But sometimes this destined freedom of ours conflicts with what is the human longing for certainty. A longing to know how things truly are; a need to know who or what is behind all this craziness we call life. Absurdism claims that we cannot come to know these certainties. And when this observation strikes, it strikes hard: a feeling of powerlessness tends to take control over our minds and bodies. That’s an inevitable consequence of appreciating the Absurd.

But then, a little later, when you get yourself together, and taste again of the juices of total meaninglessness, of total freedom, you realize that you have found true love after all. You will realize that it is the only path leading to something that at times comes close to meaning. For even though the absurdist knows that he will not find any absolute meaning of life, it is in the very act of trying to find it, that he finds fulfilment. The fulfilment he is longing for. The fulfilment he proudly calls life.

Have you ever thought about what your most fundamental beliefs are? Upon what beliefs you have built your life? And have you ever asked yourself why those are the beliefs that have the authority to determine the remainder of your framework of beliefs?

But what do you think?

Getting Addicted to Cigarettes…on Purpose

This might be one the stupidest articles you’ve ever read. My apologies for that.

Four months ago, I decided to start smoking. Why? I don’t know. Probably a combination of factors: I was fascinated by the series Californication, in which the main character (Hank Moody) smokes. Although it is sad to admit, it might be that watching him smoke sparked my curiosity about why it is people grab to cigarettes. Also, I have always been wondering whether smoking is primarily a physiological addiction (an addiction of the body) or a psychological one (an addiction of the mind). I could never understand why less than 25 percent of those who want to quit smoking, actually manage to do so. I always thought: if you want to stop, then you can stop. I mean: if you want to stop travelling by car, you can just stop taking the car, right? So given these ‘rational’ considerations, I decided to take up the cigarette, and start my journey of addiction.

Now, four months later, I have decided to stop. My little ‘experiment’ has provided me with the information I was looking for. I experienced what it is that makes you want to light up a cigarette. And, what I can say, it is more of a psychological addiction than a physiological addiction. It is the feeling of allowing yourself a break from what it is that you are doing. Also, the habit of smoking a cigarette every morning during your ‘morning walk’ gives you a clear signal that the day took off; a feeling as if the referee blew his whistle and the match has started.

However, I must admit that there are also physiological factors that make you want to grab a cigarette. In case you drink coffee (which is more likely than that you smoke), you can compare it to that longing for a cup of coffee to give your the energy you need to get through the day. And, as with drinking coffee, the first cigarette/cup of coffee gives the relative biggest ‘boost’; the relative biggest satisfaction in calming down your longing for nicotine/caffeine.

I’m not sure whether I have become truly addicted to cigarettes. I can only tell how I feel, and that’s what I’ve described above. And – since I’ve been drinking (much) coffee for the last couple of years, and I can fairly say that I’m addicted to caffeine – I think my smoking adventure will have likewise effects. Probably, even though I ‘quitted’, I’ll keep (at least for a while) on having that same longing for cigarettes as I have for coffee. I wonder which impulses will be tougher to handle: the psychological or the physiological. I am curious, and a little anxious, to find out.

What do you think?

The Ego and The Id: Beauty and The Beast

There it is again: that feeling of purposelessness. What to do about it? I might go on with whatever it is that I’m doing right now, hoping that the feeling will eventually fade away. But I know that that won’t help: it never does. Or I might try to grab some sleep and possibly feel fresh and productive again when I’ll wake up. But I don’t want to waste my precious little time on this planet sleeping just to get through the day. I might go read something, and possibly become inspired by some great stories. But there’s not that much interesting stuff around to read, at least not much that really gets down to the core of where it’s all about. So, what choices do I have left? Not many. So I guess I just have to face the feeling head on. Get my head straight, figure out why it is that I have this feeling, and possibly – as in a therapeutic Freudian manner – calm down my unconscious drives by ‘channeling’ them through my Ego. The drives won’t leave by themselves, so it’s better to find a way to use them in a constructive fashion, than to suppress them and let them linger on in my life. So that’s what I’m trying to do by writing this article.

