Existential Recurrence & Purpose


This is a post I’ve rewritten over and over again. I’ve thought about making this shorter but I feel the length is necessary for understanding this.

This post serves two purposes for me:

  1. As a complete record of the process, thus this is going to be a long & thorough post (perhaps the longest single post I’ve written).
  2. As a self reminder for reasons I’ll explain at the end.

In keeping with this theme I’ll be referencing things I’ve written about before, so I can understand if you want to skip this. I’m sick of this recurring as well.

First off, something I forgot to add to an earlier post which also applies here.

The wish for death can be exacerbated by a long accumulation of painful moments, memories & associations where all viable alternatives have failed. This tiring slog can be made more hopeless when you are unable to properly communicate the suffering to another caring soul. Even when you can, no amount of understanding with the wrong people can truly solve such predicaments. The process may even lead to self alienation.

It can be caused by their inability to find a compelling solution to their existential horror, or their own cyclic frame of thinking. Sometimes it’s both. It’s hard to consolidate the later when you’re stuck with the first.

My life has lost clarity.

I’ve become too painfully aware of my own recurring actions & results, all of which have seemingly lead to stagnation. I don’t know what alternative action to take, & to continue as I have is just insanity. It’s broken me.

I stopped because there was no point to it – only to dive deep into a marginally different recurrence.

See, I know that being disciplined about my wishes & balancing my needs are key to living a good life, but why should I? Why should I affirm my life & continue through guaranteed suffering? To what point & purpose am I living for?

Before I continue I should explain my stance on meaning & purpose.

All meaning is constructed & exists only in the relationship between things. I don’t want people drawing the conclusion that this somehow makes meaning meaningless; this is only a statement on the nature of meaning. If anything, this shows that we have the freedom to apply meaning to anything, as well as the freedom to destroy meaning. I could say the absurd arises when we realize how faulty those constructs are in relation to reality.

As for purpose, I take an existentialist route. Everyone has their own relative meaning of life & purpose for being alive; no absolute meaning exists.

My problem though is I don’t have my own purpose for being alive. It’s this inability to realize a personal meaning for life that has left me crushed.

I keep living, & choosing to live, but I don’t know why. The main reason I have is – my death would devastate & hurt those who care about me. It’s a reason to not die, but not a substantial reason to live.

The closest life affirming reason I can come up with is – because I want to… for some reason. I could say it’s to pursue happiness, because being alive is a “holy gift”, because I’m already alive & doomed to die, because happiness feels better then pain, & “simply because”, yet somehow that’s not enough for me. History is full of people pursuing happiness blind to the consequences of their actions. Quite often they find the reality of their ambitions is not truly happy.

I could say that the pursuit of meaning is in of itself why I continue. Problem is this only drives me to desire a different why. Evidently, this alone leaves me unsettled.

I could say that I should lead a good life because those who care would want me to, but is that really “authentic”. Existential philosophers like Sartre, Kierkegaard & Nietzsche all seem to suggest that authenticity arises from personally derived action & choice outside of external influence. Erich Fromm however suggests that any behaviour can be authentic if it arises from personal understanding & approval, even if they wholly match an external source. In other words, authenticity is an attitude of your own personal freedom & responsibility.

Regardless, part of me wants to play the smartass & say this doesn’t change anything. I am free to choose fulfilling my goals or merely withering to death; either would be authentic because I myself choose to do so right?

Still, this would disregard an important personal point – I find value in my life through my interactions with people.

I suppose this is enough of a reason to at least try for a “healthy” life (maybe this is why I’ve been putting myself back together more recently). I just wonder what a healthy life for myself would be. Sure there are topics like “the core human needs” (that vary so much I don’t know what’s correct anymore) I could go by, but I know it’s not enough.

I could keep going with this. Whilst these are all points I need to consider, the above has become one giant chain of logic seemingly perpetuating itself.

All reasoning, like meaning, is constructed by its nature. The above just shows how logic can be manipulated to give anything a good & bad context, almost to the point of self-indulgent theoretical nonsense.

Yet morality is no different, & my sense of morality has always played a central part in shaping me & my decision making. I don’t see that changing any time soon. If anything, morality being so context sensitive shows that it is a vigilant consideration; it is active.

But I digress.

This is how the pursuit has consumed me. I wanted to find some fundamental personal meaning that would drive me to live whilst factoring for the absurd; a meaning that would let me enjoy the journey & look forward to the results. Yet the more I thought about it the more existentially nihilistic I became.

I can at least say that the answer would need to be multifaceted in nature; after all I’m a multifaceted human being. I know I have to decide this myself, yet I’m struggling to construct something substantial.

I’ve reached a point where I can reliably end my days in despair, feeling too awful to do anything. Sometimes I end up crying. When I can’t shake the feeling I just turn numb. I fear I’m going to continue being this way.

I just want an answer.

