Life doesn’t make sense !

posted Feb 15, 2016, 7:26 PM by Abhishek Ojha   [ updated Feb 15, 2016, 7:27 PM ]
A compilation of recent WhatsApp conversation with a like minded cousin-cum-friend -


Q: Tell me something positive. Why does one work so hard? sacrifice, trouble oneself, and knowing that he will perish with highest probability of changing nothing. Life doesn’t make sense !



…tough question ! Perhaps one of toughest questions ever asked. ..thing of Upanishads and philosophers :)

...and sorry for late reply. Crazy week at markets, travelling to India next week.. and life which, as you said, makes no sense !

I don’t know if I can answer that properly but let me say something that comes to my mind momentarily, I know we will have different things to discuss when we talk next about the same question.

... I guess all the positive sayings end up in 'avoid thinking about meaning of life as much as you can' and - live in present!  Live this moment. -  because thinking about it probably will not lead to a very positive perspective. Not yet. Maybe few generations’ later people will have better answers. Or maybe some people still do. I am not one of those.

There is high probability that our hard work will change nothing but.. we, humans, built a system to survive. and that system translates to - "work hard and follow the rules of survival"... so by the time you realize about life not making sense... you have already lived a good chunk of it.

I don’t think I understand if there is an absolute purpose or meaning of life, maybe there is and as I said maybe some people understand but my understanding is limited to our own local reasons to live, not absolute. it's like local maxima of a function... I feel there must be a global maxima too which I still don’t understand.. or maybe we are not supposed to understand. like universe and cosmos.. how much of it do we understand? how much of it makes sense to us? but we still keep exploring and wondering. For example gravitational waves... we just realized that we can hear the ripple created billion light years away, it is fascinating, isn’t it? but still it is only a tiny local understanding of universe !

...maybe someday we will understand the absolute reasons of existence of everything. Understanding 'meaning of life' is similar. A Japanese word Yugen means deep and mysterious feeling triggered by thinking about universe which is too deep to explain in words. I love this word! life is like that... And a chilling old school philosophical thought says there is a complete universe inside each atom ! so is life… we keep wondering about few things… we think now we understand what life is all about…  only till a singularity leads us to another infiniteness !

in our local world.. we see enormous beauty we feel, learn, suffer, experience.. we live ! Similar to a constrained optimization problem, I believe, if we achieve local maxima of meaning and happiness only then we can realize about other maximas and someday reach the global maxima in the process, if it exists.

..coming back to system of survival that humans built… it is a system to make life better for others and generations to come, to change the world.. one step at a time, experience the knowledge, feel the beauty. No matter how insignificant it is. Let's start with an unknown person who didn’t change anything for this world, at least he must have felt so. Centuries ago, He (or She) wrote things on a leaf, he did not change the world... maybe it was just a job for him to write it down someone else’s thoughts... someone similarly preserved it. and few centuries later... someone innovated paper and printing, the guys who worked on converting the manuscripts to books and the burst of enormous amount of printed knowledge that came into existence with innovation of paper. (...and then few centuries later came Wikipedia and so on).  In the process even if millions of things that were not transferred through our evolutionary genes we have a parallel knowledge pool… millions of such innovations and ideas – our genes don’t tell us that earth revolves around sun of how does cell phone works. Humans created a parallel brain and evolution from pictographs to written manuscripts to books to… an artificial evolution !

A group of people.. made a computer, a cellphone... or say as simple thing as a bucket.. so that we can preserve and carry water. Thousand of people supporting those developments didn’t change the world but the system as a whole did ! A receptionist in the office of Apple didn’t change the world.. but the system that humans built needs that receptionist ! So ultimately she was essential (without realizing)  in changing the world, maybe a little less than Steve Jobs :P . Or say, the cook of Newton ! or the farmer who produced the grains so that Newton can sit under a tree and think about falling apple without worrying about how to grow apples :P and that system moves the life a little ahead.. Prepares next generation of humans a little better equipped to think about meaning of life and why we are here ! thousand years ago from today and thousand earlier than that humans wondered about same questions… we are a little better equipped to think and answer those questions. We don’t have to worry about many questions that has already been answered in the process.

So one answer is in your questions itself.. one reason we work hard is life makes no sense ! We work hard so that someday someone can answer these mysterious questions about why life and world is the way it is... in a flash of second without thinking (if we can not in our life times !) the way we can answer today about a lot of things why they are the way they are.

Also, what other alternatives do we have? maybe there is nothing better than working hard, sacrifices and troubles...  maybe life is illusion... maybe we are supposed to suffer and sacrifice. but what other better alternative do we have? renouncing the world is certainly not the one... neither giving up. by working hard maybe we can make the world and life a little better, by not working we can certainly not do anything. Avoiding life cannot lead to peace.. only living can, if at all absolute peace exists it can come from life itself.

Maybe we are meant to keep looking for answers, keep ourselves engaged, avoid stagnation and keep it balanced.  And then we have got a wonderful gift of imagination, which in itself is enough to keep us engaged. We all feel stagnation at times... I can feel why many people said (and still conclude) live in present moment, wonder and see the beauty of what you have now.. and not worry much about the possibilities. I know it sounds a lot like closing your eyes and imagining the worry doesn’t exist... life is a trap and we need to balance between these two ends – living what we have now and wondering about meaning of life ! :)

Life is like universe... no single point, no single meaning.. multi-faceted ! We are supposed to wonder in awe and keep searching for meaning.. we can understand limited few sides of this multi-faceted and multi-dimensional thing... but thats worth it. I don't know about others but understanding things, learning and knowing about things, exploring as much as I can... and admiring the beauty... with all the troubles it makes me feel wonderful from time to time. You know how scientists (and Rishis) from aeons kept wondering and thinking about Cosmos, it never stops amazing, it never will. Life too is like that it has done same to human minds and hearts since forever.

Remember we discussed about how we love reading about cognitive biases because it explains many things about life without burning too many cells of our brain? That pleasure of understanding about life/universe and everything is too awesome, even if we understand only our local meanings and not the absolute! :)

May you always be at your local maxima ! :P

PS: I excluded love, it is another branch of Yugenism !