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There has to be more to life than this…

FORTHCOMING

Book Two of The Meaning of Life Trilogy

Psychology of meaninglessness

 

You will learn more about the psychology of others — and yourself — from this book than you can from any other single book.

The most pervasive and confronting truth of the human condition is pseudo-meaningful lives — lives of partial, fragile and artificial meaninglessness which we cling to in order to block out that voice at the back of our heads nagging at us: ‘There simply has to be more to life than this’.

Only one thing can break us out of the somnambulistic shuffle of pseudo-meaningfulness: the confrontation with meaninglessness. This can power us on to go on a crusade for genuine human meaningfulness.

Extract from

There has to be more to life than this...

Preface: The human condition

(Scene: A rat and a human being in a cosmic maze.)

Rat:            That’s it. I’m exhausted. I’m never going down Tunnel Four again. Never! I’ve been down there fourteen times in a row and there is no food down there.

Human:    Don’t be silly, Rat. The food was always down there before. You went down there and found food hundreds of times in a row. You’re just not looking in the right way. The food WAS always down there. It IS down there now.

Rat:            Listen, Human. I know it used to be down there but it’s not anymore.

Human:    It HAS to be, Rat. Look, I’ve given lectures to thousands of people which conclusively prove that it is logically necessary that the source of all goodness is down Tunnel Four.

Rat:            Well, pardon me, but I have been doing the trial-and-error-bit and it’s NOT down there anymore.

Human:    It IS down there. Look! It says so in my new book, Fournomenology. See... ‘The number four is by its divine nature a reflect of the pure bountiful divinity of the all-givingness of the universal–’

Rat:            (interrupting) Well, Human, you go and get it then.

Human:    All right I will. I’ll show you. Huh, stupid Rat. (He squeezes into Tunnel Four.)

Human:    (re-emerging from tunnel) All right, it’s not there... yet. But it will be.

Rat:            Maybe. But I won’t be here if it ever finally turns up because I’ll be up other tunnels looking for food.

Human:    You’re mad, you know that. Completely mad. And heretical. You’re mad and heretical. Heretical and mad. The source will be here, don’t you worry about that. I’ve just invented a new probability calculus which shows that the food will appear in Tunnel Four at any second.

Rat:            Yeah, right. Bye. (The rat disappears up Tunnel Nine.)

Human:    You’ll be sorry, stupid Rat, you’ll see. I’ll just sit here and be hungry for a while... but I’m correct, yes I am.... Tunnel Four, yes indeed... I’ve proved it... Tunnel Four... yes... Fournomenology... my book’s right... it must be, it’s a bestseller... I’ll just sit here and starve for a while..

Extract

The Confrontation with Meaninglessness

 

Life begins on the other side of despair.

-    Jean-Paul Sartre

 

 Phil Connors was accelerating his car towards the edge of a cliff. He was determined to plunge with it into oblivion.

He couldn’t take it anymore.

He wasn’t in physical pain. He didn’t have a terminal disease. He wasn’t poor.

He had a good job. He lived in a nice place.

But the relentless grinding pointlessness of his life had worn him down.

Every day seemed a pointless, meaningless repetition of the day before.

Death beckoned as a welcome release from the all-engulfing pointlessness of life.

Phil Connors had been confronted by meaningless and, piece by piece, it had dismantled him until he was convinced that whatever lay on the other side of death was preferable to the unending shuffling pointlessness of his life.

The steering wheel didn’t deviate. The car leapt over the edge of the cliff…

How did it get to this point?

Confusion and denial

Phil Connors was not a nice person.

Smug, opinionated, sardonic, he believed he knew better than anyone else. He thought that he had all the answers in life. His career was on the up. He had a degree of fame.

If you’d asked him about the meaning of life, he would have probably told you he didn’t care.

But meaninglessness started to tap him on the shoulder.

He woke up one morning and realized that this day was the same day as the day before.

And so was the next day.

In fact all his days now seemed to be pretty much the same.

He felt like he was caught in an endless loop.

This wasn’t how life was supposed to go. This wasn’t the life that society had promised him.

Get a job, be successful, have good prospects — didn’t that guarantee him a meaningful life?

What the hell was going on?

Different people are confronted by meaninglessness in different ways.

It could be through failure.

It could be through depression.

It could be through boredom.

It could be through a sense of purposelessness.

It could be through a broken heart.

It could be through feeling overwhelmed by the injustice of life.

It could be through a dawning sense of the artificiality of one’s own life.

It could be the through the spectre of death

But the confrontation with meaninglessness always brings with it a sense of confusion.

Life isn’t supposed to be like this.

It isn’t supposed to feel this way.

I did everything I was supposed to do, didn’t I? Wasn’t that supposed to guarantee me a meaningful life? I ticked all of society’s boxes, didn’t I? Why does it feel so meaningless? Surely there has to be more to life than this…

Repetition and pointlessness

In Phil Connors’ case, what drove him into that state of confusion was the seemingly pointless repetitiveness of the daily grind.

