{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hmmmmm…. I think most people would be going after what they find fulfilling, if they knew what it was. Hell, I’m 36 with a fantastic job, no debt and great apartment. And damned if I know what I want in life. I’m lucky as f*ck to just be here, a lot of people work much harder with way more experience. Sure travel is nice-done plenty of that-and altruism is nice. And at the end of the day you still need health insurance and someone’s got to be around when the folks get too old to care for themselves. And you have to at least pretend to like the job with the health insurance you can afford because your body isn’t perfect.
And you’re very happy the car still works, albeit with some duct tape.
I know you won’t post this. So consider it a lesson in detachment.

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Alexander Heyne June 13, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Hi Anon,

You’re right, most people don’t know what they want, which makes it very difficult for them to figure out what to work towards.

And you’re right – we DO need to pay bills pay the health insurance, take car of car repairs, and engage in the other endless financial minutiae of life.

But there was a little bit of a resigned tone in your voice. What’s preventing you from going for what you really want? What’s stopping you from searching?

Best,
Alex

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Anonymous June 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Oh, I’ve been searching my entire life!
And so far, there is absolutely nothing that I want. More often than not I’m pushing away an excess of what I don’t want. After my basic needs are satisfied, well what is there to want? A bigger car? A house? A “flashier” career? Power? Influence? None of these representations bring happiness or gratification.
People=Confusing Drama Machines. No thank you.
98% of volunteering is a racket. I know, after requiring a written exam to shelve library books and licking fundraising brochures everywhere else.
If my note sounded resigned, it was. But not because there’s something out there I actually want.

mark September 26, 2013 at 1:31 am

he already said what is preventing him and many others- He doesn’t know what he wants. The is a note of despair in his post but not resignation- what he is is saying “ok smart ass how do you find out what you want?” Otherwise its just all wishful thinking that will just make life more depressed and feel even more meaningless. He is feeling stuck because of circumstances. But I disagree that anyone needs health insurance at all. Exercise, eat healthy etc
and why is he waiting around for his parents to be terminally ill at age 36? sad. He sounds like a “drug” addict. Addicted to the safe life and the life that is expected of him by society. Not easy to break free from this life unless there is something tangibly better. Or maybe he just wanted to brag about his job and success. Then again why is he reading this post?

Tae-Sung Yun May 22, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Be a Buddhist. Just for a week or so. It might help you.

MT June 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Thank you for this good read. I’m planning to save this article, as I need to read and re-read it later. Reading this was just what I needed.

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Alexander Heyne June 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

You’re welcome MT :)

- Alex

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Bob August 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

To be honest I’m not too keen on this whole travel-the-world thing that half the people my age seem to be doing.

The problem is, what happens when you come back from your round-the-world trip? Sure, you spend a few years partying in Bangkok and digging through ancient temples in Nepal and exploring 12th century Spanish forts, but then what? You get back home, and you’ve still got the same life as before.

Doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking – the alternative is far worse! – but something I always keep in mind is that travel is only a temporary escape (like booze), not a permanent solution.

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Alexander Heyne August 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

Hey Bob,

You’re right when you say “What happens when you come back?” But that mode of thinking is flawed. It’s very fatalistic.. almost like saying “life is pointless, look what happens at the end! Why bother doing anything?”

The point of life… is life! Life is what happens when you’re striving to reach goals, not when you’ve reached them. Life is the 364 days striving rather than the 365th when you reach the destination you were aiming for.

And of course, it doesn’t have to be the same when you get home. There are entrepreneurs ,full-time nomads, expats, and a million other kinds of people that aren’t living conventional lives and are much happier for having done so.

I agree though, it can become a temporary escape (like alcohol) for MANY people. You are spot on.

- Alex

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Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm

You missed his point.
When you’re done traveling, you come back to your life and that’s it. Nothing in your life has changed. What did all that traveling do, except eventually return you to where you were before?
All travel does is put you back an outrageous sum of money to see a great deal of overwhelming poverty. People begging in the streets everywhere you go. All that does is make me want to string myself up

mark September 26, 2013 at 1:36 am

Im 42 now. I took off for Hawaii and ended up living in Japan where I found my wife and now have a house here and a 6 year old daughter. Things happen when you just leave. Not saying I am happy now. I should be but now I am looking for the next meaning in my life. Point is travel can be more than a vacation or escape- But I believe travel has to have more of a purpose than to make you happy- that would make you a tourist instead of a visitor.

