an itchy brain

an itchy brain
image by dall.e 2

Recently, I arrived at two unfortunate conclusions. My hope as I share them with you is that you will be kind enough to point out their fallacies, or at the very least, their irrationality. For I fear, my dear reader, that the hopes that have long sustained the rhythm in my life are slowly materializing into a cacophony of pessimistic whispers. I'm not entirely sure what resides within these thoughts, which is why I sit down to write today, hoping that by the time my heart is satisfied with the image of its outpouring, I will have an acceptable answer to the question, “What, precisely, makes life worth living?”

I must admit, this question came to me this past week, after I fell into the trap of reading “When Breath Becomes Air” by the late Paul Kalanithi. This query’s timing aside, I must mention that I have entertained its doppelgangers, whose footprints I can trace across the last few years of my life when my appetite for Philosophy has grown.  

I began this year with the central question, “How should I live my life”? I abandoned my pursuit of a minor in creative writing by enrolling in a Philosophy elective titled “The Meaning of Life”. And then… I promised my brain that this course’s readings would help the both of us fashion a sufficient lifeboat that would sail us across this rough sea that we call “existence”. I might have been audacious, convincing myself that I could engage in agreeable dialogues with great minds like Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Immanuel Kant. I didn’t fare too poorly, considering my novice philosopher status. However, my initial mission ended in failure. I must confess that a common outcome for me in debates, dialogues, and discussions is leaving with more questions than answers. It's akin to scratching an itch on my brain, only to find it itching even more, incessantly. 

I invest my thoughts in the pursuit of evidence that life possesses substance, but my evidence board becomes messier the more I read, listen, or do anything… really. It’s like trying to seduce an uncourtable woman. Or grasping at a shadow. Nailing jelly to the wall. Or trying to play a rigged game. And what is the point of playing a contrived game? Unless I’m on the winning side…

This was my reasoning as I relied on my Christian faith, which carries the promise of sweet eternal life in Heaven. Yet as I sit here today, it is occurring to me that I don’t really know why eternity poses as a better alternative to the uncertainties of my present life. To be shamefully candid, the promise of Heaven has never really been comforting for me, except when it has been juxtaposed against eternal damnation in Hell. 

I bring this up because throughout my life, I've lived with the solace that no matter how chaotic life becomes, Heaven awaits.  And all I have to do is just get in there and live eternally, in a house made of Gold. But then, this question recently occurred to me: what would the point of living eternally be? In other words, if I haven’t deciphered how and why I should live the next sixty sum (if I’m fortunate) years, how dare I even dream that I am worthy of 10000+ years? 

And so, here I am, at this crossroads, where the instinct to live, to survive, to exist longer than the present earth itself seems foolish.  Even worse, the will to live, which knits its yarn across most, if not all, living organisms… becomes undone. Naturally, it begs the question, “Why does an antelope run when it is chased by a lion”? Schopenhauer comes to mind… so it must be because of the blind urge to keep on existing. It is this blindness that keeps us going despite, for lack of a better phrase, the ups and downs of life. Yet the meaninglessness of it all starts to catch up at some point, and then one notices that antelopes die anyway, so, again, what is the point of running? To chew on a little bit more grass? Yet even if this antelope existed in a city made of juicy green grass, is that all there is to her life? To eat and to defecate, and to run away from lions? And what difference does it make if our dear antelope is eaten by Lion A on a warm September afternoon or Lion B on a cool November evening? Or Leopard Z on a random day of the year at some arbitrary point in both the antelope’s and the leopard’s timelines? 

In the same way that I have no reasons to root for the antelope anymore, I also find no incentive whatsoever for myself. 

Simply, I now find myself at a point of weighing the cost of existence against the mystery of non-existence. But to do so, at least with a fair scale, I must first decide, rather uncover, whether there is any exceptionality in my being here at all… and at this particular moment. Because far be it from me that I threaten one of the universe’s prized possessions by questioning the intentionality behind my being here. Yet even further be it from me that I hang on to an incidental corporeality. A purposeless life. A life of meaningless pain and fruitless pleasure. 

So, I pause here to contemplate whether there is any experience I have had that separates me from the rest of mankind. 

I find none. 

I, too, grumble about pain. From monthly dysmenorrhea like most women to the stupid migraine I’ve had this whole week. I, too, fall into temptation. From the hundreds of digestive biscuits I’ve worshiped to the massage of the snooze button in the mornings. I, too, fear loss. From witnessing the recent crumblings of my innocence to the endless search of socks I absolutely for-the-love-of-tide-pods cannot find anymore. I, too, worry. From the anticipation of my manager’s weekly feedback to the waiting for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tickets to go on sale. I, too, feel inexplicable joy. From the acceptance into a research assistantship at Yale to receiving my parents in the UAE. I, too, feel mysterious contentment. From the daily view of the Burj Khalifa from the metro to the easy access to Buldak noodles and crab balls. I, too, feel hope. From the nightly anticipation of a pair bond to the consequent dreams of five, or six, babies of my own. 

This is all good and true.  

Yet, at this very moment, I question whether there is any reduction of pain or increment of gratification that would convince me that first, there is a special significance to my life and by extension, any life at all. 

For if there is no use in the whole, certainly there is no intent in this my part. 

Secondly, and in the same fashion, if there is no utility in these last twenty sum years of my life or your life, then, as long as we’re chasing mirages, there could possibly not be any use in twenty more, two thousand more, or even a billion more years in this plane of consciousness.