Every day the alarm went off at 6am to wake him up to face another day of same-old-same-old: the same breakfast, the same work, the same people.

In the end, what was the point of it? Why go on living at all?

It was just a treadmill of meaninglessness…

As hard as the confrontation with meaninglessness is, it is a quintessential part of what it is to have a truly human life.

Do you think your dog would get upset if every day was an exact repetition of the same glorious day he’d had the day before? The same ball to chase, the same food to eat, the same pats, the same pillow to lie on — canine bliss.

Phil Connors’ hell.

But it is not hell because intrinsically bad things were happening to him. They weren’t. It was hell because deep inside Phil there was and always had been a nagging desire for true meaningfulness.

Meaninglessness confronted him with a deep truth that he’d been fighting to avoid admitting for his whole life: deep down, he’d always known that there was more to him than the face he presented to the world. Deep down, he’d always suspected that there simply had to be more to life than this. The confrontation with meaninglessness shoved these long-dodged suspicions into his face…

The flight from meaninglessness

Confronted by the maw of meaninglessness, Phil Connors retreats into something — anything — that he can invest as meaningful in some way — no matter how transitory or trivial it may be.

He tries gluttony — stuffing himself with food.

He tries sex.

He tries stealing and he gets away with it. That gives him a rush.

This is a common response when people are first confronted by meaninglessness. They latch onto something — anything — that seems to give the promise of some skerrick of meaningfulness. It could be food. It could be drugs. It could be drink. It could be workaholia. It could be a hobby. It could be sex. It could be group fanaticism. It could be danger and adrenalin.

It seems to the person that they are running towards something — to the excitement of the drug, the drink, the hobby, sex, whatever. The truth is that they are running away — away from the confrontation with meaninglessness.

Boredom

The desperate flight from meaninglessness doesn’t work for long.

Repeated every day, gluttony, seduction, theft become just as boring and pointless as everything else.

Boredom — profound and absolute — starts to set in. He’d seen it all before. He’d done it all before.

The desperate grasp for connection

Desperate for something to fill the void, Phil Connors tries ‘love’.

This will surely fill the void.

He’s attracted to Rita.

He pursues her. He manipulates Rita in every way he can think of to get her into bed and connect with him and so temporarily stave off the void of meaninglessness.

This is the most socially-endorsed way of running away from meaninglessness: connection with another — falling in love, forming a partner bond.

While life faced alone may seem meaningless, surely life shared with someone will be meaningful. Society guarantees it, doesn’t it?

For so many people, the grasp at connection turns out to be a gateway to an even more overwhelming confrontation with meaninglessness. The other person rejects you. The marriage fizzles out to an empty meaningless shell… relationships end… divorce turns bitter… the person who once supposedly loved you now turns into a demon seemingly intent on tearing all sense of meaningfulness from your life…

The resulting plunge into depression is even deeper than it if there had never been a grasp at connection.

Loneliness

Sensing that Phil’s clever act hides a lack of true inner worth, Rita rejects him — repeatedly.

Phil Connors descends into a well of loneliness.

He feels that he and he alone is swamped by meaninglessness — that everyone else is going about their care-free meaningful lives while he alone has descended into the pit.

This is the Great Secret. The Great Lie.

This is the secret which, to our shame, we never talk about, we never share.

We don’t share our confrontation with meaninglessness. We are ashamed of it.

Other people are going about their lives and enjoying them. They’re not depressed. I shouldn’t inflict my depression on others. I can’t share what I’m going through. Other people have always seen me as a strong person. I’m the one they turn to. How can I let them see that I’m flawed and weak? How can I let them see that I don’t have all the answers?

We think we should have the answers. We went to school, didn’t we? The school gave us answers. Surely we have answers.

We pretend that we do have the answers. Even in the midst of depression, we retain our conceit that we know more than most.

It is the secret that Presidents keep from you, that millionaires keep from you, that parents keep from their children. It is the secret that needs to be brought out into the open — that in the course of a full human life, you will be confronted by meaninglessness.

Is there anyone so shallow and deficient that they have never been confronted by meaninglessness?

Yes.

But most of us are Phil Connors…

Depression

Phil Connors has tried every way he can think of to push meaninglessness away.

He can’t do it anymore. Depression has been pacing back and forth in the background, watching him wriggle, waiting for him.

Loneliness is the final straw. Depression engulfs him.

We can play dodge-ball with other confrontations with meaninglessness: we may be able to find clever maneuvers so we’re only grazed by loneliness, failure, boredom, pointlessness, rejection. But we can’t play dodge-ball with depression. Depression is not about the absence of meaningfulness; it is the engulfment by meaninglessness.

Many and varied are the slopes into this quicksand: heartbreak, bereavement failure, illness, misfortune… perhaps no present-day reason can be pinpointed…

All depressions have one element in common: we are engulfed by them. No matter how much we lecture ourselves, we cannot think, cajole or coach ourselves out of it.

Depressions happen TO us. It feels like our will — our free will — has been annihilated and there is no way we can exercise our will to drag us out of this engulfment.