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Alexander Heyne September 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Mark – I think you’re absolutely right. It can become a distraction like anything else. So why are you looking for your “next meaning” in life?

- Alex

Anonymous October 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

If you don’t see the “value” in health insurance, then I sincerely hope your daughter is in a catastrophic car accident. It happens all the time, and eating right & exercise are completely useless at that point.

Anonymous October 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Sorry, but you’ve obviously never had an existential crisis.
Doing what you “want” doesn’t matter, has no meaning, and is existentially meaningless. “Doing what you want” could be having kids, running your own business, traveling constantly, seeing & doing everything you want. And lots of people still blow their brains out because it’s all equally pointless, meaningless, existentially empty.
Oh, and being a parent is not an insulator against meaninglessness & despair. Kurt Cobain was doing what he always wanted, traveled all over, had a gazillion dollers, and was a parent. Yet he still used drugs & ultimately committed suocide because it was meaningless and didn’t matter. I know you’ll find some way of calling Kobain a “loser” because he used drugs, but he had reached the pinnacle of success and could do whatever he wanted. Yet in the end, even being a parent is meaningless. Your kids will die, before or after you do. Traveling the world is a meaningless exercise, as countless people with the means and time will tell you. A lot of people who’ve committed suicide had means, weatth, a job they loved, snd even loving friends & family. Michael Bay? Was he a loser who did nothing with his life? David Carridiene? If he was so fulfilled doing what he loved, he wiuldn’t feel the need to hang himself. George Eastman? John Belushi? Earnest Hemingway? Hemmingway won NOBEL PRIZE, for Christ’s sakes. Yet, he still blew his brains out with a shotgun?

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ddd October 29, 2013 at 9:21 am

I totally agree with anonymous and feel the same. Except the part about hoping the daughter was in a catastrophic car accident – that’s a pretty fucked up way to make a point.
the total pointlessness of everything plagues me. I would like to email anonymous.

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Anonymous November 3, 2013 at 11:34 am

You can talk to me here.
I’m not emailing with you.

endlessrepetition December 5, 2013 at 4:42 am

nice article, nice points of view. what bugs me the most is not only the meaninglessness of everyone’s life – it’s the never ever ending cycle of the universe. how many times did all this happen with life in the universe? after our universe expired everything starts anew. making a long story short: it bugs me that i will have to return to this existence, having to come to all these clues again, finding out again that everything is meaningless. every war that started will start again. life is all just a cosmic joke. some say that the human species is a stray bullet. somethin that went wrong. but i say life itself is the stray bullett. and it keeps coming up with every cycle of the universe. not even committing suicide is a real solution. it’s just a temporary way-out.

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Logos December 17, 2013 at 2:55 am

Hey Alex,

I’ve read through this entire article and I really do love what you’ve done here. However, I do feel like some additional points need answering, points that aren’t easy to answer and are probably only answerable for each individual person, but I still feel like you need to answer for the reader so that they are in context with the rest of your statements.

Let’s say you actually followed exactly what you are recommending to the letter. I agree fully that this should in fact produce happiness as I also agree that true happiness, flourishing, eudaimonia, call it what you will… comes from actually living life, not just trying to escape it (even though seeking happiness may in fact be an escape from whatever could be the meaning of life, for all we know). In an age of extreme relativism, I fear others will inherently not agree as they all must in order for you to have useful guidance. With a dead god whom we have killed, as Nietzsche put it, finding value in happiness becomes an ethical question which each individual has to grapple with. There is nothing in secular culture, besides the propagation of conditioning rooted in religious decrees, telling us what each individual ought to value. Without some guide, how can we know that we are even supposed to be happy in the first place? What then is to be said of a task that creates happiness… is it inherently good or bad? Should one derive emotions that we commonly associate with being positive from performing an action which cannot be deemed passable as either good or bad? I mean how do we even know life is supposed to feel like it has meaning… or that it’s right to have a purposeful life… or that anything is right.

