What If There Is Nothing Worth Writing About?

“The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying.”

TS Eliot from Ash Wednesday

Recently, a terrible feeling has been crawling up the base of my spine.  It awakens me in the middle of the night, it hounds me when I am driving home from work, it swims in and out of my mind every time I consider this cursed blog.  I think I had this thought in my mind even before I started blogging, but over the last month its light buzz has grown to a deafening roar.  This feeling is in the pit of my stomach and the recesses of my mind all at once.  It is a voice that talks to me while I write and a spirit that haunts me when I do not.  Nothing makes it grow quiet.  It is omnipresent.  It is a simple idea, but if you follow it to its logical extreme it is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb.  The question is this…Is there that is really worth writing?

It seems a rather harmless line of questioning.  That is how it starts.  The point of writing is to create something.  I hope to create something new.  Have all the worthwhile thoughts already been had?  Has someone else already put down all the truths and mysteries of life on paper?  With the Internet, you can find access to nearly every idea that has been conceived of.  Most of us concern ourselves with whether LeBron is better than Kobe or who is married to who and who is getting a divorce or who wore what on the red carpet or who embarrassed themselves in front of the world.  If you want to dig deeper you can find recipes for how to prepare ox tail, the history of Buddhism, better and more in depth formulas to calculate the value of third basemen or the performance of treasury bonds, or the lost works of some 19th century poet you came across at three in the morning on some insomnia driven information binge.  But to what end?  Is it just more and more stuff to fill our minds with?

Maybe I shouldn’t concern myself with creating something original.  After all, what is the point of originality?  Am I simply trying to justify my existence by conning myself into the belief that I am so special and unique that I can think a thought that the rest of the 6 billion of us could not come up with?  Am I so narcissistic that I think I am capable of an idea that has never been here before?

Maybe the point is to appreciate the experience of writing.  Maybe the whole thing is about letting my synapses fire and my fingers pound away at some keyboard.  To what end?  I do it again and again.  Words appear.  More words appear.  Then more.  More.   They mean something, but who really knows what?  They dance in patterns.  I already have forgotten most of what I’ve written.  I could look back.  To what end?

Why bother sending this nonsense out to the world?  Looking for fellow travelers on the good ship Earth as we spiral towards our own personal oblivion.  To what end?  Am I simply standing in front of the Grand Canyon shouting at the top of my own lungs in the hopes of hearing an echo?  And then what?

Maybe my words will help ease the pain of human suffering.  A noble goal but when you look at what we are up against, it hardly seems possible.  A dying heap of flesh and consciousness trapped in a fading world that is saturated with mountains of disconnected ideas adding up to nothing in particular is going to be helped by some random guy typing random words on a computer screen? Really?  I haven’t watched enough Frank Capra to buy it.  It is a pleasant delusion, but a delusion nonetheless.  Maybe the goal is to delude others into forgetting their troubles.  They will remember them soon enough or, worse, they will enjoy the delusion so much they will forget what is happening to them and the ones around them.  Apathy or sadness. Ignorance or constant horror.  To what end?

If I could write something that could teach people how to live forever or convincingly show them that their actions are connected to something greater then maybe I would be writing something worth reading.  But I am not that good of a writer and I doubt I will ever be.  I wonder if anyone is.  Existential dread is what it is and I can’t write it away for myself or anyone else.  Can writing change the truth of what we are?  I simply don’t believe that.  And even if it could…to what end?

Maybe all of the thoughts have been thunk and all of the dreams have been dreamt and we are simply recycling the same old nonsense in slightly different packages again and again and again.  Over and over.  The paint job changes but it’s still the same old world.  Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

This isn’t my MacArthur speech to the troops blog.  I plan to keep doing this again and again for no apparent reason.  It is a complete waste of time.  It has no value and is utterly and completely useless.  I enjoy writing more times than I don’t.  I like hearing how my words hit people.  I am deeply curious as to how my innermost thoughts are perceived by strangers.  I guess that is something, but it will fade after a while.  These are simply words on a page and they don’t mean anything.  Nothing lasting or real or forever or genuine will ever come out of my mind or my hands.  They are shapes, they are colors contrasted with the background, they are a speck in the eye of history.  They are words.  Their lifespan is about as long as it takes to get to the next sentence.

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  1. #1 by Joe Linker on February 13, 2011 - 5:26 PM

    After reading your post I moved on and somehow wound up here: http://www.ubu.com/concept/against_expression.html
    I don’t know if this is any good or not, but it looks interesting, and somehow I thought it related back to what you said in your post? Worth a look, I thought, so passing it on…I’ve downloaded the pdf. file and read a few pages. Will finish it later.

