Heavy Emptiness of Life
Have you ever thought about what life consists of? When you break it down, life is very predictable — almost scary predictable. At any given point of time society lets you engage with the following elements of it:
Job — which in 2% of the cases can be a career;
Hobby — which can become a job, career or just bring joy;
Family — in the form of relationship with your parents, partner and kids;
Friendship — hopefully long-lasting and impactful;
Religion — the spiritual way to understand the world’s behavior;
Funny enough, that is basically it — your whole life at a glance, nothing more, nothing less.
Throughout our long existential journey we contribute to some of the elements more than others. From early childhood we are pushed to gradually experience each element until we are mature enough, ideally, to make our own choices, decisions, and pursue whatever destiny lays ahead.
Having people tugged in so many directions by social pressure, it is no surprise that one or more elements in our life can be broken, undeveloped or ignored. When this happens, people feel hopeless, fall into depression, can end up on the streets, build addiction, become misfits or even commit suicide.
Big and heavy question
There is one question that has puzzled me for a while now. “Is there a way to have a meaningful life if you don’t use any of the elements?” I am personally unaware of anyone who is successful in every single one. It is always something: traumatic childhood, loneliness, poor education, shitty job, ego or maybe narcissism. Whatever it is, the easiest solution people find is to substitute these gaps with artificial addiction, like shopping, drinking, social media, gambling, and potentially even ignorance. We popularize it through global public channels, letting influencers of the world dictate the meaning of our existence. The more we are dependent on artificial substitution, the heavier the weight grows inside, eventually eating away at our soul and leaving with a built up pile of regret on our deathbed.
Why does it matter? Because I want to believe that at least once in a while everyone has that strange feeling inside, one that can easily beat laziness, achieve greatness, imagine new worlds and create. We are scared of that person inside us, because we don’t understand and we prefer comfort. I can only hope that when we are reminded, we have enough courage to take an action, at least a tiny bit, so that we actually can say “Life happened to me”.
Alternative is a delusional utopia of the world shaped by the wise crowd for an unwise crowd.
Note # 1: It seems like people would rather lose their soul to comfort than push their body on the adventure for excellence.
What are the most effective ways to escape reality and those challenges? I have tried social media, alcohol, sugar and gaming. None of it worked well or long enough to be treated as a sustainable solution. Manifestation of a massive void of unsatisfied potential still hits hard and can take a destructive form. In moments of silence and solitude those thoughts hunt you down and make you feel like absolute rubbish.
I’m not going to claim that social media is bad for you or give a lecture on the benefits of a healthy diet. No one should take away little moments of joy that help people carry the heavy burden of the world that is full of unknowns, never ending disasters and superficial people. After all, it is only because society perceives certain activities negatively while making reading, mediation, sport and other positive. From what I witness, reading versus alcohol is the same approach of escapism, only sprinkled with social judgment and unfair assumptions of better or worse. Why anyone in their sane mind should feel bad for having a glass of wine after a hard day is beyond me.
The key to navigating the “good” and the “bad” forms of escapism is understanding the repercussions. The unspoken rule: the more you do, the more you should get out of it. For example, if you read a bunch of books — which would be defined as a meaningful activity by people of a progressive nature — you should reach higher intelligence, broaden views and a build better vocabulary. On the other side, drinking, where the more you do it, the probability of getting more of the same value is diminishing with predictable consequences, like health issues; but you still get a lot, just something else.
Note # 2: Choose your addictive substitute wisely, because it is your life, you are corrupting and twisting one of the elements and society might not support you.
Symptoms of emptiness
Unfortunately, it is not straightforward, at least from the beginning, what to consider heavy or an empty addiction. It is true that lessons are best learned from experience and I had to learn the hard way about each substitute I chose.
Here are some of the real examples that almost consumed me with heaviness.
Gaming: I used to get a lot of positive energy playing video games with my friends and random people. Not anymore. I spent countless hours which contributed to the element of friendship and took away from the other four. I remember my mother would get really upset with me as I ignored studying, sleeping, eating and spending time with family. Nowadays that is only a fraction of memories of that experience and I get disappointed every single time I try to play again and not receive anything from it. It became a destructive time killer with few positive exceptions.
