What is it that keeps us going?

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niolosoiale
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What is it that keeps us going?

Postby niolosoiale » Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:57 pm UTC

Understand, as I'm writing this I'm in the middle of a depressive bipolar swing. :|

Anyway, I'm cursed with an obsession to understand as much about life as I can. While the obsession has led me to a lot of fantastic experiences and gains in understanding, it's probably one of the most prolific sources of frustration for my "over-thinking" mind. Combine that with the bipolar swings and hypomania and you have a recipe for some really crazy trains of thought.

Commonly, I find myself in one of those funks where I look at the whole "living my life day to day" process and find my mind trying to rationalize why I continue going on with life when it feels so futile. When I speak of this futility, I'm referring to this powerful desire to achieve personal success mixed with an overwhelming sense of inevitability and lack of control as well as relatively rational attitude that things rarely quite work out exactly how you want or expect them to. Obviously, I'm aware of the fact that very little ever falls under my personal control, but that doesn't stop the attempt. My problem really centers around a couple of personality traits:

1. I have goals and standards for success that are mediocre and maybe even show a "lack of ambition" through most people's eyes, but for me are obscenely high because they are set to a level that I feel I would become "perfectly content" should I acheive them.

2. I have a sense of despair based on some of the above mentioned statements that puts my mind in a negative state because I feel that it doesn't matter how important something is to me or how passionate, motivated, or driven I am about whatever it is I'm dealing with, I will still end up failing in some way to achieve my goal.

What I'm getting at here is that I have a keen awareness about everything I'm doing and what I'm going after along with a keen awareness that I will never be satisfied with what I'm doing and may never get what I'm going for.

To tie this in with the title of the thread, what I'm wondering is what is it inside me that allows me to persist and press forward even though, rationally speaking, on many fronts, I find nothing but a substandard sense of satisfaction with the way things work out. I'm not asking "Why are we, as humans, constantly unsatisfied?", what I'm asking is why we, as humans, continue to persist even though we know* we'll never be satisfied? Logically speaking, if you're not truly going to succeed, what keeps you from throwing in the towel? Why is it that, no matter how many times you try to hammer a bent nail, you just keep hammering?

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby segmentation fault » Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:05 pm UTC

i seriously have no idea and wonder the same thing. my current idea is i want to see how it ends. that if there is a purpose for my life, what is it? or will i even figure it out?
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby DougP » Fri Feb 22, 2008 10:27 pm UTC

I will vote for deeply ingrained biological will to live and reproduce. This is not necessarily conscious. However, a species that wakes up in the morning and gives in to depression and kills themselves on a regular basis is not a species that is going to be around for a long time.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby LikwidCirkel » Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:06 pm UTC

I'm a bit of a mood-swinger myself, and sometimes I question what makes me go on.

My own condition has indeed boosted my interested in psychology and the like.


I have far many too ideas on the topic to even begin summarizing on a post like this. I'd just advise you to look into "positive psychology" or read books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Start with "Flow", and if you like it, move onto the next one, "The Evolving Self".

These books address the very question of what makes people truly happy, and what we can do to bring order and contentment to our chaotic lives. I've found his writings to be very inspiring, helpful, and dead-on observations of the world and the human psyche, based on what I already suspected. You'll find them in the psychology section. They're not self-help books or books on depression, so you don't have to be embarrassed looking them up.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Feb 23, 2008 2:40 am UTC

I understand Kierkegaard (wow, I spelt that right!) wrote extensively about how sooner or later, everyone has to abandon the idea that everything is completely rational and take a "leap of faith". He was rather fixated on this leap of faith involving Christianity. Unfortunately, I'm not particularly well-versed in his school of thought, as my introductory text in the matter was The Ethics of Star Trek (and it wasn't a particularly good book).

But it makes sense to me. I've been through some rough times, during which I had the cause and probable continuation of my misery all carefully reasoned out in my brain, but somehow I now find myself capable of the wholly ludicrous belief that it is actually distinctly probable that if I persevere I will sooner or later come across something that I find worthwhile. I feel creepy just writing that and I probably have all the words completely wrong. ('Tis very dangerous to think you know anything about how you feel just because you managed to write something down.)

I am now suddenly reminded of another book, Never Saw It Coming: Cultural Challenges to Envisioning the Worst (informative Slate review), detailing how people have an odd tendency to look on the brighter side of things and avoid imagining negative scenarios. But looking at the description again, it seems the author is more concerned with Americans in particular rather than humanity in general.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby tantalum » Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:44 am UTC

I know exactly what you mean - I've been searching for the answers to life, the universe, and everything else since my philosophical awakening in high school. I always feel like I've been given enough intelligence to be able to comprehend and ask these questions, but not enough intelligence to answer them.