We hang on — desperately hang on — to the thought that the depression will pass.

If we cannot hang onto that dim hope, depression slips over the cliff into…

Despair

Swamped by aloneness, depressed, seeing no hope for anything to change ever, Phil Connors is swallowed by despair…

He knows not what may lie on the other side of death but surely it can’t be any worse than this unremitting pounding meaninglessness.

He accelerates his car towards the cliff…

'I have been obsessed by death. I wanted to die instead of living half dead.’

-    Janov quoting a patient in Imprints, p.215.

Resurrection

As the car smashes into the ground, Connors blanks out.

He doesn’t know how long this blankness lasts but when he awakes, he is back in his bed. Unscathed.

He doesn’t understand what happened. Had he really made that suicide attempt? Had he dreamt it? Perhaps he had died long ago… perhaps he was now in purgatory, suffering through the torment of endlessly repeated days until he had paid for his sins.

Eventually he makes another leap.

He leaps off a psychological cliff.

He can’t change the cycle of days.

But there is one thing that he can change… himself.

He resurrects himself.

He starts to use his days to evolve as a person.

He starts to imbue the endlessly repeated days with meaning by using them to become a better person: he reads books, he studies the piano, he helps others.

The days cease to be pointless repetitions because one thing is changing — Phil Connors himself.

Each day is a step in making a better Phil Connors.

He changes from arrogant to humble.

He transforms himself from a know-it-all into someone who actually knows something.

Phil turns his confrontation with meaninglessness from a curse into a blessing.

Rita is now surprised by the admirable qualities she sees inside the transformed Phil.

She is drawn to him.

Is that you, Phil?

Which Phil Connors are you?

Are you the Phil Connors before his confrontation with meaninglessness? Arrogantly sure that you know it all? That you have the answers? Are you reading this book to pick holes in it and so further convince yourself of how wonderfully right you are?

Are you the Phil Connors who has just been touched by meaninglessness? Are you like he was in the initial stages? Hiding from meaninglessness in gluttony or sex or drugs or drink or some other addiction?

Are you the Phil Connors convinced that a relationship is the way out? Are you certain that, if can just find the right partner, everything will be fine and meaninglessness will stay at bay once and forever?

Are you the Phil Connors that can no longer go into denial about meaninglessness? Are you currently being slowly eaten by meaninglessness — loneliness, failure, depression, despair?

Have you been one or all of those Phil Connors in the past?

Or are you the Phil Connors who has realized that there can be more to life than this?

The Human Condition?

I had a very close friend.

Yet, in so many ways, he was odd. Really odd.

He would eat the exactly same food every day and loved every mouthful — it was just as if he hadn’t eaten that food for months.

He’d get thrilled by the most banal things. When he got into a car, you’d think he’d just got into the world’s most amazing rollercoaster ride.

He would do the exact same exercise every day and every single day he would get excited at the prospect.

He would lounge around for hours doing absolutely nothing. Not reading. Not watching TV. Nothing. Yet he was wonderfully content doing that nothing.

The spectre that drove Phil Connors crazy — endlessly repeated days — wouldn’t have bothered my friend one bit.

Was he an advanced spiritual master?

No, he was my dog.

Humans are different… very different… very very different…

In this book, we will be shining a torch into this very different human condition.

My confrontation with meaninglessness

This book has come into existence out of my confrontation with meaninglessness — or, more accurately, my confrontations.

Testimonials

Pamela Matthews

"Very affirming and reinforcing of my own miracle healing of the inner journey. At times I cried with the powerfulness of the connection I felt with Ren's words, especially relating to the writings on depression and addictions.

I've always known with a deep spiritual sense that I was stumbling on the right path, or more to the point, struggling up the right mountain. Now I see I'm not stumbling at all, I am and have been doggedly moving forward towards... what? Not sure but I do know life is bloody wonderful!!  Ren you are a star with your deep commitment to your writings. They are a gift to us all."

- Pamela Matthews

There has to be more to life than this: Table of Contents

The human condition.

 

Part I:  The confrontation with meaninglessness

Confusion and denial

Repetition and pointlessness

The flight from meaninglessness

Boredom

The desperate grasp for connection

Loneliness

Depression

Despair

Resurrection

The Human Condition?.

My confrontation with meaninglessness.

 

Part II:  The Psychology of Pseudo-meaningfulness

  1. The Inner Child
  2. Ego
  3. Artificial Lives
  4. Negative Acting
  5. Positive Acting
  6. Tyranny
  7. Addictions
  8. Judging Others.

 

Part III:  The Other Side of Meaninglessness.

The human condition

Beyond pseudo-meaningfulness

The Crusade for Meaningfulness

The Crusade to become a decent Human Being

The Crusade for Understanding

The Crusade to become a functional Adult

The Crusade for Detraumatization

The Crusade for Impact: Rejuvenating our relationship with life

What is life asking of me?

The confrontation with meaningfulness

 

Select Bibliography

 


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