Shopping: Buying new things or putting grocery store visits on a regular schedule with a hope to attach some meaning and receive a shot of dopamine really created unhealthy habits. I was replacing free time with wandering around and spending for no reason. I learned to limit my purchases only to real valuables and minimalism, but it is definitely an unhealthy substitution that adds very little but can take so much.
Reading: Surprisingly even this one can be treated as an artificial substitution. Mainly for a few reasons: first, it can create unhealthy escape from reality; second, reading in a form of challenge is producing no true value. The latter is generated from the concept of 52 books a year, where instead of consuming the knowledge you compete with mysterious groups of people for unreal achievements. I prefer to read less now and do it slowly, avoiding all the “How to read more and faster” guides.
Additionally, I had to go through following life “replacements”:
Alcohol — to escape facing hard conversations at work and home;
Social Media — scrolling for dopamine kicks as being too lazy for action;
Sugar — finding peace in sweetness spikes to feel immediate regrets after;
Coffee — to feel busy and important in social interactions.
These examples are just a tiny bit of internal fights all people have to go through when artificial substitutions seem more desirable than the given elements.
Note # 3: Try to be subjective and even if things look positive at first, revisit it once in a while just to make sure it still gives what you expect. Otherwise it is time for change.
Leap of excellence
Unless someone can come up with additional elements, the common sense approach to beat life’s unknowns would be to strive for absolute excellence in all five existing elements. It can be done through radical principles, continuous improvement or micro-changes. From the get go it is clear that absolute excellence is unobtainable, but having a goal is always a good sign of normalized success. The trick is to define what excellence means for each element and that is ok if the definition keeps changing as you go through your personalized journey.
Be aware that your ultimate reaction to climbing social hierarchy for excellence will be scary and boring at the beginning — accept this reality and learn to take absolutely no responsibility for complexity of the world. The only thing you should be accountable for is your own actions.
Our brain wants to feel at peace and thus, will sometimes sabotage us from succeeding because achieving these goals takes uncomfortable work. When you feel the urge to give up or take the lazy route, remember life has a way of punishing those who cheat.
You deserve to reach excellence.
Imagine the state when no additional motivation is needed, it is a pure flow of life going through you and manifesting in something potentially never seen or done before. That type of harmony is a beautiful outcome to strive for.
Note # 4: Emptiness is easily fought by pushing yourself towards a new experience. That is the only way to keep an expanding mindset and generate memorable milestones.
Dedication to madness
Occasionally, there will be a person who becomes so obsessed with only one element and dedicates every single minute to push the line of what is considered normal beyond imaginable. Regardless of the desire to have a society of individuals with a healthy balance of developed elements, it feels like a necessary evil to have such exceptions in order to move evolution up the scale. These people are the Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandelas, and Albert Einsteins of the world.
What we have learned is that communicating, living and, in general, just dealing with such individuals is awfully difficult; however, I would choose that any day over a happy life of mediocrity that is overpopulated the world.
When you think about it — most of what been created is based on imagination of people who wanted something else, bigger, brighter or just disagreed with the status quo and dared to challenge generational wisdom.
Note # 5: Theory of Psychological Consistency plays an important role in decision making. It teaches us to break old habits and build a great foundation for such a personality.
Element # 6
One day someone will find a new life element that everyone can rush to explore and be the best at — it feels inevitable.
There are following preconditions, that can help to make it happen earlier:
Have more “mad” people — absolutely dedicated to one element, that will push the boundaries of normal.
Have everyone consistently make improvements across all elements on a daily basis, an unbearable pursuit for better that will keep changing social structure and challenge our expectations of each other.
Have no life substitution that makes you numb to change, artificial flavors of positive, and create emotionless crowds that drag the whole system down.
Despite the overarching disastrous world tendencies I believe that humanity can keep the progress going, even though we like to pull evolution and revolutions in different directions, and drag attention toward ourselves with all the social media hype, there is still hope to reach the north star.
(c) Artem Gonchakov