I am a very self-conscious person.
To some extent, it is due to (or rather “causing”) me being an INFJ personality type. I especially enjoy reading about psychology, understanding humans, finding out what drives people everyday… including my own self.
“We all want explanations for why we behave as we do and for the ways the world around us functions. Even when our feeble explanations have little to do with reality. We’re storytelling creatures by nature, and we tell ourselves story after story until we come up with an explanation that we like and that sounds reasonable enough to believe. And when the story portrays us in a more glowing and positive light, so much the better.”
Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty
Each day then becomes part of a never-ending journey on finding purpose, pointing out what motivates my behaviour, identifying what I value the most, and finding out where my truly intrinsic motivation stands.
Every day is about making sure I am always contributing towards the right direction.
It is far from being pleasant: as it turns out, this often leads me to think about death and the meaninglessness of existence. The only unaltered hope is that there should be a bigger meaning in our relationships with family, friends, people in general. Otherwise there would be no point in time and life.
A recurring symptom is that remembering that I am not living close to my parents saddens me.
I would often be justifying it (to myself) by saying that work is also a way to support them, to support everyone, and that everything I do is aiming at a better future.
But the hardest part of fighting for this better future is being unsure about where the current path is heading. How can one be sure to be on the right path to a better life and true happiness.
Just like businesses, humans evolve through uncertainty until they find their product-market fit.
“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”
Emmanuel Kant’s “formulation of humanity”
During that journey, in order to fight against uncertainty, we must always remember to treat processes as means and relationships as ends.
Otherwise, we are fools for putting our core believes into something artificial, imaginary, unreal. If we convince ourself that we have found purpose in striving for money and fame, we might realise soon or later that our life feels fake.
Most people actually fight uncertainty by following the same steps as their parents before them, or the cultural standards that they have to meet.
They know, consciously or unconsciously, when they have to get a job, get married, have children, invest in a house, and retire. It is somehow reassuring to have a plan.
But it is nothing more than a mere distraction to be following a recipe instead of thinking about the reasons behind the steps.
The point is that ultimately, it is very hard to find a true sense of certainty in life.
Instinctively, I happen to be the kind of person who finds reassurance in “meeting people’s expectations”. But when this illusion fades away (and at some point it does), it becomes an everyday struggle to stay true to myself, live my own life, find true meaning, true purpose, true hope.
This is the uncomfortable reality. We live through uncertainty. But, there is at least one certainty. The certainty that we will all die one day.
“Hopelessness is a cold and bleak nihilism, a sense that there is no point, so fuck it—why not run with scissors or sleep with your boss’s wife or shoot up a school? It is the Uncomfortable Truth, a silent realization that in the face of infinity, everything we could possibly care about quickly approaches zero.”
Mark Manson, Everything Is F*cked.
Yes, any living being is heading towards death. That includes me, you, families, friends, pets. While everything is ephemeral, we like to pretend it is not. To make things worse, the estimation of our life span is getting pretty accurate.
Encountering death around us has this interesting side effect of causing an existential crisis when loosing someone we were attached to. Something along the lines of “What the hell was I doing”. It has the strong ability of reminding us of what matters.
The reason why this realisation feels even more “real” might be because it resonates with both our biological nature as living beings as much as our emotional mechanisms.
If death was not a thing, the essence of “what matters” in that regard would probably be very different.
To sum it up, my own personal lesson is that we often tend to misjudge uncertainty in our life. We live in this constant paradoxical state where we firmly believe in social rules and expectations. We place our reassuring certainty in what I like to call processes, which are often nothing left than self-constructed values (ultimately that includes the economy, career paths, fame). At the same time, we try to pretend there is uncertainty in our own death and the death of others, which is, in essence, the uncomfortable core truth about life.
Enlightenment comes when we do our best to treat processes as means, as uncertainty, and treat people as ends, as ephemeral, truly worthy, meaningful, certainties.