In a sense my entire blog is a quest to do just that: channel my uncontrollable and inexplicable drives by promising to give them what they want: answers. And even though my Ego knows that there are no answers, or at least no definite ones, my unconscious Id doesn’t know. My Id is retarded in the sense that I can’t think properly, given that it would be able to think at all. The Id is an iPhone you carry around all day and that starts beeping when a new message is received. And although you don’t want to listen to it, because you just want to go on with your life, you just can’t ignore whatever it might have to say. Because, although it might be smart, the Ego can’t set any goals. The Ego is like a calculator, calculating the most efficient route to whatever goal you might have. And this ‘whatever goal you might have’ is determined by the Id, the part of you that bases its decisions on evolutionary induced impulses, pushing you to the refrigerator and to the internet (if you know what I mean).

But what if they could work together? What if they could live happily ever after in harmony, dividing the mental labor as if Adam Smith was there to delegate it? That would be great: Beauty and The Beast working together. Beauty being so consciously aware of its environment, and the Beast just taking her wherever he wants to. Great, let’s do that!

What do you think?

We’ve Got You God!

Life is a joke. And a damn good one. If you were a God, and you would want to have a laugh, and you could create anything you’d want to, what would you do? What would you create? I know what I would do: I would create a world with little ‘things’ on it, give these things a limited capacity to think, and then just see what happens, just see what they will come up with. Just watch them running around. Each morning and evening I would take a look at them, look at how they deal with the situation I’d put them in. Watching them form alliances, working their asses off, fighting each other and thinking: thinking about why it actually is that they are there.

Think about it: if you would have to create an absolute absurd situation, and you would have unlimited powers to do so, what would you come up with? Probably not a series like Family Guy, right? No, you would strive for the best: for the most absurd thing you could come up with. After all, why would you create Family Guy, if you could create a world, put creatures on it, program these creatures so that they think they are able to discover the world’s secrets but – without most of them realising it – make them incapable of doing so. Maybe you would put a few ‘natural laws’ in order: the law of gravity, electromagnetism etc., or come up with a few ‘elements’ (protons, neutrons, electrons etc.) that make up everything in the creatures’ world, including themselves.

But you would never reveal everything: you would never explain the purpose behind all of it, because you don’t want the creatures to unravel the mystery you have created. There has to be a point at which their limited abilities fail. Them knowing about electrons and other irrelevant entities is okay, but having them know anything of real value would just spoil the fun. They shouldn’t get the feeling that they get it. Just enough for them to believe that they’re the most intelligent things that have ever walked ‘their’ earth. And just enough for them not to kill themselves in total despair.

But what if the creator has underestimated the little creatures? What if the creatures would be able to see through the facade? What if they would come to see that they’re part of one big joke? And what if they would even enjoy the the fact that they are part of a joke? That would spoil the fun for the omnipotent and ever joy-seeking creator, wouldn’t i? So he must make sure that they don’t come to believe that their lives are nothing but a joke: he must create enough misery in their lives to remind them that their pain is real. He must make sure that the minds of the creatures are occupied with impulses to stay alive, impulses telling the creatures what to do with their lives and how to run their societies. Everything to keep their thoughts away from the joke.

But we have got you God. You can quit playing now. Just take some rest and come back to us when you’ve a better one, okay?

But what do you think?

The Human Walking Face and The Absurd

The human “walking face” is a true joy to watch. That look as if everyone walking on the street is – at the same point in time – trying to come to grips with Einstein’s theory of relativity, but that, somehow, it won’t really click. All looking serious and angry, as if everyone is walking away from a fight with their spouse. As I said: a true joy to watch. And you know what I enjoy to do at those moments? At those numerous instances at which people look like they’re having an extremely hard time? At those moments I feel a strong urge to laugh.

At those moments I just like to express my happiness with the “walking faces” by bursting into a well-meant, wholehearted laughter. It doesn’t have to be very loud; just loud enough for yourself to realize that you’re laughing. And although this laughing might be feel “forced” or “fake” at the start; it while gradually flow into a sense of true laughter; a true sense of joy. And it is at that point in time that you’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the Absurd.

