“How much does love matter to you?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I feel loved by a lot of people. Whether or not I have a romantic relationship. Acceptance, appreciation, respect, commitment…those are harder to come by and more important to me sometimes.”
“Do you love and accept yourself?”
“I did. For a little while. I think it was when my what I wanted aligned exactly with what I was doing.”
“Hmm..interesting. So why aren’t you still doing that?”
“Because it stopped being something I wanted. Traveling without purpose, connecting with people who saw our connection as ephemeral, exploring and eventually feeling like all the places I saw reminded me of other places I’d already been. It felt destabilizing, fragmenting. I needed to find something solid in me.”
“And that’s why you’re here?” I nod.
“So..what do you want? What do you see in your future?”
“How can I say? The future is uncertain. Whatever I create, it would just fall apart and be something different.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that is how it has always been.”
“But the future could be different, no?”
“If you don’t create anything and believe it will all fail, you don’t have anything…and it will all fail…right?”
“Maybe I don’t want anything. I don’t believe in anything lasting.”
“So you don’t believe in love or relationships or anything lasting…but it seems you’re trying to make it work (life and your relationships). A lot. You strive for community and work at it, but don’t believe it will ever exist? Why?”
“Because I can’t find any other reason to be here.”
“So…what do you believe,” he asked?
I pondered for a while. “I believe nothing matters in the end. I believe the here and now is all we have, but just enjoying the here and now, yet that being one’s meaning feels hedonistic to me.”
He nodded, then asked: “So, to clarify, you believe nothing matters – but you’re trying to find meaning in your life.”
I felt silly. I was stumped. “I guess because I feel like nothing matters long-term. But I feel like I’m still here..so why not find something to live here for until it doesn’t matter?”
“You’re a bundle of contradictions.”
I nod – but this time, I don’t feel pride or obstinance in the recognition like I have in the past.
“So let’s talk about this more. Why do you feel nothing matters?”
“The world has already recreated itself, killed dinosaurs, created humans. We will all die at some point – all of us, all humans.”
“But how do you know?”
“But science can’t even prove if there is or is not a god. How could it prove for sure that it will recreate itself again, that humans will die, or that what ends will not be created into something new and you won’t be a part of it in some way?”
“I guess I don’t.”
“And neither can I.”
“So why does it matter?”
“Because it matters to you. You’ve held onto this. If you don’t know either way, why believe it? It’s a choice, isn’t it?”
Check. Shit. With all the thinking I’ve done in my lifetime, I didn’t see this pretty obvious logical inconsistency. The choice in the matter. I guess I do have a choice.
“So if what we have is the moment but enjoying the moment is hedonistic and also doesn’t matter (to you), then…what is life? What is now?”
“It’s been suffering every moment since the moment you were born?”
“Well, no. Of course not.”
“Then life is both suffering and joy?”
“Among other things.”
“So if life is *mostly* suffering and there isn’t meaning in suffering and to have joy or positive feelings is hedonistic, it seems like you haven’t created any path to happiness in your brain. Because you’ve decided happiness is worthless and pain is suffering and also worthless.”
I looked down at my hands. Check. How could I have been so blind? He’s right. I’ve created an impossible situation and belief system to live by. Why strive for happiness if, in the end, happiness has also been deemed negative?
“Where and when do you think you developed these beliefs?”
“Nihilism? When I was in high school. Agnostic atheism? After surgery when I was 8. There was a part of me angry that if there was a God, he would make me suffer. And there was a contradictory part that thought I should not have been spared survival during surgery. And yet it also drove me to finding meaning somewhere else. But I’m still looking.”
“Where are you looking?”
“I’m trying to find my passions again…art, nature, dancing. Connecting with people. I’m still scared to. Therapy, neurofeedback…but in reaching for all these things, it still feels like I’m just trying to find something to keep me here. It’s not real meaning.”
“But sometimes in reaching for things, you find something.”
“But what you find is all fleeting…”
“And now we’re back to the idea of fleeting things not mattering. But..neither does building anything, apparently.”
I glared at him.
“Hey, I’m just telling you what you told me.”
“Yeah…I know. That’s what’s making me glare at you. No one has really questioned me like this. Most of my friends are pessimists, depressed, and also mostly nihilistic.”
He nodded and laughed a bit. “Ya know, all of my nihilistic atheist friends are pretty damn depressed. Do you think maybe there is a correlation?”
“See you next week….” he responded with a smile, very clearly proud of forcing me into a checkmate with myself and leaving me with a LOT to chew on. Ya know: just life, the universe, and everything is all.
Geeze…I didn’t realize going to therapy would be like going on an existential trial with myself and the therapist my prosecutor.
….I kinda like this guy.