I’ve been having this strange experience after I go to bed. I lie there and think of nothing in particular. But I know that I’m thinking about my life and it’s lack of meaning. That’s especially true regarding work. What is the point of it? Work has always been very important to me — central to my sense of meaning. But I no longer think that way. Work is a means to an end. And that end is…
You see the problem. We get to the usual issue that Schopenhauer explained so well. We continue on so that we can continue on. Until we don’t. The ultimate goal of life is to die. So why not today? It’s not that I’m suicidal. In fact, my will to live is extremely healthy. But that’s the thing that bothers me. It’s so irrational.
When I was younger, I determined that the meaning of life was to have a good time. That is about the only thing that you can use to push back against Schopenhauer. Life isn’t a total drag. But more and more it seems to be. I keep thinking about this one little speech that Aaron gives in the film Broadcast News.
As you may recall, Aaron got his big chance to anchor the evening news. But he broke out in a fit of sweating. It’s a funny, but tragic scene:
Afterward, Jane comes by his house and finds him happy. She asks why, if things went so terribly wrong, is he so chipper. He replies:
Now in the film, the truth is that he’s in love with Jane and that’s where the scene goes from there. But I think he’s dead on when he says that he’s providing introductions for people doing what he most likes to do.
I like writing. I can’t not do it. And I’m a professional. I can do it at any level you ask. If you want something cheap, I can do that. If you want something finely tuned I can do that. I can write ad copy. I can be clever. I can be technical. I can write something so boring no one will ever read it if that’s what you need. I like writing. I’m good at it and it makes me happy to do it.
But I don’t really write for a living. I manage other writers. I make sure that they do an acceptable job of what I would prefer to be doing. Sure, I get to do some writing: for the other writers. And I put more style into this writing than I ought to. I write it off as the price that has to be paid for my not going totally insane.
So what is the point? I know this is a meta-grumble. I’m doing very well. This is why I’m lying in bed wondering about meaning — because I’m not lying in bed wondering how I’m going to pay my phone bill. Still, there ought to be more. And I could pay my phone bill through writing alone.