People are serious. And they should be, right? Live isn’t easy: you have to make money, you have to take care of your children and you have to act “responsibly”. If you don’t do any of these, there must definitely be something wrong with you. The road to survival is paved with puddles of duty and obligations; either socially conditioned or legally enforced. This is “the level of the crowd”. The level in which we live our “auto-pilot lives”; the level in which we move, speak and breathe. The level in which we’re prepared to do anything in order just to stay alive.

But there’s another level, a higher level, called “the level of reflection”. This is the level of relativity, of putting your issues into perspective: the level in which you think to yourself, “The people in Africa don’t even have food and I’m complaining about my goddamn wireless internet…what kind of sad person am I?” The level of reflection is a happy place to be at. It lessens your load, it makes you sorrows evaporate…partially. Because the level of reflection is – although higher than the level of the crowd – still part of the overarching “crowd-like mind”. The mind that is concerned with “living my life” and doing this through the inescapable and suffocating first-person perspective that I call “my personality”. Problems are still problems, only less significant than they were in the level of the crowd. You’re still hungry, but not as hungry as you were before.

But then – Bam! – Walhalla opens and “the level of the Absurd” shines its light on you. You become overwhelmed by feelings of randomness, ignorance and purposelessness. And you know what? You love it. It is in this level that all of your problems disappear, that the vortex to the world of indifference has opened. And when you finally decide to take the step into the Absurd, you feel that all the sense of “it’s all relative” – that you felt in the level of reflection – vanishes. You come to see that nothing is relative, since relativity implies value and value doesn’t exist. Nothing. Nowhere. “But”, a little voice from the level of the crowd might tell you, “people die in Africa every day. And your shitty wireless internet is still broken.” And your Absurd mind knows this, but it sees just right through all of these “issues” and into the truth: the truth that both issues are just as terrible as they are pleasant. People die every day and wireless internet breaks down every day. And you know why it happens? It happens because it happens.

Thank you for your visit in the level of the Absurd. I hope you enjoyed it.

What do you think?

The Butterfly Effect: How Small Decisions Can Change Your Life

The butterfly effect: a term often used within the context of ‘unpredictable systems‘ like the weather and other ‘natural’ systems. For those who don’t know it, the butterfly effect refers to a system being ‘(very) sensitive to changes in its initial conditions‘. As the name implies, think about a butterfly flapping his wings and, because of this small flapping, causes a hurricane to occur at a later point in time and possibly an entirely different region in space. The butterfly in this example is the symbol for how small changes in an earlier stage can cause huge changes to occur at a later point in time.

But can’t this concept be applied to life as well? Think about it: have you ever experienced a small phenomenon occurring – like you receiving a mail, you stumbling upon something on the internet or you meeting a person who happens to change the way you think – that, looking back, has influenced your life significantly? Let’s take the example of you talking to a person who made you change your mind. I can only speak for myself, but I definitely have had a couple of such experiences in my life. Let me give you an example of my life that illustrates the effect utter randomness can have on the course of your life:

I didn’t know what kind of Master to attend after finishing my Bachelors. While thinking about studying economics in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), I came in touch with a professor philosophy of science, who – at the time – was supervising my bachelor thesis. I had always though about attending a Master philosophy somewhere at a university, but I had difficulties with the ‘vague touch’ Philosophy masters tend to have; none of them seemed analytic or logical enough to me.

The professor and I – during one of our supervising sessions – accidentally stumbled on the question what I wanted to do after my Bachelor philosophy; so I told him about my plan to go to Rotterdam. When he asked me why I wanted to study Economics there, I didn’t really know what to say. I said, ‘Well, I always dreamed about studying abroad at a nice university; Oxford, Cambridge or something along those lines. But there don’t really seems to be Masters over there that suit my interests. That is: thinking about the world in a “non-vague” manner.’ He responded, `Have you tried the LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science)? They have a Master Philosophy and Economics and a Master Philosophy of Science. Isn’t that something for you?’ ‘Also,’ he added, ‘A good friend of mine – someone I hang out with on a regular basis – is a member of the selection commission of that Master Philosophy of Science. It might be interesting for you.’ I took a look at this Master and I was sold right away. I applied, got accepted and have studied a year in London.

