Why? What? How? Where? When? … Those five constitute the five fundamental pillars of the philosophical conundrum of life. Everybody seeks answers to these questions. And nobody finds an answer to these questions. Some formulate their own answers that satisfy their limited world-view and which seems to work reasonably well when applied to the limited context of their own lives. Yet others derive answers from external sources – most notably lending absolute weight and credence to divine texts from 2000 (or 5000 or 1700 – take your pic) years ago. Yet others simply give up and prefer to occupy themselves with the rigors and vagaries of everyday life. But even though a vast majority find self-fulfilling answers to these questions or simply ignore them altogether, a small fraction of people find themselves perenially gridlocked in the miserable pursuit to find them, very often at the cost of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Such people sacrifice their sense of well being at the altar of truth and for them, there can be no true happiness without knowledge, no true freedom without elucidation.
Existential crisis is a state where the mind is continuously preoccupied with the indefinite iteration of a set of inescapable facts – that human life is inconsequential and perhaps futile, that we are insignificant and irrelevant in the context of the cosmos. The term “cosmos” is a term which has several discrete levels of granularity – the result of finite quantization applied to a continuous greyscale in order to enable comprehension by our minds. “Cosmos” might refer to your city or your country, to the state of absolute corruption that exists in society, to the social and economic unfairness in the world, to the seemingly arbitrary nature of everything around us, to the Solar System, to the Galaxy, to the Universe and beyond.
Not coincidentally, people who undergo this condition, tend to set a high bar for being satisfied with a particular theory/recipe as an answer – and therefore, find it extraordinarily hard to find emotional and spiritual resonance with a significant body of mainstream spiritual/emotional thought. Such people are unable to accept simplistic narratives which reek of naivete and melodrama (but which they grudgingly admit might cause people to be happy). Eventually, the repeated rejection of all possible avenues for seeking answers leads to an exponentially increasing onset of cynicism and bitterness. And the more time one spends ruminating, the more difficult it is for the ego to accept a simplistic explanation, thereby admitting not only defeat but also self-realization of how useless the entire exercise has been.
If one were to go purely by Scientific and Rational thought, then such people would indeed be vindicated – for theirs is the only method compatible and consistent with rational arguments – especially by their explicit rejection of improbable and juveline notions about dieties, afterlife and such – and more especially by their explicit rejection to attribute the ontology and epistemology or morality to an ultimate creator. However, it is rightly postulated that “ignorance is bliss”, whose corollary implies that excessive rational thought and/or introspection and/or contemplation is counter-productive and disruptive to the process of life itself.
To paraphrase the Matrix:
Neo: I can’t go back, can I?
Morpheus: No. But if you could, would you really want to?
– Written by Guest Writer, Rajiv Iyer, as a run-up to this blog’s 3rd blogoversary.