Blessed are those souls, who from a very young age know what they want to do with their lives. Blessed too are those souls, who never think about what they want to do with their lives. Cursed are those souls, who think about this question often, but don’t have a single concrete answer to this question. Every time they ponder over this question, they might come up with different answers.
An imaginary conversation between two such cursed souls. Let’s call these souls Hildy and Celine. They are in their mid 30s.
Hildy : Celine have you ever wondered in your late teens or early 20s, what you wanted to do with your life?
Celine : Oh yeah! I have indeed thought about it quite a lot?
Hildy : Really, what were you thinking back then?
Celine : I wanted to have a good job that pays me well, which helps me settle by my 30s.
Hildy : What do you mean by settle?
Celine : You know, the usual suspects. Find a person to love, get married, buy a house and keep living the mundane life?
Hildy : If you had thought about settling by 30, then you must have had some plans about rest of your life too.
Celine : You know what, I never thought beyond 30?
Hildy : Why, were you thinking that life ends by 30?
Celine : I don’t know. I thought once I settle by 30, life will take care of itself from 30 till I die.
Hildy : So now that you are past 30, did you get the life you had wanted?
Celine : You smart ass, you know the answer, don’t you?
Hildy : LOL!! Come on say it. I want to hear from the wise person, who had thought about her future in her 20s.
Celine : No, life didn’t turn out the way I had hoped for.
Hildy : So what happened?
Celine : Before I answer your question, I want to ask you about your idea of a future self that you had in late teens and early 20s
Hildy : Well, I too have thought about the question, but I never had a clear answer to what I want out of my life, at least at that stage of my life
Celine : Okay, if not at that stage of life, were you able to figure out later?
Hildy : The thing is Celine, I more often than not have been thinking about that question throughout my 20s. Nah, more often when I am sad or depressed, have thought about it?
Celine : Were you sad that often in your early 20s?
Hildy : Nope. but more often than most people of my age did
Celine : How do you know that other people were not sad as you?
Hildy : Come on Celine, isn’t the world always better for others?
Celine : I can’t believe you could be so naive. So you were the center of your universe and everyone else had a better life than yours, didn’t they?
Hildy : Weren’t you happier than me in our 20s?
Celine : Before it gets too philosophical, I would say you’re not the only sad person in your 20s.
Hildy : huh
Celine : So, tell me were you able to figure out what you wanted out of your life in mid 20s?
Hildy : I always wanted to make a difference to the world in a big way, but I didn’t know in what way I could do?
Celine : So you wanted to be a savior?
Hildy : Savior is a big word, but yeah, I want to leave my dent in the universe – as Steve Jobs, used to say
Celine : Steve Jobs, really? That arrogant inhumane prick? I am digressing, so why you do you want to be a savior? Why not lead a “normal” life?
Hildy : Normal life? tell me one person who led a normal life and who is still remembered?
Celine : oh, I see. So you wanted to be a historical figure, then?
Hildy : Don’t dodge the question, tell me one person who lead a normal and who is still remembered?
Celine : My parents, my grandparents and a neighbor of mine.
Hildy : Oh no, Celine. Tell me somebody, who remembers the above mentioned people, without any real connection to them?
Celine : Why does it need to be this way? Isn’t it enough that your near and dear ones remember you, long after you’re gone
Hildy : World doesn’t remember such persons.
Celine : But I do. They matter to me.
Hildy : But in the larger scheme of things, will they matter?
Celine : Why not?
Hildy : How so?
Celine : What is necessary for life to continue on this earth, as we know it?
Hildy : Will to Survive, as Schopenhauer puts it?
Celine : Schopen who?
Hildy : A philosopher, whom I read recently.
Celine : Don’t drop names, you idiot. I don’t give a damn. Come on, whoever it may be, put it in clear terms what is necessary for life to continue on this earth?
Hildy : Procreation
Celine : See, above mentioned people did help life to continue on this planet, aren’t they great?:)
Hildy : So, in your view your reason for being on earth is procreation?
Celine : Do not be a reductionist, Hildy. What I meant was, you don’t have to do great ungodly things to be remembered on this earth. If you lead a normal life without harming anyone, even that is worth remembering.
Hildy : If that were the case, then what differentiates humans from animals?
Celine : Are we any different from animals? Aren’t we merely civilized animals?
Hildy : You know what I mean. Fine then, tell me what differentiates us – the civilized animals from other animals?
Celine : Let me think..,, Is it necessary that a civilized animal and normal animals have some inherent differences?
Hildy : Don’t you think so? Come on, don’t play smart. I know you have much better argument than this.
Celine : Since you insist, let me say. We civilized animals have come up with concepts of language, arts, technology, medicine and much more.
Hildy : There you go. If every human being simply led a normal life, as you put it, would we have got any one of the above?
Celine : Not really.
Hildy : See that’s exactly my argument.
Celine : Which is?
Hildy : That one must not live just a normal life, that one must do something significant with his/her life.
Celine : So what’s the significant thing that you wanted to do with your life?
Hildy : Well, there’s the problem. I haven’t figured out quite yet.
Celine : Gotcha! In that case, wouldn’t living a normal life be better than not figuring out the significant thing with your life and in a way not living ?
