The Search for Meaning

I’m sitting on the patio of a recently opened indie café called, non-ironically, Hipster Coffee, in one of the few quiet parts of Busan. It’s sixty-eight degrees tonight with just few gnats flitting about. My latte sits next to my MacBook Pro (hipster, eh?), and I’ve got these awesome little noise canceling ear buds playing Bright Eyes’s Lifted album (you probably haven’t heard of it). Both lyrically and musically, it’s a masterpiece. I love it. It’s my go-to album whenever I want to be inspired.

Over the years, my favorite track has changed, but currently it’s Don’t Know When But a Day Is Gonna Come. In the second verse, Conor Oberst croons darkly, “They say they don’t know when, but a day is gonna come, when there won’t be a moon and there won’t be a sun. It will just go black, it will just go back to the way it was before.” Not only does this verse speak to me because I’m obsessed with space and constantly lament the fact that I’ll never observe the fate of our solar system, but after reading this post on reddit, I’ve been mulling over existentialism, absurdism, and the way my philosophies and values influence my writing subconsciously.

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an existentialist, but that’s mostly because I can’t entirely grasp it. The Wikipedia entry reads like someone grabbed a handful of vowels and consonants and threw them together at random. Then again, this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the last sentence of the summary states, “Criticisms of existentialist philosophers include the assertions that they confuse their use of terminology and contradict themselves.” In other words, existentialism is the alphabet soup of modern philosophy.

Anyway, while researching existentialism, I came across absurdism, and let me tell you something friends, I’ve found gold at the end of the rainbow and it’s a giant pot of the absurd. Seriously, friends, read and despair: “Absurdism… stat[es] that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd)…” Now, without giving too much away about my novel that no one will ever read, I realized as I read this description that I had tossed some absurdism into my writing without even realizing what absurdism was. How badass is that? Albert Camus ain’t got shit on me.

So here I am, sitting on Hipster Coffee’s patio, staring out into the street as traffic passes by, wondering if my writing is going to embrace this new knowledge or if it will fight to stay true to itself. My thoughts swirl like a dog chasing its own tail. Perhaps knowing the name of what I already tried to portray will only give me further focus, or will my focus on the knowledge of this philosophy manifest itself in my writing without much effort from yours truly? What I’ve concluded just now is that I really need to drink less coffee. This latte was my third cup, morphing my brain into a hyperactive two year old running around the backyard doing half-flips and cartwheels while screaming, “Look what I can do! Look what I can do!” (Two year olds can talk, right?)

For now, I’m dropping the question of what influences my writing and whether or not I’m aware of it. It’s too much for my brain to handle and all the time I spend thinking about it could be time spent coming up with something as inspiring as Lifted. And really, what’s the point of it anyway?

Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.


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