Even striving to create value in a valueless world by making the avoidance of suffering the meaning of life, as Sartre would emphasize as being a just reason to exist, is meaningless without an absolutely true guide to tell us what is right or wrong. It would be good to mention that we sort have to get passed the fact that we don’t know that it’s ok to be happy and reduce our own individual suffering, even if that is only by serving others so that they are not suffering. However, if we agree with is idea, then how is genocide as a source of population control, for instance, not an ok mission if it would bring both myself and the world in general less suffering in the long run? Well because it causes suffering in the short run… So that is now wrong. If I breathed, I used somebody’s clean air… So now that’s wrong too because now they’re suffering of dirty air. Living can’t be about avoiding something, like doing wrong for instance, it has to be about actualizing goals and bringing the self pleasure as that is what we have been conditioned to do and will be the only thing that we enjoy simply because it is all we know how to do.

That, unfortunately, is the kind of thinking that got our society into the very mess that you are addressing in this article… an inability to find any true meaning in life. We seek pleasures, desires, and things that make us happy. If we are durable, and willing to work through complications, we get what we want, like pleasure for instance. If not, however, we are forced into using coping mechanisms, because they create shallow pleasure for the self and avoid suffering for everyone else. In a sense, this form of survival is something conditioned into us in our modern society by the fact that we are trained to seek pleasure which this article directly addresses because it is about being unhappy with life and wanting something out of it what simply doesn’t exist… well until we each individually choose to believe it does at least.

To bring the self true purpose one must be able to realize that there is no absolute right goal to aim for and that there needs to be no shame for failing, or for retreating and choosing not to live. If it brings the self joy and does not harm others ability to find joy, I suppose that is all that can be deemed permissible by the current way that the world exists.

Honestly, I believe also that there is only one way to do this, dismantle the whole global economy and that will truly remove the current value of a human life: enhancing other life. Then we can all worry about living to our fullest, unfortunately, that would cause suffering for a short period of time and the modern society would never allow it.

So here’s my real question for Alex:

In a world without any absolute truth, no right and wrong, no set value to anything, how does one live? The only thing I have chosen to put value into is the knowledge of certain quintessential truths which would allow us to live lives worth living. The one thing I want, I can never have… I want to understand the metaphysical, if anything out there exists… but that’s unknowable… I want to KNOW what is righteous… but THAT is unknowable because that would come from whoever is out there, not a place of relativism… I want a truth that I can live and die for… Anything to call my true duty, purpose, and calling, but there is none… So instead, I am forced to be god… To design my universe, where there is truth… inside of a universe in which there is no truth. How can anyone survive if they don’t do this? So what, now my will is law? no… only to me. Not knowing Truth makes flourishing impossible… how can anyone live happily without knowing if there is an eternity of existence beyond the body that that may be compromising? What if this is our only chance to live and we spend it seeking things which we selfishly deem worthy when the self is actually eternal? What are we supposed to be living for if there is a god… What’s the point of living a life for pleasure without a True and righteous reason to be pleased in the actions we are taking? How can be be happy living in the short term if these is an eternity of damnation awaiting those who seek pleasure in this life? These are the big questions… these are what make people smoke themselves to death and sit on a couch shooting digital zombies until they accumulate so much fat that they drown to death in it. Humans around the globe are begging for death because they don’t understand the reason that they need to be happy and they would rather not just serve some shallow selfish cause like avoiding pain, seeking pleasure, or making others happy which , let’s face it, is really all about pleasing the self… So, they are now forced to choose between a completely selfish existence, or a selfless death but neither necessarily is right… That’s the problem… address that… give us an absolute truth to fix our lives… not some relativistic statement saying, oh well you’ve gotta find purpose… no duh… but there is none without something yelling at us to do a very specific task and threatening us to be damned for all eternity if we don’t… No knowledge of what happens after death means no values, no guidelines, and that means we are all just slaves to our biochemically conditioned signals that make us feel like something is the right action to take which we call emotions. We are slaves to one question… not what are we living for or why am I living, but who am I serving.

