Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

A long, lonely highway somewhere in the prairies of South Dakota, 2019.
Photo by Rob Salem. Copyright © 2019-2021 Rob Salem/The Stormworks.

Inertia. (noun): The resistance of a physical object to a change in its state of motion, unless acted upon by some external force. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

Lately, I’ve been struggling pretty hard with existential nihilism. And the older I get, the worse it seems to get.

I was raised in a Christian home and clung pretty tightly to that until my early twenties, when I started exploring the various systems of faith and philosophy that the world has to offer. Eventually I settled into a sort of scientific spiritualism, which for me means that while there are deeper (scientifically unexplained) hidden mysteries to the universe that can be acted upon (or, more commonly, experienced), I don’t know that there’s any single deific “being” responsible for All That Is. I believe that everything in the Universe is connected (scientifically, everything comes from the same singularity that the Big Bang came from) and that from whence we came, thus we go, but I don’t particularly subscribe to the notion of an afterlife or any kind of self-awareness or consciousness after death.  

Which ultimately means in the Grand Scheme of Things, this life and this existence have no meaning. I, You, We don’t exist for some “higher purpose”. There’s no eternal reward for a life well-lived.

And that kinda sucks in some ways. Because it can make feeling like doing anything is pointless. When Entropy turns Everything into Silence and Stillness, what will remain? Effectively…. Nothing. Not you, not me, none of the ripples of our passing through Creation will remain. Only a great Void.

The counter to this is that because there is an eventual End to Everything, Here and Now is all the more precious and beautiful, and ultimately MORE meaningful. As Vision says in Avengers: Age of Ultron, “A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” The value of a thing is in its temporariness rather than its permanence.

Even with that pearl of wisdom tightly clutched by my ever-moving mind, I still daily run into the wall of “Why bother?” And it’s always worse when I allow myself to fall into a state of Not Doing Anything.

The fix to that is to stop doing nothing and to go “build a snowman”: i.e., to go DO -something-. For me, sometimes it’s making music. Other times it’s working on a client project. It can also be getting some exercise, taking photos, writing, or even just playing video games (yes, entertaining yourself is still doing something—and it’s important as a form of self-care and rest; some people read books, others play video games—I do both).

Doing Something combats the feeling of the Pointlessness Of It All by giving us that immediate satisfaction of giving life meaning in the here and now. In a few decades I’ll probably be dead, my body withered away and decaying regardless of whatever steps I take to live a healthy life now. But that Living Now is more important to me, and the people around me, than whatever happens in the years to come, precisely because it is Here And Now. Doing Something—building a “snowman”—doesn’t banish existential dread permanently, but it does make the moment I’m living in meaningful enough to continue moving on to the next one.

The Meaning of Life is what we make it. We’re here. Now. But we won’t be forever. In fact, in the context of “forever”, and more specifically in the context of the life of the universe, we’ll have barely been here at all when Everything is at Rest and all the counting’s done.

But being here and now we do matter. Life does have meaning. Living is an active process, not a passive one. Life IS motion—it is the act of resistance to entropy, which is the inherent march of the universe towards stillness. Living is therefore an act of rebellion, and the snatching of meaning from a universe that apparently doesn’t have meaning anyway.

So go build that snowman. It doesn’t have to big and impressive and award-winning. It’s not the result that matters, but the action.

That proverbial snowman is gonna melt eventually.

But a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.

—-

[Note: Here’s where I point out that I Don’t Know It All—meaning I don’t know anymore than the next person does what definitively happens after we die. I’d LOVE it if there were some sort of continued existence or afterlife or whatever you want to call it, and I’m aware of some thoughts that suggest that science might point to that possibility, but the reality is that currently, we simply don’t really know from a scientific standpoint. I don’t begrudge anyone else their faith in a god or belief in an afterlife—so long as that faith doesn’t cause them to bring harm to others—but personally, I’ve come to a place where it just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m open to having my mind changed if the evidence presents itself, though; it would certainly help deal with the whole existential nihilism thing. This post, and others like it, are simply my current thoughts on things as Just A Guy Trying To Figure It All Out For Myself.]

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