I'm a freshman in college now, and I'm actually considering a second major philosophy. It gives you a weird feeling inside when you read all the works of long gone philosophers and realize that you've already thought of those arguments. It's fascinating to see how other people have approached the problems of life. (I'm also majoring in chemistry, so I guess I'll actually be employed ^^)

But back to your original question. My first answer would have been the biological answer, which was already given. Another answer, I think, is the hope that someday, you will find the answer. When I do die, I feel as if my biggest regret will probably be not figuring out the answer.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby SneakyMongo » Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:52 am UTC

Muwahahah....absurdist Camus predicted this thread 60 years before any of us were even born (I assume, of course, you are all younger then 20)!

In a cruel, vicious, vindictive world, where no pleasure can possibly last or be meaningfully hoarded, why NOT commit suicide?
His answer is that we forge our own purpose, and in its fullfillment we find all happiness.

His famous example is Sisyphius. Doomed to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, only to fail at the end. This represents life, and the rock's falling represents perpetual and inevitable failure of our ambition. Camus's great concept is that we must imagine Sisyphius laughing as he walks back down the slope, rather then sad or angry.

Hope this answers your thinker.

oh-

tantalum wrote:I know exactly what you mean - I've been searching for the answers to life, the universe, and everything else since my philosophical awakening in high school. I always feel like I've been given enough intelligence to be able to comprehend and ask these questions, but not enough intelligence to answer them.
.


I know exactly how you feel m8.
I hate that feeling when you have like 20 pages open to a dozen different concepts, and then you realize with creeping terror "I can never live long enough to possibly understand this".
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby 4=5 » Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:03 am UTC

SneakyMongo wrote:His famous example is Sisyphius. Doomed to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, only to fail at the end. This represents life, and the rock's falling represents perpetual and inevitable failure of our ambition. Camus's great concept is that we must imagine Sisyphius laughing as he walks back down the slope, rather then sad or angry.

but Sisyphus could simply build up a mound under the rock and get it guaranteed up the hill

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby SneakyMongo » Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:05 am UTC

4=5 wrote:but Sisyphus could simply build up a mound under the rock and get it guaranteed up the hill


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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby niolosoiale » Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:38 pm UTC

It's pretty absurd all around. I really find self-preservation fascinating. We clearly have the engrained mechanisms to help ensure our continued existence, but we also have an amazing capacity for logic and reason that can, at times, lead us down a path contrary to the goal of self-preservation. I guess what I find the most difficult is being aware of it all. The more you're aware of, the more information you have, thus the more empowered you are to make decisions (positive and negative), thus the more responsibility it requires. Since I am not blissfully unaware of the situations and their respective details which are beyond my control, it provides a source of burden for my daily life. I am obsessed with accountability and responsibility, as well as gaining information. But I guess I'm just not a big fan of the power I have haha. Partially because I feel that the awareness I have has empowered me to a point where I feel I would take action against myself if I rationalized that my life had truly reached a point that I couldn't recover from. Hell I already have most of the details hammered down (methodology etc.)

Bah. Life is so elaborate. We're just drops in the sea yet there is so much detail to be uncovered in each little fragment of life. I've been looking at life recently like building a sand castle. I guess I've just reached a point where I look at my sand castle and say "Oh wow this is actually really nice and these are the things I want to do next". Then I look at my watch and think about how long until the tide comes in to wash it all away. That's the hard part.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Robin S » Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:45 pm UTC

I've been terrified of death as a child, largely because it is a no-going-back event. Since becoming aware of the possible terrible consequences of failed suicide attempts, I've also been terrified by those.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby neon » Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:15 pm UTC

To begin with niolosoiale I hope you are getting treatment because left untreated your bipolar disorder will destroy everyone you ever cared for, everything you ever achieve and eventually destroy your life.

My advise is to find a therapist trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or read:

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan

Life doesn't have meaning, that doesn't even make sense. You give your life meaning pursuing those things that enrich you or as Joseph Campbell said "Follow your bliss".
"Light up the darkness."

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Robin S » Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:22 pm UTC

I think it would be more optimistic to say that your life can have a meaning, but that meaning is decided by you. If you have goals, things you care about, they can help to give your life meaning. Finding those things can be difficult, but the very fact that you are posting here about your problems makes me hopeful that you will manage. Don't be afraid to turn to people for support, but at the same time try not to become completely dependent on one person or small group of people.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby niolosoiale » Sat Feb 23, 2008 8:32 pm UTC

neon wrote:To begin with niolosoiale I hope you are getting treatment because left untreated your bipolar disorder will destroy everyone you ever cared for, everything you ever achieve and eventually destroy your life.