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Alexander Heyne December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Logos,

I think the reason why you’re dealing with these existential issues is because you think too much. You just wrote me a college essay, and at the end of it, you were no closer than before. What does that say?

Sages have taught for thousands of years that clearing the mind and focusing intently on life – and not overly thinking about it – is the way to satisfaction, happiness, contentment.

Practice this for a while – if it doesn’t help you after a few months, come back to me and we’ll talk more.

- Alex

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Tony January 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Some of the responses here are extremely deep and obviously come from what I would call “high calibre thinking”. However “thinking” and the “machinations of the mind” will never lead one to truth. You will only begin to get a true sense of things when you begin to concentrate on “Being” rather than “Thinking”. Easy to say but difficult to put into practice, and like the cultivation of the mind it is a long and arduous task. Most of the commentary on this forum is wrapped up in what I would call heavy intellectualisation/conjutation/speculation, and mental machination in general. Its going to get you nowhere! Ultimately the “Mind” has to be Transcended to get anywhere near to what authentic existence is truly about, whereas with a few exceptions everyone here is literally drowning it it!

Try reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” or look up Daniel Nehrer’s
website “The Essence of Reality”. For those who can comprehend its meaning the Buddha’s “Heart Sutra” is also extremely enlightening.

- Tony

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Alexander Heyne January 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Tony.

BINGO. You are spot on. That’s why I didn’t respond to many of them too. And that’s why much of my audience feelings lost or lacking purpose – too much thinking. In many of my other articles I mention this. Thanks for sharing.

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Justin February 26, 2014 at 3:23 am

This article rings so true to my current situation. Unfortunately, it has taken me to the age of 42 and married with a Daughter to realise this!

I have the 6 figure salary, but no savings as the money has been blown in an attempt to find thr happiness that is lacking.

The issue I have is that I married too young and have never experienced a time in my life where I have been alone and free to follow my dreams.

Change is coming, but it’s the wreckage of potentially leaving everything that frightens me

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Alexander Heyne February 27, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Hey Justin,

Do you HAVE to leave everything to pursue your dreams? Is there no other way?

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Jackson Lim March 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

This article basically just untie the knot in my head, I was stuck with the wall of meaninglessness.

I live a successful life in the eyes of my peers, a fantastic job, a good boss, a great wife and a roof on top of my head. Yet I feel unfulfilled and empty inside, I feel that I’ve done it and nothing else to strive for, I felt that life is meaningless.

Your article has point me to the right direction, I need a greater purpose, I need to find my story, life isn’t just about Work and Video Games and hang out with my girlfriend on Saturday at a fancy restaurant, we are the author of our lives, we need pain, we need gain, and we need all the different shade of color in between.

We need to go out to see the world, to strive for a meaning in life, and to give value to people around us. You have done something special here, you need to know that. If I may, I will print this article out and put it on my desk to remind myself if my memory start to fade again.

Thank you kind sir, you have save a life.

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Alexander Heyne March 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

Jackson,

This was awesome to read – thank you so much for sharing. good luck on your new epic adventure !

“We need to go out to see the world, to strive for a meaning in life, and to give value to people around us. You have done something special here, you need to know that. If I may, I will print this article out and put it on my desk to remind myself if my memory start to fade again.

Thank you kind sir, you have save a life.”

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Alice March 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Man! I read the article and re read it during the day, making notes. this is EXACTLY where I am. I’m 24, i work 30 hours a week, and i make 60 grand a year, in a very comfortable job. and I hate it. there s nothing there to make me grow, and i really needed to grow. And I lost all my friends, i mean, they are so boring now that I avoid them. they ALL are unemployed and chasing the carreer I have. I tell them: it’s not as good as it looks. And they say: “you only complain”. I won’t move to China (it’s admirable though). I dont fancy the idea of living in another country. But I’m really interested in traveling around my country (I’m from Brazil). I only know around 10 cities from a very big country. I never traveled by myself, afraid. Afraid of being lonely, afraid of being mugged, afraid. But guess what. Boredom and “what if” aren’t helping!

