The Paradox Of Living A Life Both Empty And Full

Thomas Bjornstad / Unsplash

There are very few head trips quite like pondering the meaning of life. I myself never possessed the cognitive strength to take on such a taxing inquiry. I felt equal amounts anxiety about the future as I had guilt about the past — a game of emotional hot potato until my need for sleep graciously dismissed me for the day.

Not much is different now. I’m a little older. A little wiser. A little less neurotic. I eat. I sleep. I exist. Trivial stuff. Such is life.

Outside of myself, there’s a lot more going on. A child born for every obituary. A wedding announcement for every despicable act of violence. A “Living My Best Life” for every “Prayers Needed.” It seems like no matter how hard we fight it, there’s a yin for every yang.

We’ve almost beaten the information age into submission with our encapsulating digital presence. There’s simply too much knowledge available to be respected and valued. The Law of Familiarity has kicked our wonder into overdrive, spewing out a type of raging cynicism as product.

Perhaps it’s undeniable. I probably won’t live to see world peace. Violence has existed long before me and will be present long after I’m gone. Despite all the advancements in modern medicine, a proven cure for cancer is still just beyond our grasp. And with all the collective efforts towards harmonious and inclusive social groups, there are still people tapping out to the cruxes of life.

With all that’s required to transmute the status quo into a new and distinct reality, we’re better off fitting a square peg into a round hole. There’s just too much to do and not enough time.

And so we’re here. Meandering through time on what we believe to be giant rotating rock powered by supernatural forces, thinking about our next meal, our next encounter, and our next slumber. Is this really it?

Are all the drawn-out workdays, obligatory gym visits, trite dialogue, repetitive Instagram posts, unappreciated efforts, hours of seemingly lost time really worth the marginal payoff?

There was a moment in my life where this question was front and center. Not so much as on the brink of suicide — I was far too grand a coward for that — but more along the lines of allowing my hopes and dreams to dissipate. After all, I wasn’t really clear. And therefore not very certain. And therefore not very enthused. And therefore not very committed. So what’s the big deal?

To say I lost sight would be a kind gesture, for I never possessed the vision in the first place. What I missed was this illusion of control, this facade of perfection was blinding me from relishing in all that I could as long as I had the time.

I mean shit, folks, this can end at any second for us. Like, really wrap your head around this. We can’t even decide if milk is good or bad, let alone if we’re accurate in our tracings across millions of years. We don’t know what the hell is going on, as everything to some degree falls back on having faith. In something — God, the universe, science, higher power, etc. Even believing in nothing is believing in something.

And so we go along our individual journeys, distracting ourselves with memes and dog pictures to soften the blow of confrontation by a harsher reality than we want to believe we’re at the mercy of.

And you know what, that’s okay. No one should feel bad about struggling. About being scared shitless. About wanting companionship. About chasing their wildest dreams. About posting a workout selfie. Or pictures of their meal prep. Anything that aids the human heart and isn’t hurting anyone in the process, put all of it out there. We need more. There will never be enough.

Because as humans, we’re wired differently. We’re not perfect, and our brains know it. It’s constantly pointing out flaws, paradoxes, comparisons, and deficiencies.

There’s more than enough problems to be highlighted. Show me your progress.

I want to see how your day is a victory over your past. I want to see how you’re weakening the blazing fires of turmoil throughout the world. I want to see how, despite all the uncertainty, you’re taking full advantage of the moment you currently have access to.

Show me your workout selfies and meal prep pictures, for it represents growth. A distancing from what was towards what could be. Something so simple, yet so deeply profound in meaning for the person who posted it.

Show me your promotion at your job, even if you don’t plan on being there for the long-haul. I want to hear about the belief someone had in you, and how you inspired someone through your nobility.

Show me your new relationship. Shout that shit from the rooftops. Because if this all comes crashing down, you bet your ass you won’t want to be trembling alone.

Our thoughts and feelings aren’t always kind, yet they serve a purpose. Like working out, we must flex our empowering thoughts and feelings more than the ones that immobilize us.

Life has no meaning except for the meaning we give it. It’s our view of this wildly abstract, yet empirical life that matters. No more than anyone else’s — it simply matters on its own volition.

So catch yourself before you put someone on blast. In reverence of a vaster perspective, is it really worth it? Is ridicule what you wish to be remembered for?

Unless you’ve experienced a profound enlightenment — to you I say both congratulations and you suck — most everything we do is to ease the pain of uncertainty. That we don’t know how much is left. That we might die with our music still in us.

If this really is an empty canvas with paintbrushes we both discover and create, why not paint a masterpiece? Everyone’s expecting a superfluous depiction, anyway.

You’re either the crane or the wrecking ball. The celebration or the shame. The honor or the disgrace.

The word “because” is used far too often in the English language. There’s an overwhelming feeling to justify why we do what we do in fear of others’ disapproval — to what we equate as furthering the likelihood we will end up with empty seats at our last supper.

The human personality is fluid, not fixed. Anyone can make up their mind to be whatever the hell they want any given day and no one can stop them.

And if I take issue with this, it’s due to my own insecurity about my progress (or lack thereof) in life, that I’ll remain stuck in a deflating reality while others reap the benefits of being a conduit for change. Use this as a mirror, folks — take a look. Jealousy comes from an unrealized area of self.

Apropos of sounding preachy, this is where I close. I’m not telling you what to do (okay, maybe I did) but damn, are we hard on each other — and even harder on ourselves consequently.

All I’m hoping for, truly, is to step out from under the Tree of Woe. Into the light. Where there’s room for both you and others to shine. I’ll be there, too.

I get it, it won’t really matter if you do. But in the same fucked-up, paradoxical way that makes no sense, it will matter.

And none of this makes sense. Such is life.

Menial, trivial, wonderful, beautiful life. TC mark

Dan Whalen is a franchise operator with College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving, personal development writer, and NLP master practitioner.

Keep up with Dan on Instagram, Twitter and Website

More From Thought Catalog