What if I wouldn’t have talked to this professor about my ambitions? What if I would have had a different thesis supervisor? What if I would have had a headache that day and didn’t feel like talking? Then my future would very likely have looked very differently.

So what can we – or what did I – learn from this story: I learned that I shouldn’t hesitate to take opportunities, no matter how small they might seem. Because those small opportunities might cause a stream of new possibilities to arise later on. And the same goes for the opposite: I should avoid bad actions, no matter how small. I remember that – a couple of years ago – I said something mean to my football trainer, and I have regret it ever since. In other words: small actions can have significant consequences.

But what do you think?

Why Are We?

Before you embark on reading this article, I have to warn you upfront that this article might appear to be depressing. And if it does, it might be because it is in fact a depressive article. Having said that, here we go.

Do you ever ask yourself where all of this is about? Not only why we are here on this planet of ours, but why we really are: why we are capable of experiencing; why we are capable of tasting; why we are capable of complaining. We are ‘just’ living our lives, and going with the flow, but do we ever think about what this ‘living’ might actually consist of? Let’s take a look at that.

‘Purpose’ is an inherently unstable concept. The reason for this is that the Purpose of everything – from which all other purposes (which a small ‘p’) can be derived – will always lie outside of our reach. Whenever we embark on the journey of trying to grasp this Purpose, we’ll inevitably end up in an infinite regress. It’s like a diver trying to reach the bottom of the sea, but each time he thinks the bottom is near is forced to return to the surface to grasp fresh air. Our human limits will deter us from reaching the limits – either of our Purpose or of the sea.

We only have a (very) limited framework of beliefs within which we can claim to ‘know’ things: within which we can claim to ‘know’ that the world consists of particles; in which we can claim to ‘know’ that we descend from the fish; in which we can claim to ‘know’ that we are alive. But how big is this limited framework of beliefs in the scope of which we believe to know? That’s an unanswerable question, since we don’t know what we don’t know, and therefore we cannot have a benchmark to measure our sense of ignorance (or omnipotence) against. We believe we know a lot, but we can never know how much we actually know.

Don’t you find it – at times at least – frustrating that we cannot deny the fact that we’ve got no clue about all of the things we don’t know? That we can try all we want to unravel the mysteries of the universe, but that we don’t know if we’re getting any closer to ‘the truth’? Closer to the way the world really is? Closer to the true Purpose of all of this? It’s like we’re forced to always look into one direction, and that even within that direction our line of sight is inherently limited by the horizon set by our human limits.

A depressing thought? Maybe or maybe not. Since there are two ways to deal with this thought: either (1) by drowning in it and feeling the total absurdity and seemingly insignificance of our existence, or (2) by shutting of the part of our minds this thought resides in, and keep on ‘shooting for another perfect day.’ But, irrespective of the option we choose, we’ve got to remember that closing our eyes doesn’t hide the truth; it only makes us (temporarily) incapable of seeing it.

Are you happy? Are you content with the way you’re living your life? And if so, why are you happy? Are you ‘just’ happy because you don’t allow yourself to see the only absolute truth in our existence – the meaningless of life? Or are you happy for other reasons? If you are happy because of the former, then that’s a noble – or at least understandable – sense of ‘constructive’ happiness. But have you ever thought to yourself: why should I even be happy in life? Just because it’s a nice feeling – or at least nicer than unhappiness? And aren’t we making it a little too easy for ourselves by striving for nothing more than a feeling of ‘just being happy’?

What if it’s just one big joke whatever it is that we’re doing here? What if there are just a couple of aliens that have put our ancestors (the monkeys) on this planet just so that they – the aliens – could have some fun? Just to be ‘happy’ for themselves? Maybe. All we know is that we are.

