By Johnathan Lim (23S03M) and Jolene Yee (23S03A)
Cover image by Johnathan Lim (23S03M)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/riadvice and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
“What is life’s meaning? We are just a speck in this vast universe and whatever we do probably would not make any difference. In the end, our sun would run out of energy and life on Earth would vanish. Why do we even need to go to school if nothing we do ever makes a difference. And we might be living in a simulation, which means even if we make a difference, it is contained in some video game?”Pensive Poppy
Dear Pensive Poppy,
Imagine: You are birthed, and your cries in the delivery room are studied for their exact pitch, length, and volume. As you traverse your life, the world knows every single thought that ever crosses your mind. Your locker-room crushes will know your self-insert fantasies about them. After your death, every intricate detail about your life is scrutinised. You are studied in textbooks and admired in museums until the end of time.
Is this what you wanted?
If yes, then it’s pretty clear – you want to leave as big of a legacy as you can. But chances are, you don’t really fancy the cosmic weight of this life.
You are a microscopic blip
If truth be told: we don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But by the same line of logic, the fact that we are insignificant is also meaningless to dwell on.
“If nothing matters, then everything can matter”Anamika Ragu (23A01A)
So what if we don’t really mean anything to the unfeeling cosmos? It can be an equal part liberating realisation that the time you forgot to bring your homework or when you were late to school doesn’t really matter.
Existential dread: It’s a choice
So, you figured out that the world is fundamentally meaningless. But it’s a choice to fall into a nihilistic spiral where you don’t do anything because nothing matters in the end anyway. You can very well take such an epiphany to be one that spurs your pursuit of self-fulfilment (which is arguably more productive).
Because at the end of the day, life is the one asking you for the meaning of your life, and it is your job to answer life with a meaning that is subjective, but also uniquely beautiful (for you). That’s the best we can do.
So what if it’s not real? So what if it’s not forever?
Yes, the sun will die and wipe any trace of us from existence. Yes, we may very well be living in a very convincing simulation. But so what?
Think of all the main characters in the brilliant works of fiction you are fond of, with their eccentric yet understandably unique personalities, the painstaking events they’ve been through, and the fascinating interactions they have with equally complex characters. You don’t read these works of fiction while thinking “it’s not real, so what’s the point,” do you?
‘Your objective meaning’ is something you shouldn’t deconstruct too much, not because we should be kumbaya-happy all the time, but because intellectualising your meaning kills it.
As obvious as it sounds, your life is about you. You are the main character of your life. But unlike your works of fiction, your life cannot exactly be concretely contained within a book or a movie. In something we like to term, the experience of experiencing, it is about living as contradictory, imperfect, socially-unacceptable beings that no biography or relatable tweet can really entirely capture.
For instance, while you’re comforting your friend who is crying over how badly they did in their exams –you empathise with your friend, but also, there is a small part of you that thinks it is a stupid thing to cry over. Also, you are semi-glad that you did not do as badly on your exams, and you crave pizza.
But of course, you (hopefully) reassured your friend and planned study sessions together to make them feel better. You eventually forget about these sometimes unwanted, miniscule, imperfect thoughts, but they still matter because they add these subjective dimensions to your existence that makes it so much more beautifully yours.
It is not the longevity or the reliability of your daily happenings, but your internal experience – one deeply intertwined with your sensory and cognitive functioning – that is fascinatingly unique to yourself. And one that prompted you to write this question at 9am on the 28th November in the first place.
So can you really say something so special to yourself means absolutely nothing to you?
While you’re (evidently) on your journey of introspective self-discovery, we hope you manage to, to put it crudely, delude yourself enough to believe that there is truly meaning we can get from this life.
Hang out with your friends, be part of something larger than you, sit in classrooms listening to some random tutorial or chase some superficial goal. Perhaps in the hustle and bustle of it all, your nihilistic reality no longer seems to matter with the foreground of subjective meaning layering your life.
And maybe (just maybe), you would come to appreciate the magic of being a minuscule entity in this boundless world.
Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset
If you need anyone to talk to about any issues you might be facing, do drop by My Rest Space near Marymount gate and talk to one of our peer helpers! We’re open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3.00 – 5.00 p.m and Wednesday, from 11.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. If you would like to meet a peer helper on a regular basis, do email us a request at email@example.com or fill in our request form at our website https://rafflespeerhelpers.wordpress.com!