Hildy : But, I don’t believe in normal life. I don’t want to get bogged down by mundane stuffs, that I miss to do something significant, when the opportunity arises
Celine : So you neither want to live a normal life nor have you figured out what to do with your “significant” life? Correct?
Hildy : Yes, I guess so
Celine : Don’t you see yourself how ridiculous your stand is? You’re basically not living your life
Hildy : Maybe. But at least I am not settling with whatever I got, unlike you. How did it feel not to have the life that you had wanted?
Celine : Maybe I didn’t get a life that I had wanted, but I have got a life that I need.
Hildy : What does it even mean?
Celine : I mean, I am okay with the life that I have right now.
Hildy : So don’t you have any more wants? Are you saying you have become a saint and satisfied with whatever you have got?
Celine : No, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that I am satisfied with the way my life is, but that doesn’t mean I have no more wants.
Hildy : So what are your wants now?
Celine : My want is to learn how one should lead one’s life. After learning, may be I try that out and if it works out, I should find a way to spread my learning
Hildy : Are you kidding? Are there any manuals that explain how to lead “your life”? Aren’t you the one who is supposed to know it or explore it on your own?
Celine : Yes, to a large extent. That doesn’t mean I cannot get help from wise people, who had some good views about living one’s life
Hildy : Do you want my help? Because, you know I am a wise person too. I have learnt a bit about leading life
Celine : Really, you’re wise? Don’t kid yourself. Anyway, let me hear what your “wise views” are
Hildy : “You can live your life only forward, but can be understood backward” – Basically it means, you can never understand life without living. Life’s like a year end book. You can go through it only at the end of the year, but not at the beginning of the year.
Celine : But I can learn from the year end book and apply my learning to next year, can’t I?
Hildy : Do you really think your life is going to be exactly the same as last year? If that were the case, can you really claim that you are living?;)
Celine : Don’t be a cynic, Hildy. Why do you always look at the negative side of life?
Hildy : Because “Life is Suffering”. To be born on this miserable planet is suffering. When people say, they want to learn about life, they simply want to learn how to get through this suffering a.k.a Human existence.
Celine : I am sure, you didn’t come up with this quote. Who came up with it? Is it Schopen whoever?
Hildy : I never said, this was my quote. But regardless of the fact who said that, don’t you think life is suffering?
Celine : I don’t believe so. Yes may be there is suffering in this world, but there are aspects of life, that are good as well, aren’t they?
Hildy : Such as?
Celine : Family, relationships, friends, nature, etc
Hildy : Do you have any control over who your parents are? Whom you fall in love with or marry? whom your friends will be? when it will rain?
Celine : Indeed, I do have some control over all these aspects, but I have no control over choosing my parents and nature.
Hildy : See, you don’t have control over the most crucial aspect of your life – Your Birth. And of course you don’t have control over Death. If you cannot control these critical aspects of your life, how can you say that existence is not suffering?
Celine : So, in your view since you cannot control these crucial aspects of life, life is suffering?
Hildy : Of Course, Celine. I would say life is absurd. Suffering in a weird way gives meaning to life. But life inherently has no meaning, so it’s basically absurd.
Celine : Wow!! So, from suffering life has gone on to become absurd now? What are you binge watching , off late? To have such a bleak view of life.
Hildy : I tried to understand life, as you want to do now, by reading some wise people and ended up with this world view.
Celine : So what about your aim of wanting to be remembered?
Hildy : Since I learnt that there is no real meaning to life, I dropped those ideas of wanting to be remembered.
Celine : Don’t you think that, this is a cop out? You try to hold on to some abstract ideas, of which you had no real experience of, and act as if you’re wiser?
Hildy : I would concede that this is a cop out. But it’s better than living an ordinary life, which is also absurd, IMO
Celine : So you think, all the kind acts of millions of people are also absurd?
Hildy : Their acts are motivated by self-preservation. They want to show that they are somehow superior to others and that they are magnanimous enough to help the inferior ones
Celine : Isn’t it downright cynical, Hildy? So people act only to be seen good not really do good?
Hildy : Yes, I would say. If they are religious, then they might think these “kind acts” would be accounted during their day of judgement. If they are not religious, these acts would merely make them feel better
Celine : So, you are also this mean person, who wants to feel better about yourself. Weren’t you the one who said that you wanted to be remembered for something?
Hildy : I am much worse.
Celine : Wow! that was a surprise. How so?
Hildy : I want to help people, to make myself feel better, which is normal. Then when people thank me for my actions, I would show faux humility, when in fact I would be beaming inside. Worst is I expect people to thank me for my actions.
Celine : You truly are worse.
Hildy : But when life is absurd, does it really matter whether I am worse or better?
Celine : I guess, I will go crazy if I talk to you any further. Stop thinking and start living. Bye, Hildy…
Hildy : You mean start living an absurd life? 😉
Celine : Fuck off, Hildy!!
These characters are composite of many characters I have simply read and heard (but never understood) from the works of Camus, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer & et al. And the format was heavily inspired or I would even say lifted from the Before movie trilogy. That’s why one of the characters name is Celine, which is Julie Delpy’s character in the movies. Thanks for reading!!