I was recently watching the trailer for the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time movie and something I heard in it really stuck with me:
The only thing faster than light is the darkness.
I don’t know it that’s an actual quote from the book but it hit me how true this is. Our planet and the universe it exists in is not only indifferent to human life but also often dangerous to it. Most of our time we struggle to fight against the elements. We live in houses to protect ourselves from the weather and dangers outside. We cloth ourselves to protect us from the cold that could kill us. And we spend most of our days working so that we can continue to afford all the things we need for our survival.
The universe is mostly chaos and destruction and order and happiness are the exception much more than the rule.
But while humans have been often successful in fighting the darkness we have also added to it. Bloodshed and cruelty have been present in all our history. We have treated other humans and non-human creatures like complete shit simply because we can. Not only have we shown as a species a special kind of cruelty towards other sentient beings, we’ve also managed to screw up the whole planet!
Seeing how wretched humanity is, I’ve often wondered what the point is of being a good person. From an early age I was one of those treated like an outcast by the collective so there has been for me also the question of whether being a good person was something worth focusing my energy on. If society tells you that you are useless, then what’s the point of trying to be useful? They’ve already told you they want nothing to do with you!
This thought have been on my mind a lot lately because I discovered something while at work, where I often listen to audio books and lectures to make my janitor job less dull. I was listening to a clinical psychologist who claimed that responsibility is the thing that gives life meaning.
I wouldn’t be able repeat his exact words but his reasoning went something like this: we live and survive because we constantly battle the chaos around us. The whole history of humanity and in fact of life itself has been a struggle to keep existing in the midst of a destructive universe. To be able to stay up and fight one must first take upon oneself the responsibility to do what is good (by which he means what is contrary to what is destructive) and act accordingly. Taking responsibility is what gives life meaning because it is the most important tool we need to keep on living a life worth living.
I’ve listened to many of his lectures and I’ve realised that he’s probably right. What gives life most meaning is usually what demands most responsibility: raising children, working on maintaining healthy relationships, reaching career goals, fighting for an important social cause etc.
The more I though about it the more I realised that the times my life has felt the most meaningless were the times when I had little responsibilities to bear. So I started to ask myself two questions: 1. How can I take on more responsibility, within my reach and ability? 2. How does my writing tie into all this?
One answer to the first question was to continue working as I do. I was never one of those people who leach of others while trying to make it as an author. Whether I eventually reach a large success or not I will continue to make my own living. You know, like a grown-ass man.
Then I want to find a new, better paying job. I want to continue trying to find my own apartment (nearly impossible with the massive housing crisis in my country but what can I do if not try?). I will look for a stabil relationship with another man, get married and adopt children who need a family.
When it comes to my writing it isn’t as clear what responsibility has to do with it. The thing with fiction is that people can read all sorts of things into it. Some people read Catcher in the Rye and thought it told them to commit murder, which the author never intended.
And why should I write? Merely to entertain? Or should I have some important message? If yes, what message should it be?
After thinking about it I’ve realised that the issue that by far means more to me than any other is the environmental issue. The way I see it, no other issue is going to matter much if we can’t even live on this planet anymore. Climate change and pollution are the most urgent problem of our time and the number one cause I want to focus on.
But how? Perhaps I can make it a theme in future works. Mostly I want to continue writing about it here and on Twitter. I want to do my part, no matter how small it turns out to be, to keep encouraging others to live a more eco friendly lifestyle and to contribute to important environmental projects such as the Ocean Clean-up.
I feel more harmonious than I think I’ve ever felt before. Maybe it’s because I may have just stumble upon what gives life true meaning: to grow the hell up and do what you have to do to try and make this world even a little bit better.