Meaning in a Meaningless World

We had a memorial service for my dad this afternoon. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to talk about. Although we had a complicated relationship and I still have some unresolved feelings over things my dad did, I have a lot of good memories of him, and keeping my talk down to a few minutes seemed a bit daunting. But I figured out my focus and talked about my dad’s whimsy, his sense of the absurd, his goofiness, his jokes like, “One man’s fish is another man’s poisson,” the silly songs he made up and the silly walks he would do in public just to get a laugh from the people around him.

My father was a huge Albert Camus fanboy. Camus’ existentialist absurdism infuenced my dad’s sense of humor and my dad’s sense of personal and political activism, which in turn influenced my own sense of humor and sense of personal and political activism. To help illustrate this at the service, I quoted from the TV show Angel, which my dad and I were both fans of. I pasted together these lines Angel speaks in the episode “Epiphany”:

In the greater scheme, in the big picture, nothing we do matters. There’s no grand plan, no big win…If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if…nothing we do matters…then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today…All I want to do is help. I want to help because I don’t think people should suffer as they do, because if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.

I don’t think there’s any great meaning to the universe, certainly not anything we humans can comprehend. I don’t believe the cosmos or any deities reward us when we do good things or punish us when we do bad. So why do good? Why help those in need? Why try to ease the suffering of others? Because our actions create the meaning of the universe. Because we can’t get through our tiny lives alone. And because the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.

My father’s physical form is gone, but the meaning he created in his life lives on in me, my brother, our children, and the rest of my dad’s family and friends. The absurdity of life goes on.

Let’s not beat around the bush; I love life — that’s my real weakness. I love it so much that I am incapable of imagining what is not life.
— Albert Camus

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2 thoughts on “Meaning in a Meaningless World

  1. Many hugs to you.

  2. So nice, Josh. Thank you for sharing.

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