The video posted above is what I found to be one of the best episodes of Six Feet Under and one of the best conversations in the series. David, the guy on the left had been robbed, drugged, beaten up, made to lie with a dead body, almost immolated and had a gun put in his mouth a few episodes ago, which is rightly calls the “worst fucking experience” of his life. Nathaniel, his dead father, who visits the family members when they’re confused, is proud of him because he got over his fear of coming face to face with his perpetrator.
“What if it is? What if life really is so simple, that I can take it as it comes, without trying to find any meaning?” This thought has echoed in my mind a lot of times after I heard it. I had the habit of finding meaning in everything, every relationship, every incident, every conversation and in the process, ironically, I almost always got lost while searching for this hidden meaning and intellectualizing the situation in general.
Since the last one year, I’ve had a different approach of handling situations which go out of my hand, and this also includes the life in general which seems to be almost never in my control: I don’t try to find meaning of the situation. Instead, I now try to take the life as it comes. To do that, I regularly ask myself, is the situation really that bad or am I simply making it so by thinking too much about it? Is it really that complex or am I making it more complicated by coming up with all the possible scenarios and outcomes? In simple words, is it me who’s trying to find a meaning in the situation, or unnecessarily adding meaning if it lacks one?
As it turns out, most of the time I’m freaking out and complicating the situation. And it’s not until much later that I realise this.
“Some things are in our control and others are not.” Epictetus started his Manual with this statement. And I’ve found it to be one of the best food-for-thoughts I’ve had. This desire to control the things which are not under our control is what complicates the situation. And mostly it is the desire to control other people’s thought, the desire to have in my possession something which isn’t mine, or to have an alternate closure to a past situation. This desire is the starting point where the mind starts scheming how can I control other person’s thoughts, or how can I get in the possession of something which I want so badly, or to have a right and happy ending to a situation which I screwed up? Once this scheme is finalised in the fantasy world, the mind next starts scheming about how the life is going to be much better when I finally have the person, the thing or life under my spell. And this is a vicious cycle, where every time I have the situation figured out, I have a deeper desire to control it and make it more glossy and perfect. In simple terms, it’s me who’s making a simple life complicated.
This sounds bad enough, and from conversations that I have with other people and with myself, it became clear that the desire to control something which is outside one’s control is present in everyone. Everyone wants to be rich and famous, to be blessed with Fortuna and Pheme, and to control what is not in their control: life, death, other people’s thoughts to name a few.
I’m no expert in decoding the meaning of life, and in the worst case scenario, I hope, there isn’t any meaning to life, to the suffering, the joy and everyday incidents which I don’t even remember. I have found that life doesn’t have to be extraordinarily complex and confusing. It is what it is. While the father in the above video doesn’t want any phony existential bullshit, there is always a point sticking out: that there is no point. Not David’s version about his helplessness but Nathaniel’s version that there’s no point in complicating the situation. You have a life, realise the temporary setback and move on.
Nowadays I mostly take the life as it comes, one step at a time, keeping most of the situations which confuse me and complicate the life, at bay. Not every situation has to be meaningful, not every situation has to be intellectual; there are some things which simply are, and the realization that I have no control over them is relaxing. And while giving everything I have to situations I can control is needed, the best decision in other situations is to move on because then the life becomes simple enough.