I just wanted to say thankyou.
Alice

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Alexander Heyne March 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

You’re very welcome Alice :) Time to stir shit up and make it happen.

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Mr. Nobody June 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

These were good articles, and I have been thinking that just leaving town on a midnight train if you will would be the best thing for me. I am 37 and have no kids, no girlfriend, no friends, a dead end job I hate, and nothing to look forward to. I figure unless you are one of the wealthy individuals who can easily afford to buy the Clippers for 2 billion dollars as though it was pocket change, your purpose here on Earth, Is to WORK, and get yelled at. Work, Work, Work…
Did Buddha work his life away? No. Did Jesus and the Apostles slave there life away at a job they hated. To my knowledge they did not. And last but not least did Krsna spend his whole life getting yelled at by angry customers? No.
I would love to spend all my money on a plane ticket right now, and go to Boston or someplace like that, but when I get there what will I do for money? What will I do for food? Where will I sleep, and where will I get the money to get back home if I need to go home?
I guess maybe I should just quit thinking, and take the fools leap. I have nothing to lose. :(

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Alexander Heyne June 9, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Mr Nobody,

Honestly, I kinda agree! Listen, you can think through the entire process of life and get nowhere.. because you’re trying to write the future with your head before it ever has occurred.

If you have nothing to lose, just make it happen. As the saying goes, book the one way flight and make shit happen.

And of course, there is a LOT more to life. But YOU have to make it happen, no one else.

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Z July 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I AM a Buddhist and my life still feels meaningless and I still don’t know what I want.

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mme August 4, 2014 at 5:28 am

I’ve been wondering wtf the point in life is for the past twenty odd years. Its mundane and so damned fake. I figure the only reason we exist is to reproduce but in this day and age what’s the point even in that.
I seek solitude mostly as everything around me is false. I can’t help but see through the bullshit of life, working,paying bills and rent, buying food we mostly throw away. Life is shit for all of us and we all experience trauma and the very same emotions. Even the rich and famous aren’t immune to the realities of life or even death. Money certainly doesn’t bring happiness. Material things mean absolutely nothing. So you have a big house and a fancy car. That won’t make you a better person. It doesn’t take the loneliness away or soothe your sadness.
Society is screwed because this whole media based bullshit just leads to narcissism and self righteousness. I have no real friends that truly get it.
I’d love to be able to help others less fortunate than me, and I try the best I can but I don’t have much. I would give my last pound away to help another. But that’s not enough and it makes me even sadder. Its a horrible world we live in. I want to roam free without technology and live off the land but being as some asshole claimed that land as their own before I was even born this leaves me no choice but to abandon plans. I’m skint and probably won’t amount to much. Even if I won the lottery I’d likely give it away. I’ve travelled but that just led to further misery when I returned.
There is no escape for people that see the world as it really is.
There are good real people but I don’t seem to find them.
I would so love to stop giving a FCK about humanity and everything. I feel I am a marionette living differing roles to suit different people and would love to be myself but nobody accepts that because its not what society expects. I just want to be myself and not give a toss what people think. And mostly I am, I’ve alienated many people who don’t share these thoughts. I am far from being a bad person, I see good in most people and can hold myself well but I don’t take shit.
My life is absolutely pointless at the moment, things change and fluctuate,but there is no balance.
Life isn’t real its just a fantasy. We can change it but we can’t change others.

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Alexander Heyne June 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Hi,

If you ask me, after your basic needs are met, no, you shouldn’t continue to pursue material things. Maslow speculated that people crave meaning, creativity, spiritual purpose.

What about your work? Is it meaningful?

Best,
Alex

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Alexander Heyne August 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi Anonymous,

I think you missed my point – when you come back from traveling, nothing externally has changed. Internally, much has changed.

You’re looking at travel like you’re looking at a goal – as if only the outcome counts. Travel is inherently rewarding, regardless of where it brings you after.

“All travel does is put you back an outrageous sum of money to see a great deal of overwhelming poverty.” An unfortunate thought, and a generalization. Overwhelming poverty? Yep. But also overwhelming beauty, and hopefully new ways to personally evolve and gain more awareness about life.

- Alex

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Alexander Heyne May 22, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I agree!

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