It wasn’t until I took a more recent step back that I remembered other points:

  • Despair makes you forget. You forget your passions & personal achievements. It blinds you to positive considerations & calls them lies by default. It makes all opportunities invalid.
  • Cyclic thinking is difficult to become aware of. It is an easy trap to fall into & near impossible to break out from without external influence.
  • Idle musing is not enough. There comes a point where repeated thoughts only strain the mind. At this point you need to take some other action outside of your current mode of being. Doing anything else will at least help refresh your mind.
    • Take care you do not delve too deeply into distractions as this leads back to doldrum.
  • Attitude plays a large part in deciding how well you go. Going to a better place requires a willingness to try. It’s impossible to be happier when you choose not to be happy.

Even so, the despair feels justified for my recurring problems have made my life unsatisfying:

  • Difficulty & fear in creating a path forward, because I cannot see an ideal path that is realistic (so much so I forgot what an ideal path without obstacles would even be).
  • A view of the world seemingly doomed to collapse.
  • My expectations & perfectionism towards what I want to do & how it’s rendered my attempts insignificant.
  • My sense of alienation, which has crushed my sense of self in relation to others.
  • My response to certain negative states; to not have the courage to push beyond pain & transform it into something better.

I feel the last two points together are perhaps the ultimate source of my despair. They have brought about the predominant feeling that I am a prisoner of my own nature… until a new perspective came my way.

In the last few days I may have found an underlying reason. As insane as this sounds, perhaps suffering is the reason I live.

Despite how unpleasant it is negativity & suffering does serve a purpose. It makes you contemplate, provides awareness & consideration of the things that positivity does not; makes you aware that perhaps we’re all suffering. It allows for growth, but too much can damage you. Negativity can destroy a positive meaning if confused with a present emotion, though utilized properly it can make the positive even better.

I suffer to grow & become more than what I am. I suffer so I may utilize it to realize & shape ideas. I suffer so I may understand & set things right, to prove that suffering can be turned into something else.

I live to transform suffering.

To be fair, this isn’t the complete multifaceted answer I’m looking for, but it is a foundation to build from. I’ll need to plan in order to formulate the answer. Good news is I do have some things to go with now. Just think about all of the things that I would need & want, consider the consequences of those things, & live by my choices; acknowledging the absurd as part of the suffering I must utilize.

There is one last problem though – I fear, & know, I will regress like this again, & it will probably be worse than before. Honestly, for me to not slip back into the negative abyss I will need a support I likely won’t receive. I guess the final question becomes – why should I do this knowing I may simply suffer, forget, & give up?

Well, I feel this may be more because I’ll forget what I’ve written here, so let me end with some supporting points from the day I realized the above (because I don’t know where else to put them 🙂 ).

This is an oddly suitable video that Youtube recommended:

Lastly, on this same day, I got myself to draw again. My cousin had an art slideshow going & I just felt the spontaneous need to fetch a sketchbook. It brought me back to when I was a kid, doodling in front of a heater & TV; inventing creatures, places, & characters. It made me realize how easy it was for me to just output an idea, even in its simplest form.

I felt oddly content.

What do you live for?


4 thoughts on “Existential Recurrence & Purpose

  1. Akemi

    I’ve actually been moving towards a more Hegelian view of growth. Rather than suffering leading to growth, I feel it’s change that does. It seems that too often suffering is conflated with change, when really suffering can occur in the most banal, repetitive and static moments of our existence. Just thinking of wage labour is enough to make me believe that suffering does not always lead to growth, and if anything, can utterly sap oneself of the ability to grow.

    Similarly, I feel that pleasure is too often conflated with static contentment, when really, it can also be derived from intense change, alterity, uncanniness and abhorrence. There is something to be said of the jouissance of perversion and transgression (of course, being a radical leftist, this would be the perversion and transgression of the status quo).

  2. The Twentysomething Social Recluse

    Really really interesting post. It’s good to know that you have some things to go with for now. Suffering is awful and also useful. (this comment is fairly pointless but I’ve just spent 20 minutes musing over this post and I wanted to let you know that it has made an impact)

    • That’s okay. I just hope the post makes sense (feels a bit jumbled yet I can’t tell if that’s actually a strength).

      Funnily enough I’ve just spent… I don’t know how long trying to figure out how I’m overall doing right now. I guess I’m better now; if nothing else I’m going forward (despite not really following through with this post). Maybe I’ve learned to get back in touch with myself & find solace in small moments, or maybe I’ve just found ways to occupy myself better – I don’t know :/ (for some reason I feel like drinking fruity tea now).

  3. Sometimes it is difficult to search and find the meaning in life you desire when the focus centers on the self. I found my purpose was to help others seeking assistance to improve the quality of their lives. Although I focus on HEALTH, it is more about creating a working foundation to build upon. Life is dynamic requiring constant adaptation to change. This also means one’s PURPOSE must retain flexibility to reduce frustration as satisfaction wanes over time as dynamic needs change.

    Life is challenging on many levels. When I was a practicing physician, my focus was on my patient’s well being. The goal was NOT to “make them well,” but rather to TEACH them how to take care of THEMSELVES. Empowering them increased my SUCCESS rate to improve their health.

    Looking out in the world to discover PURPOSE often produces poor results. You obviously have strong emotions which can greatly benefit you. Go within yourself to discover your real passions; it is from the core that PURPOSE is often discovered.

    Wishing you much success in the PROCESS and the journey.

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