Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for December 2010

The Rocking Chair and The Infinite Cycle of Life

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Years ago, I read a story of an old Chinese tycoon who wrote a poem of how he enjoyed his old age by just sitting leisurely on his rocking chair everyday –  OK, long story short, basically, the rocking chair IS his happiness. What was the problem with this guy, I thought. He has his whole freaking business empire and all the money in the world, but what he only cared at that moment is sitting on his rocking chair everyday? Really? I don’t understand his point of view, until one day … when I came across some Facebook profiles of 13/14 years old kids and that’s when the realization crept in when I saw the contrast of life.

When I first came across these kids’ Facebook profile, I was mega curious of how teenagers  create and form thoughts and opinions at their age. Probably because I forgot how I did it myself last time around like 10 years ago. And so, I stalked these kids, like a pedophile, spying on their thoughts.

What I found was – the things they cared about and the things which bothered/emo’ed them are actually quite trivial to be considered a problem in my opinion.Things like homework, boys having fun by playing with chalk and duster in the classroom, their keychain broke and they emo because it was a gift from their besties, puppy love, i-don’t-want-to-be-friend-with-you etc. And of course, I was looking from the perspective of a guy who is in my mid-20’s. The maturity in me surely do allow me to see some things in which they can’t.

Hence this brought me the thought – I wonder, when I reach my 40s, will it be my turn to see things  that I cared about during my 20s were actually trivial and meaningless? When I reach my 80s, will I get to see the things that I cared about during my 40s were actually trivial and meaningless? And so on.

All these lead to the ultimate question – Is our life an infinite cycles of caring-about-trivial-things-and-then-realized-it-is-not-important-at-all as we grow older? When I’m 80, will I also reach to a stage where I’m just happy to have a rocking chair with me and everything else is no longer important?

From another angle, it seems all these are life experience which we will have to go through. It is a must, there’s no escape for we have to go through the human process of study-work-career-family-children. Just like the rich tycoon, he has achieved everything, nothing left more to be done, so he retreated to his rocking chair. However, I’m curious, if we will ultimately come to a stage where we are just happy with a rocking chair after going through all these infinite cycles, why not we just jump straight to the end and skip all the cycles? Why not just learn how to be content and love a rocking chair in our 20s and forget about everything else? Because ultimately, as mentioned, you will BE content at the end of the day and all pursuits are just illusions.

I realize the stumbling block for this is the ‘Expectation’. The demand that we live a ‘meaningful’ life, to have wealth, to have a good career, relationships, achievement, etc which explains the inevitable path which we will have to take – study-work-career-family-children which lead to this infinite cycle. We will keep demanding from ourselves, cared about the small little things, and as we grow older with more experience, we will move to a higher cycle and the level of demand will move up accordingly and we cared for slightly more significant little things. This process will just keep repeating over and over again until the day we cease our demand, cease to care for trivial things, and alas, content with the rocking chair. That’s typically when we are about to die, 70/80 years old.

I do not against living life meaningfully. Afterall, each individual have different values on what’s a meaningful life and what’s not. But I think we should ask ourselves this question more frequently with bigger awareness – Do the things we cared about today will still be important when we reach our 80s?


Written by elan85

December 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Philosophy