Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nothing To Live For

Scott Bradley


I have nothing to live for. Well, that's not entirely true; there are a few things to live for. For one thing, today I have to order some new tires for the quad. If that seems absurdly superficial, I have made my point.

In truth, there is one significant other in my life with whom I share a reciprocal love sufficient to provide a reason to live for that person's happiness. Yet, such a 'reason', though compelling, hardly underpins life with an unshakeable raison d'etre.

What this relationship allows, in its singularity, is a glimpse into just how these kinds of relationships typically provide us with 'something to live for'. Most of you who read this no doubt have many such relationships — parents, spouses, boy- or girlfriends, children, grandchildren — and thus feel rather secure in having a reason to live. Yet, once again, though these most certainly help to inure one from purposelessness, they do not truly eradicate that fundamental sense.

If one says, "I have nothing to live for", it might rightly be assumed that that person is in a dangerous place of despair. But despair is a condition which assumes and constitutes its opposite, hope. Without hope, there would be no despair. Without despair, there would be no hope. Might it be possible to have nothing to live for and yet be free of despair or hope? Let us hope so.

I am of the opinion that neither I nor anyone else truly has anything to live for. Yet I would never prescribe that experience to anyone, and only express that opinion here because it can only speak to those who already experience it. No comfortable lives are at risk. I am an anomaly.

What I am really talking about here is a reason to live, whether it be by virtue of relationships or projects or beliefs. But reasons to live can never suffice to imbue life with purpose. Reasons? Already an unbridgeable gap is manifest. Reasons are bridges to nowhere.

We live because we live; and this requires no reason. What is it that we have added to life that we must somehow justify living it? Philosophical Daoism suggests that life is sufficient unto itself, and if we experience it as a hunger for something 'more', the problem is in our failure to take life on its own terms. This brings us to our experience of egoic identity. Enough said.

The Daoist vision is of a life lived on its own terms, without need for reasons or purpose; it is enough that there is a life to be lived. Does one have to first experience 'nothing to live for' as despair before one can experience it as freedom? Must we experience emptiness-as-a-lack before we can experience emptiness as liberation? Advocates of the 'dark night of the soul' seem to believe so. I do not know. Only I believe that there is this alternative freedom for those who do.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you.

    & then there's 'nothing' that is 'no-thing' [or 'no-1-thing].

    ReplyDelete

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