The X-Files had the tagline, “The truth is out there.” The show, obviously (right?), was science fiction, but the idea that truth is “out there” is all too common a reality. Questing toward that truth, the unknown one hiding somewhere far, far away, is an intriguing, worthwhile pursuit. Perhaps because it’s an extraterrestrial one, pulling us away from the lived realities of our daily experience into the possibility of being apart of an exciting grander narrative. Seriously, how cool would it be if there were life “out there?”
But what about life here and now? Why not invest our curiosity and care into confronting terrestrial truths? You know, the truths that actually present existential threats and problems to real people, not the pleasant fictions that we can manipulate into providing us a context that strokes our ego. Why are we so concerned with meaning? Life doesn’t have to mean anything, and what good is that meaning if searching for it undermines the small actions we might take to serve other people right now? If we weren’t so concerned about how we fit into the “grand scheme of things,” we might scheme less and love more.
In The Dark Knight, the Joker was right to criticize people as schemers, planning our way into a meaningful existence where we matter. Almost at the expense of other people mattering. (Hell, we probably forget that other people are matter; i.e. that they are as fully alive as us, the people conveniently forgetting their shared existence and transforming others into objects unworthy of love.) We cling to an unreal past, plan an unreal future, and ignore the real present. (Which is the real present that life gives us.)
Existentialists have said it better than me (hard to believe), but God simply doesn’t matter if we never bother to take care of each other while we’re alive. Does God exist? The question is absurd. Not because we need to mock religion or God or anything else we’ve inserted into our species’ narrative, but more because what good is God – and the afterlife he promises – if it causes us to detach from what we’re experiencing right now? Better to ask, “Do I care about other people? Do I take care of them?” I’m not sure that I really do. I’m also not sure I care about or take care of myself. I focus more on me, but paying attention isn’t the same thing as caring, especially when my attention is given to fictions about who I am and what I’m doing, when I’m looking back at who I was (or who I imagined I was, which is an ever-evolving, ludicrous creation) or at who I might become (an equally ludicrous conception).
But who am I? The question has no answer. Because if I’m really living, if I’m alive right now, whatever answer I try to give will only have been true a moment ago, and since that moment has passed, the answer will have never been true. In this sense, truth is a misconception; it’s a placeholder waiting for a fact that can never arrive. Being is a becoming. I am nothing. I am no thing.
I don’t intend that as some clever linguistic manipulation. Nor as a fundamental truth. So what then? So nothing. Take it as it comes. I’ve moved on. Does that make me a lazy writer? In that moment, probably. And probably right now in this moment. That too shall pass, and I will become nothing again. Thank God.