Who are you in the chaos? Maybe we should take a step back when faced with complexity and incomprehensible chaos, and examine our own being and purpose in life. Can that give more clarity in an otherwise very cloudy, dark existence? What does you – your being – in the chaos actually look like?
A week ago I came across a story that struck me. It’s a Nietzschean interpretation and kind of an untimely meditation on Arthur Schopenhauer‘s work as an educator.
« A traveler who had seen many countries and people and several continents was asked what human traits he had found everywhere; and he answered; men are inclined to laziness. Some will feel that he might have said with greater justice; they are all timid. They hide behind customs and opinions.
At bottom, every human being know very well that he is in this world just once, as something unique. However strange he will throw together a second time into a unity such a curious and diffuse plurality; he knows it, but hides it like a bad conscience. Why?
From fear of his neighbor who insists on convention and veils himself with it. But what is it that compels the individual human being to fear his neighbor, to think and act herd-fashion, and not to be glad of himself?
A sense of shame, perhaps, in a few rare cases. In the vast majority it is the desire for comfort, inertia-in short, that inclination to laziness of which the traveler spoke.
He is right: men are even lazier than they are timid, and what they fear most is the troubles with which any unconditional honesty and nudity would burden them.
Only artists hate this slovenly life in borrowed manners and loosely fitting opinions and unveil the secret: everybody’s bad conscience. The principle that every human being is a unique wonder; they dare to show us the human being as he is, down to the last muscle, himself and himself alone.
Even more, that in this rigorous consistency of his uniqueness he is beautiful and worth contemplating, as novel and incredible as every work of nature, and by no means dull.
When a great thinker despises men, it is their laziness that he despises. For it is on account of this that they have the appearance of the factory products and seem indifferent and unworthy of companionship or instruction.
The human being who does not wish to belong to the mass, must merely cease being comfortable with himself; let him follow his conscience which shouts at him; “be yourself”
Personally I think there can be so much knowledge, so much comprehension, if we dare to dig in the most pessimistic philosophy. Otherwise we can end up in a naive positive loop – always on the scout for bubbly happy meaning everywhere we look. I would argue that’s one of the reasons we’re not truly prepared when faced with the complexity and chaos that’s surrounding life.
Just like we experience today, when I write this article – a global pandemic that turns everything from India to Argentina upside down – who are we when everything we do, opinion and desire suddenly have no meaning anymore? Who are you (actually) in the chaos?
When chaos emerges we are faced with uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Everything we thought we knew so well suddenly does not help us, cause we don’t know the facts anymore. In a disturbing way, that kind of suggest that maybe we never did know the facts at all. It’s an underestimation to say that that’s a frightening thought. Because who want to expose their vulnerability and defenselessness in such a public way?
Maybe it’s something to what Carl Jung stated in the late 19th century:
In a weird way, Carl Jung’s statement gives hope. If we let it. Because when you know it’s actually some crucial knowledge to be found even in the most gruesome and dark places of life – you suddenly know there is a good chance of survival. I don’t just mean physical survival, but too the importance of mental survival. To know profoundly in yourself that you have a good chance of coming come out of the hell like a better person, can really make a difference.
And not the cliche-like pat on the back from the government and your surroundings saying; “everything will be okay, don’t worry”.
No, wrong. Everything can go really, really wrong, so we need to worry. But we have to try to worry in the most rational way possible, so that we are able to grasp what we as human beings in this huge, complex world actually can do to survive in the best possible way. (I know, easy right?)
In an interview with Joe Rogan, Bret Weinstein explained the relationship between facts, wisdom and truth in a great way. He proposed that you can think of wisdom like the one stated above from Carl Jung. Another famous wise statement can be; “everything happens for a reason”. This statement is called wisdom, but you can’t say it’s a scientific fact. Cause you can not scientifically prove that everything happens for a reason in a realistic way.
Nevertheless, if you live your life like the wise statement is a fact, like it’s worth living your life by, life will turn out better for you. Because when you are faced with chaos and complexity, you live your life in such a way that allows you to seek meaning in whatever life throws your way. Even things that are so unbelievably painful, that you don’t think you’ll survive.
In that way you can say that these types of wisdom becomes more than wisdom, they become a kind of truth. A truth to live by. Even though it’s no scientific, realistic fact, it’s wise knowledge that can make your life better. And that makes it true in the most profound way.
We need optimists and self-claimed positive thinkers, but to be that in the most sincere and devoted way – we have to voluntarily face the complete opposite of optimism. Because that’s where the knowledge of life can be found.