But what do you think?

Addiction: A Purpose in a Purposeless World

Addiction is “the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences”. In this article I want to zoom into the meaning of the word “adverse” as it appears in this definition of addiction. Because what is “adverse”? Is it adverse when you are ruining your liver? As what people are allegedly doing by drinking. Or is it adverse when you are ruining your lungs? As what people are allegedly doing by smoking. Is it adverse to be a pervert? As is allegedly the case for those who are “sex addicts”. What is “adversity”? Let’s take a look at that.

Before being able to know what adversity implies, we need to know relative to what an an act will be adverse. After all, the same action can be benficial or adverse, depending upon the purpose one had with the action. So let’s take the most absract purpose one could have, and apply it to you: what’s the purpose of your life? Do you want to become an astronaut? If so, then you know what to do: study the universe, apply to NASA and hope for the best. Do you want to become a professional football player? If so, then you know what to do: train like hell and hope you will get through the selection process. So far so good. But what if you don’t know what to do? What if not every cell in your body pulls you into the direction of your dreams? What if your mind isn’t occupied all day by thoughts of you playing in a full stadium, with supporters chanting your name for the entire match? Then you’ve got a problem, right? Because your mind isn’t going to rest; it will keep on pulling and pulling without knowing where to pull to. So how are you going to to stop this? How are you – if you don’t have a clear purpose in life – make sure your mind doesn’t keep on reminding you of the purposeless of your existence?

Well, maybe you could just decide to find out what’s your purpose in life? Figure out what you want to do, where you heart lies etc. etc. But let’s be fair: that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? I don’t know if you ever sat down one afternoon and through deeply about what is “your purpose in life”; if you did, you might have experienced that finding your life’s purpose isn’t like a Sudoku-puzzle: the answer is not written on the backside of the paper. So what to do now? How to keep your mind and body occupied without having that all-encompassing purpose leading the way?

You could start smoking, or drinking, or even better: you could start using cocaine or heroine. Because one thing is for sure: although these goods might not be “healthy” – in the sense of being beneficial to your body – they sure as hell provide you with a purpose in life. A purpose to make money in order to buy cigarettes, a purpose to run to the liquor store in order to grab that booze, and a purpose to rob the old lady on the street in order to get some cash so that you can buy your drugs. It’s just another way to keep your mind occupied, right?

Let’s be fair people: the is no “Purpose” (with a capital “p”) in life, right? There is no single goal each one of use should strive for. There is no single benchmark along which to measure your degree of success in life. So we should be damn happy if we find something that we find worthwhile to do, right? Because we have to do something. We cannot do nothing. Everyone needs a purpose. But some of us have been more “lucky” in finding our purpose than others. Some of us might know by heart what they’re “destined to do”, while others are just wandering around, answering their need for a purpose by laying their hands on drugs and booze; all to silence the mind and have – consciously or not – a purpose in life.

So let’s be mild, shall we? Let’s not condemn the addicts of this world for the “purposeless” lives they’re seeming to live. It’s bad enough for them that they don’t have a purpose; that they’re trying to fill the gap of purposelessness with other – “lesser” – means. Let’s just be happy for our purposes in life and fulfill them with flair.

Don’t you think so?

Why Our Lives Would Improve if We’d Die at Age 40

In The Middle Ages the average life expectancy at birth was 35. And even in the 20th century – so not even 100 years ago – the life expectancy at birth was as little as 31. But why I am talking about life expectancy ‘at birth’? Isn’t that obvious? Life, after all, always starts at birth, doesn’t it? That’s true, but in The Middle Ages about 1/3 of the children died before the age of 5, so not taking these first years into consideration could significantly change the numbers. But still: even when excluding this 1/3 of the children from the calculations, it seems save to say that in the (not so distant) past people died much younger than we do nowadays – today, the (world) average life expectancy is 67,2 years.