My advise is to find a therapist trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or read:

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan

Life doesn't have meaning, that doesn't even make sense. You give your life meaning pursuing those things that enrich you or as Joseph Campbell said "Follow your bliss".

As far as the treatment of my Bipolar disorder is concerned, I have avoided treating it with medication because before I was diagnosed I had already developed a lot of adaptive behaviors and thought patterns to help manage my thoughts/emotions.

I understand the "meaning of life" comment because I've long understood that for me, my purpose in living is to live the life I want to. Of course, the tie in to the OP is that I am here, wanting to live the life I want to live, but with all the circumstantial variables that contribute to the sense of futility in not achieving that, I just can't track down what it is that keeps me going. One of the above posts mentioned a sort of "inevitable" reliance on "faith" that people come to. I think more than anything it's a matter of hope. There are the things I want which have their individual levels of statistical likelihood that I will acquire/acheive them. If I'm going for something that has the statistical likelihood of winning the lottery, why would I rationally put so much time and effort into something that's so important if I'm statistically likely to fail? And it comes back to hope. Hope is effectively the answer to the original question but what is hope really? Where does it come from? How did we evolve to have a sense of "hope"? What is the deal with people who are truly hopeless and kill themselves?

Hope and faith are two things I have major problems with because they don't make sense to me. I appreciate them for what they are and what they do, but many of my existential problems come from hope and faith. I feel incapacitated when I think "Well, I hope this works out." Obviously this isn't something only I have to deal with, but for my mind it's a lot of gymnastics to say "I'm going to do this with the intention of succeeding, knowing that I can fail no matter how important it is to me, how much effort I expend, how sincere my desire, or whatever else I can think of that would provide justification for me to reach my goal." So what I'm saying is that I have this need to know that it's all going to work out, but I know that's not the case, yet I still try because I hope it all works out. It's just a completely irrational thing for my mind to understand even though it's the only logical thing.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Freakish » Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:34 pm UTC

Statistically your chances of winning the lotto increase if you buy a ticket.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby neon » Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:58 pm UTC

niolosoiale wrote:
neon wrote:To begin with niolosoiale I hope you are getting treatment because left untreated your bipolar disorder will destroy everyone you ever cared for, everything you ever achieve and eventually destroy your life.

My advise is to find a therapist trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or read:

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan

Life doesn't have meaning, that doesn't even make sense. You give your life meaning pursuing those things that enrich you or as Joseph Campbell said "Follow your bliss".

As far as the treatment of my Bipolar disorder is concerned, I have avoided treating it with medication because before I was diagnosed I had already developed a lot of adaptive behaviors and thought patterns to help manage my thoughts/emotions.

I understand the "meaning of life" comment because I've long understood that for me, my purpose in living is to live the life I want to. Of course, the tie in to the OP is that I am here, wanting to live the life I want to live, but with all the circumstantial variables that contribute to the sense of futility in not achieving that, I just can't track down what it is that keeps me going. One of the above posts mentioned a sort of "inevitable" reliance on "faith" that people come to. I think more than anything it's a matter of hope. There are the things I want which have their individual levels of statistical likelihood that I will acquire/acheive them. If I'm going for something that has the statistical likelihood of winning the lottery, why would I rationally put so much time and effort into something that's so important if I'm statistically likely to fail? And it comes back to hope. Hope is effectively the answer to the original question but what is hope really? Where does it come from? How did we evolve to have a sense of "hope"? What is the deal with people who are truly hopeless and kill themselves?

Hope and faith are two things I have major problems with because they don't make sense to me. I appreciate them for what they are and what they do, but many of my existential problems come from hope and faith. I feel incapacitated when I think "Well, I hope this works out." Obviously this isn't something only I have to deal with, but for my mind it's a lot of gymnastics to say "I'm going to do this with the intention of succeeding, knowing that I can fail no matter how important it is to me, how much effort I expend, how sincere my desire, or whatever else I can think of that would provide justification for me to reach my goal." So what I'm saying is that I have this need to know that it's all going to work out, but I know that's not the case, yet I still try because I hope it all works out. It's just a completely irrational thing for my mind to understand even though it's the only logical thing.


Number of people who have cured themselves of a major axis disorder by thinking or "adaptive behaviors" = Zero.

It is a good thing that you are here, asking for help, asking questions, talking about it. But you are not just someone who is feeling down and out. You have a major medical disorder just as I suffer from depression. Talking about it is good but it isn't enough. It will never be enough.

"What is the deal with people who are truly hopeless and kill themselves?"

