Rather than a god -how does it sound, if one were to tell you- It is the devil who created this world? This might seem like a morbid view of life. But if we set aside our hopes and look into the abyss even for a moment, we see the meaninglessness of everything.
Perhaps it was the devil who created this world, to entertain himself by looking at our miserable life. The Devil created us and threw us here with no inherent purpose. The Devil then gave us one command, “if you can, make this life meaningful.”
Our race of life starts with the sperm. In our childhood, the world feels meaningful. Because there are our parents to fill our lives with purpose. A few years later we realize they are human like us. Their purpose is self-made and has no universal value.
Life becomes more perplexing when we enter our teens. We try everything we can to understand life. At the end of our teenage years, it feels as if we have finally uncovered the truth. Then we run in our self-made path, only to find that it was also bound to crumble. During our race, nothing would make sense but we do it anyway, hoping for a bright future. Its futility becomes clear as we grow older or as our death looms near. We would then finally realize “anything in our life had meaning if we gave it one. But in a general sense, it was pointless.”
Then as we grow old, we enter a phase of acceptance; accepting the world the way it is rather than controlling it. But as we are learning to let go, the devil comes and says,” well bro, it’s time to go. You were entertaining to watch until you didn’t understand life. You are now boring and too predictable. It’s time for the next joker to enter the stage”. And with a snap of the devil’s finger, our entire existence vanishes.
From such a point of view, our life is insignificant and our self-awareness makes it miserable. To keep living, we must cultivate false beliefs, idols, righteousness, and false pride. But any meaning we give to our life is something we made up and any unfortunate events can take it away.
But is there a way to beat this “devil”?
There were plenty of philosophers in the past whose way of reasoning was similar. And it seems they have already found several ways to beat the devil.
Despite such a pessimistic view, they never considered suicide as a valid option. They all thought it was only an escape from this life, not a solution. So they all proposed alternative solutions. Here I am going to present the philosophy of four such notable thinkers.
For Soren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus, the devil was the “Absurd”. The “Absurd” here is a philosophical term. It means “man’s search for the purpose in such a universe which doesn’t give a damn about man’s existence.”
Both of them had unique solutions for the devil.
Kierkegaard proposed taking a leap of faith. The notion of meaninglessness comes from human reason and cognition. So one must seek something higher than what the human mind can grasp; God. Renounce your reason and have faith in God. This doesn’t mean having faith in religion; Kierkegaard criticized Christianity a lot. Rather, the god is your personal one to which you can always lean on. This idea focuses more on the spiritual development of the human self.
For Albert Camus, keeping such faith meant taking a suicide, a philosophical suicide. He proposed we must train ourselves to accept this absurdity as a simple fact of nature and live our life. We accept that there is no solution to the absurd; there are only escapes. So rather than trying to escape it, we must learn to accept it and be happy.
For Arthur Schopenhauer, our creator was a devil. Because of this, he thought, we can never be happy. It bound us to walk the hedonistic treadmill and doomed us to swing between pain and boredom. He believed we can only aim to live a bearable life with occasional happiness. An amusing thing is Arthur compared humans to a mole; both of which focus on nothing but sex.
After seeing different philosophers’ views of life, we might consider life meaningless. But their pessimistic perspective on life came from their tragic life experiences. If they had lived a happier life, then they might not have an optimistic view of the world.
Kierkegaard was the youngest of seven children in his family. From a young age, death was around him. He was frail and by twenty-two, all his siblings had died except him and his brother. He also died of an excruciating spinal disease at forty-four.
Schopenhauer’s story was like Buddha’s. Born in a rich family, he had all the comfort of this world. At fifteen, he got to witness extreme poverty and disease during his two-year trip in Europe. But his biggest shock was the suicide of his father when he was seventeen years old. His family was wealthy, yet his father had to commit suicide.
Finally, for Camus, his father died in world war I when he was less than a year old. His mother did housework to feed the family. Later he lived with his maternal grandmother and paralyzed uncle. They lived in a small two-room apartment.
Now, the notion of the devil I created was a personification of the meaninglessness of the universe. It might even be a scapegoat to blame for our misery. So I hope you take it as an idea only, with which we can connect different philosophies.
I also became intrigued about the pessimistic view of life during this lockdown, when fear of death was everywhere. But I live in a world where there are plenty of philosophers who, despite their tragic life, have accepted life to be meaningful. Philosophers like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Francois Voltaire, and so on were those who followed the path of optimism. Reading the works of these optimistic philosophers gives me hope; hope that the world isn’t purposeless. So I wish to believe that the meaninglessness of the world is my perspective alone. And the world is, in fact, full of beauty, if we searched for it.