How I found fulfilment in a decaying world

On the topic of human purpose and existence, we all have a deep-rooted desire to seek meaning and to feel as though we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. In such chaotic times this presents the attentive individual with a seemingly unsolvable crisis.

Short of fabricating a supernatural delusion, we are faced with two options: somehow try to fix a rapidly decaying world, or accept the world for what it is and give up entirely.

The former often leads to burnout, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. The latter generally starts at this point and spirals downhill from there, leading to self-obsession, delusion, passiveness, destructive behaviours, and close-mindedness. Neither of these options provide us with the hope or fulfilment that we as humans need for survival. And, to make matters worse, for the first time in history this long-standing dilemma has been compounded by the prolificness of mass media and the ever-growing consumption of social media.

Very few people are able to successfully balance this predicament, with most resorting to either religion that gives hope in an afterlife, or medication – whether prescribed or illicit – to help them cope with the reality of such an existence. We are not happy, we are not fulfilled, and most of us avoid facing the truth. We drown out the world with the overconsumption of escapist media and alternate realities, conspiracies and fake news, entertainment and substance abuse, inane achievements and hollow decadence.

I used to believe in this dualistic paradigm – to devote my existence to changing the world or to simply give up and have an easy life, caring only for those in my inner circle. Fight or flight.

In pursuing the first option I discovered art as a coping mechanism, a way to help me continue fighting my losing battle. However, during my journey as an artist I uncovered a little known third option: To seek beauty in the way things are. To neither change nor avoid, but to appreciate it for what it is.

If the natural universe is without purpose, then our existential struggles are simply not that important. No matter how badly humanity fucks up, the universe will continue to exist. There may be a lot of suffering in the meantime, which I take great care to minimise as much as possible, but besides that we’re only here for a short time. As individuals, but also as a species. And so, rather than digging myself an early grave trying to either fix or drown out the world, my life is better spent appreciating it for what it is. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the grotesque. This newfound perspective gives me purpose both in my work and outside of it, regardless of what’s happening in the world around me.

I have not, and will never, give up on fighting for positive change. But I now realise that this needn’t be a fight to the death. We will all die whether we fix things or not. We should strive for the best, but not at the cost of living. Because if we do, then we will never find purpose or fulfilment. And at that point life truly becomes meaningless.

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