Now: imagine you are born in The Middle Ages. Imagine that you would survive your childhood, and wouldn’t be killed immediately by the plague or any other kind of nasty disease. Imagine that you experience everyone – including your mother, father and uncles – die when you are, let’s say, 16. Given that you would know that you are about to die pretty young, how would you live your life? And in particular: what would you do different compared to what you are doing today (in the 21th century)?

Maybe, after thinking about this question for a while, you will come to following conclusion: it might have been much better if we wouldn’t become as old as we do. If we – just like those people in The Middle Ages – would die in our thirties. Wouldn’t we live a much more honest life then? ‘Honest’ in the sense that we would stay true to what we really want? Or would you still start studying Law although you don’t really want to? Would you still quit your aspirations in the music business because ‘It’s so hard to make a decent living out of it’?  Would you keep being insecure and hope that someday – before your 35th – you can finally start living your life on your terms?

And there are other advantages of dying younger. No more need to pay for the old and sick people. No more need to increase governmental health expenditures. No more need to listen to those grumpy old people complaining about ‘the good old days’, and how those times will never come back. No, we would only have people who are young by heart (and body). People who are naive enough to believe that they can change the world. And people who know that, if they want to change the world, they should start doing so now and not wait until they die or until their dreams are killed by dogma. Sounds like utopia, doesn’t it?

But we should make sure that not everyone dies young. If we all died before the age of 30 we would never accumulate the scientific knowledge our society needs to prosper. No-one would be able to develop into a PhD-mind, which is required in order to come up with the next new gasoline. And dying in your early thirties might make your life more depressing than valuable: realizing in your twenties that you’ve only got five more years to live doesn’t necessarily make you live a more honest life. The only benefit might be that the alcohol business would flourish. So let’s extend the preferred life expectancy to – let’s say – the milestone of 40. That is: let’s make 40 the new 80.

Making sure that everyone dies at age 40 would prevent people from chasing status instead of following their hearts. After all, you don’t have time to climb the ladder of success when your time is short. By the time you are about to reach the top, your time is up, and you have missed that step that will make you the king of the crowd.

So maybe we should make a deal with the government. Maybe they should put some narcotics in the drinking water of people celebrating their 40th birthday. Sinister? Maybe. Twisted? Maybe. But I hope you can see through the gore and into the core of this message.

What do you think?

The Purpose of Life is to Look for a Purpose

Bam! You are born. What now? What are you going to do? Well, for the first couple of years, it is pretty clear what you will do: you will listen to your parents, go to school, play with your friends, and do all those other things ‘children just happen to do’. You don’t even think about what might be the purpose behind all of it. The only purpose you think about is training your Pokémons to level 100 and ruling the Pokémon League.

After this period, you start attending high school, in which you are forced to deal with all the insecurities that arise: what do I have to do to be popular? What do the cool guys do? How can I be more like that great – but not so nice – guy in my soccer team? But you’ve still got the child-like purposes driving you forward; purposes that make you know what you have to do.

Then you start attending university. The first two years or so are as usual. You get your points, work on your social life and do all sorts of stuff you like. Until suddenly disaster strikes: you don’t know it anymore. You start reflecting upon your life and ask yourself: what the fuck am I doing? Is this who I am? Is this truly what I want to do for the rest of my life, just becoming another brick in the wall? And it is at this point that your life really starts.

Living someone else’s life is easy. You just follow the rules and you will get by. You might not even be consciously aware of the rules, like when you were a kid. You just live your life, not even thinking about what it is that you’re doing. But at some point in your life, whether it is in your ‘mid-life crisis’ or in your twenties, you become aware of the rat-race you’re a part of. You become aware of the goals that society has imprinted on you: ‘Get a good job,’ ‘Get married’ and ‘Think about the career possibilities’. And you are slowly but steadily approaching the point of destruction; you’re slowing reaching the why-phase.