    • #2 by Keith Spillett on February 13, 2011 - 6:46 PM

      I just downloaded it myself. Thanks for the info!

  2. #3 by nondualmind on February 13, 2011 - 7:01 PM

    …as the saying goes, “There is nothing new under the sun…..”

  3. #4 by Jenn on February 13, 2011 - 7:21 PM

    We all have talents or something to give to this world. Ultimately, we can put those talents to use and bring others a little happiness, peace, understanding, or zen. If your words don’t combine to an original idea, its ok. The point is that they might have been read by another person who needed to read it at exactly that moment in time. Like an echo, those words might resonate and affect many people, altering what might have been and hopefully making it better.
    At church today, my pastor said that we are all extras in a movie, and God is the main character. Perhaps you can buy into that, perhaps not, but the truth is that in general, our creations are simply less “important” that we would like to believe when you consider the grand scheme of things. I like to think that it means that although something I create or write may not be immediately recognized with fame, fortune, and applause, it still may be important to someone, somewhere. If you hit even one, your part in the movie got a tiny bit bigger.

    • #5 by Keith Spillett on February 14, 2011 - 4:27 AM

      A good point, Jenn. I will have to spend some time with the idea so I can grok it in its fullness.

  4. #6 by Jim Wheeler on February 15, 2011 - 12:54 PM


    Allow me to paraphrase your post in my own words, if I may?

    “I wonder what the meaning of life is? Is it religion, or something else? Does religion, a common meme of our species, exist solely to satisfy that fundamental curiosity? And is that curiosity a mere side-effect of our evolved intelligence, now made more apparent since many of us are now free of full-time hunting and gathering?”

    Now I offer two possible answers.

    This one is from a Sunday cartoon, “Non Sequitur”, by Wiley.

    A guy goes to see a guru on top of a mountain and says, “I’m ready for the revelation of life’s great truth.” The guru replies, “Everything we think is of utmost importance in our youth becomes insignificant as we grow older, and everything we thought was insignificant and tossed aside when we were young, losing it forever, was really the most important.”

    The guy then says, “so you’re saying that life is just an endless string of disillusions?”

    “Pretty much”, the guru replies.

    “Great . . . Now how am I supposed to go on with the rest of my life knowing that?!

    “I found moving into a cave helps”, the guru replies.

    Now, Keith, having told that tale, which I appreciated so much that I taped it to my den door, I submit my own conclusion to the grand question.

    The meaning of life is not to be found in goals, although they are necessary. The meaning is in the journey itself.

    Jim W.

    • #7 by Keith Spillett on February 19, 2011 - 11:40 PM

      That story is AWESOME!!! I plan on borrowing it often!

  5. #8 by John on February 19, 2011 - 10:06 PM

    The day I gave up on trying to change the world was one of the best days of my life. It released me from an infinite amount of stress because I wanted soooooo much to leave my imprint on the world. Hell, I’ve even given up on finding the larger meaning to life. Sure, it’d be ideal to find it, but it seems like the real white whale in the whole ordeal.

    Speaking purely for myself, I’ve become comfortable with helping people where I can, living well with my decisions (and not doing things that I might regret), and trying my damnedest to live in the now. I’m sure that seems really benign and meaningless and that’s perfectly ok if folks want to call me out on that. I’ve found that I can help so many more people and be so much of a better person when I’m just being a person and not TRYING to help people or change the world or be unique. Call it moron zen.

    Cheers if that works for anyone else.*

    *I’m kinda drunk. Had a long, difficult week.

    • #9 by Keith Spillett on February 19, 2011 - 11:43 PM

      “Moron Zen” sounds like a good approach to this whole thing. I plan on either living a life similar to that or hiding in my bedroom watching “Enter The Void” over and over again until my brain melts out my ears. I think I prefer the first option.

  6. #10 by 47whitebuffalo on February 24, 2011 - 3:27 PM

    Writing words is like sending out energy to connect with others. When a mass of energy is connected then something new can be created. When we think everything has been “thunk” and written–well, then we’re caught in the loop loop loop of self perpetuation. Imagination pushes beyond the boundaries we set for ourselves and others. Perhaps it’s not the core concept but how it’s packaged and presented so that what’s vital is when immersing ourselves in the concept we break free of the thought loops and boxes and boundaries to CREATE.

  7. #11 by Keith Spillett on February 24, 2011 - 4:58 PM

    Great point! Those loops and boxes can be quite strong, but the experience of going through them and finding that there are new ways of doing things (even if they are slight, subtle changes) can be a liberating feeling.

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