“Whether or not they exist we are slaves to our gods.” –Fernando Pessoa
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Story of Existence - Krysta Frost (14-1)
The story is in the soil.
This is existence—the soil and the trees and the most silent of stones, a pulse existing so incessantly that it does not exist at all.
You pass thousands of people on your way to work. Out of thousands of faces, some look familiar—but of course they’re not: they’re just faces, if that. At a street corner striped with light, you pass the vendor and his wooden crate of apples, rattling on the cobblestone street, but it takes you months to realize that he’s moved town, to notice the lack of his voice in the chorus of morning existence.
It takes so much more to realize that other people are alive, too.
We can’t even look other people in the eye anymore, afraid of what we’ll find: a small proof of humanity and how it has failed us, monotonous, meaningless.
Even the most interesting life can be rendered meaningless by the person who lives it. Our bodies become the vessels through which we experience the world and actuate our existence. If we are born from nothingness, then we must take nothingness and shape it in our invisible hands until we are able to create a part of ourselves, until our blood flows and colors our existence. This, then, is essence: creating something out of nothing, rising above the cusp of repetition and mindlessness. But so often instead of facing our disquiet, we become it. Like in water we sink into it.
I think of a small wildflower that knows nothing of its existence, of the yellowing pages of nature guides in forgotten bookstores, filled with illustrations and definitions of it. And yet it knows not the names we give it, scientific or otherwise. It realizes neither the sunlight it displaces nor the body of time in which it grows and ultimately dies. If it could see, we’d be god in its eyes, having bound the pages in which we contextualize its matter.
The first step, then, must be recognizing the god—or how we have created one. In accordance with Sartre, then, the second step is renouncing that god. Acknowledging a creator does not equate to creating ourselves. Whatever pen the gods may use to write on our skin is inkless; we are only scarred by its point. Creating ourselves requires acknowledging all that we are not: which, at any point in time, is everything. There will always be an infinity to which we will never belong. We must be nothing, then; we must unravel it and lace it through the notches of our existence.
But what comes after the soil? What comes after existence? When we realize what we lack, it threatens to eclipse what we have.
The Absurd—the disquiet amidst the quiet, the madness that craves the mad. Nothingness is streaked with possibility, and when you paint the world the colors of nothingness, you are left with a whole lot of empty space.
The Absurd is the search for color within a blank canvas. The Absurd is futile, meaningless, ultimately hopeless.
Until we realize that white light consists of all colors. Nothingness, then, could be composed of everything—if only we’d look harder, listen longer, delve deeper. That’s the premise, at least. The Absurd is the search that fails us.
But the thing about humanity is that we keep searching, amidst all this space, this nothingness. Maybe because we’re part of it. Maybe because we know that we’re not weightless, that there must be something that keeps us pinned to the earth. We have a nerve that longs for meaning. We want to justify our existence, a way of skirting around the question of death, to which life is not the answer, but merely a password.
I think of Sisyphus, condemned with his boulder to his hill, doomed to consistent repetition, to endless action that is meaningless precisely because it is endless. If we think of humanity as a continuum, we, too, are endless—until, of course, the end, at which point neither nothing nor everything will exist for us. But until then—
we are infinite among ourselves, infinitely, incessantly human, condemned to our infinity, existing yet within other infinities.
Compared to infinities upon infinities, do we really mean anything? Does space negate substance?
In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus concludes, “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” In the very least, the struggle punctuates the motion.
I think of all those people again, faceless because we do not grant them faces. But we do not need to recreate them; what we do need is a new way of seeing. We do not need to hide behind nothingness, but, as Camus expresses, realize it with revolt. Maybe nothingness, in its encompassment, contains everything, in which case maybe there is creation in destruction, in tearing down the monotony of life. There is no meaning to end the search—there is only us and our realization of the search, of its duality of significance.
The cosmic joke that governs our lives dually bends our existence: on one hand, our lives are weightless amongst greater weight, amongst yet greater weightlessness. On the other hand, the cosmic joke keeps us grounded: relative to the universe we are meaningless, and so we are driven deeper into the earth, into earthly motions, both eternal and transient. “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth,” writes Camus. The same earth—our earth, somehow managing to both push us away and pull us closer at the same time. This is the struggle between existence and essence, of wanting to find everything in nothing.
Listen, and you’ll know; the story is in the soil, after all.
Posted by Krysta Frost at 12:18 PM