When you’ve reached the why-phase, all social conditioning you have been put through in your life will be reconsidered: ‘Why do I need to get a “good” job?,’ ‘Why do I need to get married?’ and ‘Why do I have to think about my career possibilities?’. And while the why-phase you had as a child was innocent and happened without you even being aware of it (‘Daddy, why do we celebrate Christmas?’), this why-phase you’re involved in happens fully consciously. Maybe even a little too consciously.

Everyone experiences this (in fact second) why-phase in life. However, the point at which it kicks in is likely to differ from person to person. You might know those 50-somethings that get divorced, move to France and start a Bed and Breakfast? That’s their why-phase. Or do you know students that quit their study after a year or two? That’s the why-phase as well. But it is not only the way you live your life that gets reconsidered – and revised – in the why-phase, it is the entire notion of life itself. What is life? Or more importantly: what is my life?

When you start asking these existential questions, you encounter a whole range of different answers, each one being just as much – or even more – dissatisfying as the one before. You keep coming up with answers that have been imprinted in your head, the indoctrination as I mentioned before. But when you start asking yourself why it is that none of these answers satisfies you, you stumble upon an eye-opening but scary conclusion: maybe your life doesn’t have a purpose.

That is: maybe there is no purpose in life besides the one you’ve created for yourself. Maybe there is no inherent meaning of life, or goal you should strive for in order to be able to live happily ever after. But then – suddenly – the answer shows its face: if I want to live happily ever after, I better create a purpose for myself. And if I don’t, I will be dead soon enough anyway.

You’ll always have to create a purpose in your life, no matter how mundane this might be. Although there might not be an inherent purpose of – or meaning in – life, there is always an underlying drive present in your life, and that is the drive forcing you to create a purpose in life. That is not to say that there is one static purpose you should live your entire life according to. No, your purpose might be changing. But still, there must always be a purpose, and its yours to find out. That’s the one and only true purpose of life.

But what do you think?

Reflection or Action: The Absurdity or The Now

The feeling of self-consciousness, of leaving your comfortable first-person perspective for becoming a spectator. A spectator that is looking down upon – what once was – his body, and the situation it is in. And it is this transcended version of you that is judging all the movements and words the body is producing. It is this “you” that starts noticing all the muscular movements in your face, the manner in which “your” body is grounded on its feet and the pace of its breath. The you that has started the conversation, seems to have left the building. Mere judgement is what remains.

This is only a mild version of self-consciousness, it can be upgraded to the next level. Instead of being hit by a flash of reflection on your day to day activities, you can become struck by a strike of purposelessness. A feeling of utter and total insignificance. A feeling of knowing that the you that you are, will live at most another 50 years before being extinguished from this universe forever. A feeling of knowing that within at most 200 years – when you grand-children’s children have passed away – even the stories that were once told about you will be gone, and that for the next 4.999.999.800 years this earth is floating around through space, everything that you once were will have perished.

You can imagine that remaining stuck in this cycle of thinking about the purposelessness of our existence does not necessarily make you a very happy human being. That is why I usually find it comforting to balance these cold – but true – ideas with the performing of actions in “the now”. That is to say that, it seems fruitful with regard to your happiness, to leave the reflective perspective for a while, and focus on what it is that you are doing at this particular point in time. Being engaged in life to the fullest of possibilities – or experiencing everything in “the now” as more spiritual people might say – can cut you out of the fatalistic spiral of thinking you were drowning in. By using all your thinking power to absorb what it is that you are doing right now, no space is left for destructive thoughts about the meaninglessness of life to haunt your existence.

But although focusing on the now can provide you with a temporarily boost in happiness, or can at least stop your happiness from falling apart slowly, it also makes you disloyal to the human intelligence you have been endowed with; a human intelligence that is longing for answers, a human intelligence that keeps on hoping to reach nirvana, a human intelligence that needs to be entertained in one way or the other.

So my question to you is: should we human beings live our lives in the now and thereby stop reflecting upon what might the inexplicable – and possibly depressing – questions haunting our existence? Or should we use our time on this planet of ours wisely to reflect upon the absolute absurdity of the situation we have been put in, and keep on hoping to reach a glimpse of enlightenment?

What do you think?