What is my question?

Question from Michael:
Ever since puberty I have suffered from very heavy and constant depression. Having grown up with being nearly deaf, gay and somewhere between agnostic and atheist, I haven’t had a lot to fall back on in the way of faith, god and other such crutches, nor have I had many folks to speak candidly with. I don’t think I’m in search of a reason in the sense that others may be. I believe we are largely products of our society and upbringing (except where free thought and opinion manages to take us thru alternate routes) and subject to the firing of neurons and chemicals in our brains and little else. While some things about my life may suck a great deal, I find that when chemicals are on one side of the scale (be it nice weather, antidepressants, or other chemicals, legal or not–caffeine or alcohol for me) such things don’t bother me and I carry on with life, trying to be a good person, having fun and helping others…because that’s what I want out of life. But when chemicals are on the other side of the scale, I despise my body for its imperfect conditions (hearing and various other physical and mental issues), hate the general zombie-ness, close-mindedness and stupidity of society (tho I know I am far from perfect) and can hardly stand all of the wrongs and frustrations of the world and see little point of continuing on. Three things have kept me from ending my life….1) The sadness it would bring to my friends and family 2) The idea that killing myself could in the end be a terrible mistake (its a big decision to make and one that can not be undone, mind you) 3) My logic. I can tell myself that the feelings i am feeling are not normal….they are real feelings, but not necessarily a good indicator oh how things in my life are going. I remind myself that “all of this” is subjective…and tomorrow my outlook on life may be different.

Never the less I feel that some day my strength will wear away and I will have had all I can stand. The pain of being alive will overtake the three things that hold me to this world. It is also my belief that if one isn’t enjoying the party, one has the right to leave.

I feel as if I am waiting for my epiphany. Tonight I have learned of the Angelic quote “If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do” It struck a chord and raises in me some curiosity and am giving things in that area some thought. My main question is…..”what is my question?”

Am I looking for reason? I don’t think so. If nothing really matters, then should I care when things don’t go the way I’d like them to? Perhaps if I quit wanting things, maybe I wouldn’t be so disappointed when I don’t get them? Should I go against the grain or with the grain? Is it worth it to fight for what I want, or just enjoy life and quit giving a crap about so many things? I guess my real question is, what do you guys think about such things?

Answer by SmartLX:
Firstly, folks, in case anyone gets the wrong idea about the “Angelic quote”, it’s from the TV show Angel and it was either written or approved by Joss Whedon, a confirmed atheist.

It doesn’t matter if “nothing really matters” in some absolute, ethereal sense, because we have no way to determine whether it does and it seems to have no measurable effect on us. The important point is that there are things that matter to us. They can be anything from justice to freedom to love to a completed set of baseball cards, but the things that drive us are defined and decided upon by us and us alone. Some people claim to have a “higher purpose”, one handed down from divine authority, but the words of these nebulous authorities can be traced back to humans and human institutions such as churches.

Quite simply, you sound like you don’t know your purpose in life, and I think that’s your question. You’re certainly not alone there; many are waiting for inspiration to strike and for their future course to become clear. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t.

To go looking for it, go out and do stuff. Start with the obvious: you’re a deaf gay atheist (or near enough). Go meet other hearing-impaired, LGBT and/or non-religious people and see whether their causes (equality being the obvious one) appeal to you. Join clubs, read the news, try hobbies, whatever. What you’re doing now hasn’t given you ideas, so reach farther afield. It could be something as vague and all-encompassing as improving the world.

It need not just be one thing, by the way. My day-to-day purpose is to help my friends, family, co-workers and clients, to be good to my wife, to man this “post” for atheism and to experience different fantasies through art and fiction (though not all at once). Some of the goals involved in that lot are more long-term than others, and some are so far off I haven’t even thought of them today. Not too ambitious really, but it gets me out of bed.

Best of luck. Let us know how you do.

1 thought on “What is my question?”

  1. Michael … personal disability is something that is very difficult to rationalize / see the positive side of. Disability robs one of certain experiences and usually effects one’s day to day life. Things that are easy for “normal” individuals may be difficult for you / may take you more time and that must cause a lot of frustration. I cannot pretend to even begin to understand the frustration that you must face in your day to day life due to your inability to hear.

    People do rise over disabilities and serious accidents though. I have been reading a book called “The Upside of Irrationality”. The author of that book survived 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body. He lived on, suffered intensely due to his burns, his ability to experience the world and his productivity got hampered due to this mishap. But he’s been able to have a successful academic life and has been able to make an impact on people through what he has to say about human rationality and irrationality.

    The thing is – one has to build on what one has. One has to experience with what one’s got. The world may give you some respite keeping your disability in mind – but don’t expect much respite.
    The reasons you give for not taking your life are rational – I particularly agree with 2 & 3. You’re probably right about all experiences being subjective – the intensity of any experience being influenced by chemicals in our brains. It is possible to attain to some sort of “mental chemical equilibrium” where neither the mood uplifting nor the mood deteriorating chemicals that our brains produce effect our experience of the world too much. I am a fan of detached reasoning – it’s helped me detach myself from the intensity of my own frustrations, reason out things and enjoy my experiences of the world better.

    You should try and seek out other deaf individuals if you can (and if you haven’t already) and see how they cope with their inability to hear. You could meet some pretty interesting people.
    If your other faculties are functioning normally, then despite your inability to hear, I think there is a lot that you can experience and enjoy. You do not need to be able to hear to enjoy a good swim, a brisk run, the feeling of the sun on your body on a sunny day, human warmth, love and affection, the mental thrill one gets from learning something difficult and new etc.

    This is what I think of suicide now, after thinking a lot about it at some point of time (when I was in my “religious phase” – since I have been a atheist I’ve never once given thought to the matter up until now when I read your question):
    The sum total of our lives adds to our species’ knowledge of the world, of itself, of life. Every experience that adds even an iota to this knowledge, enhances and impacts it is valuable – no matter how mundane or trivial it may be. So suicide is in a sense not just losing the one chance that you have at life, but also an act of robbing the world of what you may have to contribute to it. In my view suicide is thus never an option, unless you feel you have contributed all you can and your body cannot possibly allow you to contribute any more (if you have a painful terminal illness for e.g.).
    The world’s so vast and the opportunities to experience and contribute no matter what one’s situation is are so many that suicide is almost always never a logical option.

    I hope the above thoughts help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *