I’ve spent an interesting hour or so online looking for a word to describe one who tends to think things into futility. I started with “fatalist,” which sounds like it should be a word for a “futilist,” but only the end result of the philosophy is the same. Fatalists believe all is fated, all is destined to happen, which can leave them feeling resigned about life since they believe they are powerless to change anything, and in the end, that powerless can lead to feelings of life being futile.
Fatalism led me to nihilism, because apparently, the two are intertwined on the internet if nowhere else.
Nihilists believe there is no underlying grand meaning (or grand being) behind life and human existence, and that belief, too, can lead to feeling of life being futile since many nihilists believe that in the absence of inherent meaning, human existence has no particular value.
So although both fatalism and nihilism can lead to a feeling of futility, they start from completely different points of view.
Mostly, a search for a name for someone who tends to think things into futility led me to a plethora of mental health sites, as if a person who tends to think about meaning and meaninglessness has a mental health issue when in fact, such people (according to a different plethora of sites) tend to be intelligent and realistic.
The best thing I found about a person thinking things into futility is a quote from Alan Watts, a writer and speaker who translated Asian wisdom into plain English. He said, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So, he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.”
He makes an interesting point, though I’m not sure if it fits the premise I’m developing for this blog post. In my case, I tend to think that by thinking about thoughts, I get pulled out of the world of illusions, and that by not thinking, I am lulled into a world of illusion.
But this isn’t supposed to be an essay about illusion; it’s about my tendency toward “futilism”.
I’ve recently mentioned that I’ve been trying to look at gardening as a game, which helps me keep on doing the best I can with my yard, otherwise, I tend to think to much about what I am doing, and the work begins to seem futile. Which, in the grand scheme of things, it is . . . futile, I mean. A hundred years from now (heck ten years from now!) who will even care? The land will be here no matter what is on it and how much work was done.
Even on a daily basis, gardening seems futile (if I think about it). Life so often does what it wants. Some plants that shouldn’t live in this climate do well; others that should do well don’t. Sometimes watering is the right thing; sometimes, it isn’t. Which means, that if I want to keep up with my yard, to continue my creative endeavors on such a large scale, I have to stop thinking so much about what I am doing and why I am doing it, and just play the “game.” Thinking about what works and doesn’t work in the garden — strategy — is all part of the game. Wondering about the purpose of it all is not part of the game, and in fact, is an unnecessary complication because a game is its own reason for being.
This tendency of mine to think things into futility is not just about gardening, but about almost anything. To keep up with this blog and to write a blog post a day, I have to focus on what I am going to say and then say it, because when I start thinking too much about what I am doing here on this blog and why I’m doing it — other than as a writing discipline — the concept of blogging turns to dust in my hands, and it seems futile to continue.
I read the same way I breathe — I just do it without thinking. But when an author makes a serious mistake, it thrusts me out of the story and makes me think, which is not a good thing. In the book I just started reading, for example, the character got a phone call from a call box, the last old-fashioned coin-operated phone left in town. Okay, as unrealistic as that may be, I can accept it. But when the author goes on to explain that the phone booth is outside the drugstore, in the alley by the dumpster — that did me in. For decades that phone has been hanging on a wall in an alley, and no one ever vandalized it? How am I supposed to believe that? So, since there can’t be a phone, there can’t be a call, and if there can’t be a call, there can be no story and continuing to read the book becomes futile.
Yep — thinking my way into futility again.
It does make me wonder, though: if “not thinking” seems to give me a sense of meaningfulness and “thinking” seems to give me a sense of meaninglessness, of futility, what does that say about me? Or thinking? Or meaning? Or anything, for that matter.
Hmmm. I think I just proved my point.
What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?
A fun book for not-so-fun times.
Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.