Stability mangoge, chaos denge
On how to befriend uncertainty
A little community update
Hello everyone! We had our first community event last Sunday, and 40 of you joined. It was so great to meet y'all face to face and discuss life and philosophy! I'll run this session again next Sunday, so do register for it if you missed this one.
When you first fall in love with someone, you're convinced that they are the one for you. In successive relationships, you're less certain. You know all too well that this might not last.
Moving away from home is a bit like that. Moving once is, in some sense, moving forever. Life in your second or third or fourth place, however stable, is never a permanent fixture.
I'm always afraid that the life I've built in Delhi for years might soon come to an end. As elements of this life start to crumble–friends going away, no job that keeps me here, too many fixed costs–that feared scenario is knocking on my door.
For me, this year is about giving up control and accepting change. What I've had in Delhi all this while has been beautiful. Letting go comes with its own grief and a question: how, as builders of life, do we cope when our castles crumble?
The 'Absurdity' of Wanting Certainty
Albert Camus was one of the great existential thinkers, and he wrote a lot about absurdity. For him, life had no meaning, but that wasn't the point of emphasis. Camus focused instead on how absurd it is that we crave meaning in a world that refuses to offer it to us.
It is our demand for meaning, not the world's refusal to give it to us, that was most absurd for Camus. Why are we the kind of species that demand meaning?
We'll talk about meaning on another day, but today I'm wondering if the same thing happens with certainty: we demand certainty from a world that is fundamentally uncertain.
In 2022, I asked the world for everything to be certain, and in 2023 I'm starting to accept that it just doesn't work that way. Going back again to Phil Stutz:
The pain will never go away, uncertainty will no ever go away, and there's no getting away from the need for constant work. Everybody has to live like that, no matter what.
Uncertainity and The Absurd Hero
The trouble, though, is that it feels like we deserve certainty. If we make effort to build a life, it's only fair that the rewards last. When uncertainity does its thing—you lose a loved one, a job doesn't work out, a venture fails–there's a real hopelessness in response. If it's not going to last, what's the point?
We demand certainty from a world that is fundamentally, unchangeably uncertain.
This is the tension Camus calls upon us to confront with a feeling of rebellion. We need to find a way to stay motivated, to build a life we love, even though it all falls apart from time to time. That is the challenge of the absurd hero: to accept life's refusal, but keep shouting out our demands from the top of our lungs anyway.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
- From 'If' by Rudyard Kipling
A New Life?
I am slowly opening my heart up to change. I love what I've built here, but I will need to explore what it's like to risk it all and start anew. The possibilities are both terrifying and deeply exciting.
This might look as radical as moving to a new city, or as subtle as simply relaxing my wrist, not trying to hold on too tightly to quicksand. There is a lightness in letting go of the demand for sameness, even though my heart craves it deeply.
I don't know what this year will bring. I'm walking into it with the energy of the absurd hero. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. ❤️
This Week's Recommendation
If you're in the mood to get all existential this week, here's a nice article on Camus' ideas on absurdity and meaning.