“If the universe is meaningless, so is the statement that it is so… The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”Alan Watts (via BrainPickings)
I have struggled my whole life with long bouts of major depression and profound anxiety. I’ve also spent a painful period in philosophical nihilism, though I’m grateful that life and good friends helped bring me to a happier state of mind. It is bizarre and sad to witness hundreds of millions being forced to share massive anxiety, depression, and questions of mortality all at the same time.
I once saw someone on Quora asking what the point of life was if it all ends at death, and I was moved to write this little parable about my own journey. I’m resharing it here because I hope it can help a few other people wrestling with these things, especially now.
And if you, like me, have wrestled with mental health issues, depression and anxiety, or suicidal ideation, please don’t feel alone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a wonderful service that operates 24/7 to help people in crisis via phone or live chat.
You know, I was invited to a party once, at a large mansion.
It was quite the spectacle. There were dancers, and fireworks, and food, and drink, and music. The buffet tables were practically breaking under their load of every conceivable food.
And the people — oh, the beautiful people, with their beautiful clothes! There were celebrated artists, and famous scientists, and successful bankers, and world-changing architects, and bold adventurers, and prolific lovers, and people from a hundred other fascinating walks of life. Salons echoed with laughter and scintillating conversation. And from the private bedrooms above, you could occasionally hear (above the music and festivities) the sounds of another kind of conversation, albeit a more carnal one.
Goodness, people were having fun.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I would have to leave. That eventually, the party would be over — not for everyone, of course, just for me. Because I would eventually have to leave on other business.
Indeed, that prospect ruined my appetite with worry, and so I didn’t stop to eat a single delicious thing. I ignored the bold stares and seductive body language of countless gorgeous women (and not a few men as well), because I was too busy staring at my watch. Indeed, when a famous actor stepped over with a glass of punch and a friendly word, I growled at him to leave me alone, because I was trying to count the seconds before the dreaded time when I would have to leave.
Granted, I had a whole twelve hours to enjoy myself, but I was determined to be vigilant, and not to let a single second escape my watchful gaze.
Of course, if I had been more aware of my surroundings, I might have noticed how much fun the other party-goers were having.
I did occasionally glance up from my watch and noticed, throughout the evening, that the time came for various other attendees to go and to be replaced by a rosy-faced newcomer. But even the ones who had to leave, the ones who were enjoying themselves fully, even as they were stepping through the courtyard gates, they left with a smile on their ruddy faces, a spring in their step, and (more often than not) plenty of lipstick on their tousled collars.
Who knew what else the night may hold for them outside the doors? But they were determined to enjoy every moment and every step until they reached the gate, and even as they stepped into the unknown, they were determined to treat it as another grand adventure.
Boy, did I envy those people.
I also noticed, when I heard the occasional sounds of struggle and protest, that I was not the only pale, frowning watch-watcher. When my anxious companions were dragged (firmly, but not unkindly) towards the gate, they went into a frenzy.
“Don’t take me! I’m too young to go! There’s so much I wanted to do! I haven’t had my dinner, and I haven’t talked to anyone! Just give me five more minutes!”
Sadly, it was too late, and they were pushed through the gates, hungry and crestfallen, having spent their allotted time not in revelry, brilliant conversations, and fun but in staring anxiously at their watches, just like me. They seemed so sad, and so frightened, as they left, and not at all like the vivacious and happy adventurers who had gone out before them.
So even though I was down to my last hour, I figured I had nothing to lose, and quite a bit to gain. I screwed up my courage, stepped into the lights and the music, and began to enjoy myself.
It was the best decision of my life, and I’ve never regretted it.