There is no "deal", they had a mental illness that took their life and if left untreated will take your's too. It's no different than if you had cancer, the disease will have it's way with you unless you seek proper medical treatment.

"Hope and faith are two things I have major problems with because they don't make sense to me."

Of course not, they are emotions and emotions aren't rational. So what is to be done? Take your meds for starters then see your therapist and attend group. Don't have one? Get one. Get a therapist NOW. The treatment program that I mentioned above teaches people well researched techniques that are known to work. And by known to work I mean known through clinical studies to be effective. I'll give you an example: the half-smile. One technique that is taught is when in distress one adopt a "half-smile". A very slight and almost invisible smile. Even if you don't feel like it. Why does this work? It works because your sub conscious mind notices that you are smiling and it thinks, "Hmmm, maybe we should be happy?" and before you know it you actually are happy. It has been shown repeatedly that when unhappy people adopt the behaviors of happy people they become happy. This is of course no panacea. It works to get you over a rough spot and through a difficult time. It is only one technique among many others, but it does work.

There is much more here - Self-Help: Organized and otherwise. Read the whole thing. Especially if you have any self harm behaviors. Which I would expect you have.

Let me repeat:
You have bipolar disorder, a known mood disorder that left untreated will eventually kill you. YOU MUST SEEK TREATMENT NOW! Are you cutting or do you have any other self-harm behaviors? If so then YOU MUST GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM NOW! I am alarmed at your apparent resistance to treatment here. Is this some sort of good-bye thread? I won't allow you to do that to me or the others here. This discussion is at an end, it's over and done with and I will not respond further unless you seek treatment. Period. End of message.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Jorpho » Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:34 am UTC

Well... if Mr. Niolosoiale does in fact manage his thoughts/emotions through adaptive behaviors and thought patterns, perhaps the initial diagnosis of bipolar disorder was incorrect? But then, I suppose I have something of a mistrust of psychology.

niolosoiale wrote:Obviously this isn't something only I have to deal with, but for my mind it's a lot of gymnastics to say "I'm going to do this with the intention of succeeding, knowing that I can fail no matter how important it is to me, how much effort I expend, how sincere my desire, or whatever else I can think of that would provide justification for me to reach my goal." So what I'm saying is that I have this need to know that it's all going to work out, but I know that's not the case, yet I still try because I hope it all works out.


I think the key is not to completely vest your entire interests in the positive outcome, and that even if you do not succeed, it is not necessarily your fault for not trying hard enough. (The people who tell you otherwise are those who had the good fortune to see their own tremendous efforts bear fruit.) Things aren't quite as exciting from that point of view, but they're also a lot less stressful.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby jimrandomh » Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:15 am UTC

If there's a chemical reason why you're depressed, then nothing you hear, think or do will help until you start taking the right pills. So stop moping and see a psychiatrist already. No one else will know about it, you'll feel better and you'll be glad you did. If not, well...

Think of all the cool toys that will be invented in a year, and the amazing discoveries that will be made in ten. Our generation has more wonders to look forward to than any other in the history of mankind, so just keep yourself occupied and the robots, replicators and immortality treatments will be along in short order. A hundred years ago, the world sucked and you just had to live with it. Today, if the world looks shitty, it's only because the cameras are focused on the few places we haven't cleaned up yet. So snap out of it and figure out why you're really unhappy, because there *is* a reason, you need to figure out what it is and you need to address it.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby niolosoiale » Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:54 am UTC

neon wrote:
niolosoiale wrote:
neon wrote:To begin with niolosoiale I hope you are getting treatment because left untreated your bipolar disorder will destroy everyone you ever cared for, everything you ever achieve and eventually destroy your life.

My advise is to find a therapist trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or read:

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha M. Linehan

Life doesn't have meaning, that doesn't even make sense. You give your life meaning pursuing those things that enrich you or as Joseph Campbell said "Follow your bliss".


I understand the "meaning of life" comment because I've long understood that for me, my purpose in living is to live the life I want to. Of course, the tie in to the OP is that I am here, wanting to live the life I want to live, but with all the circumstantial variables that contribute to the sense of futility in not achieving that, I just can't track down what it is that keeps me going. One of the above posts mentioned a sort of "inevitable" reliance on "faith" that people come to. I think more than anything it's a matter of hope. There are the things I want which have their individual levels of statistical likelihood that I will acquire/acheive them. If I'm going for something that has the statistical likelihood of winning the lottery, why would I rationally put so much time and effort into something that's so important if I'm statistically likely to fail? And it comes back to hope. Hope is effectively the answer to the original question but what is hope really? Where does it come from? How did we evolve to have a sense of "hope"? What is the deal with people who are truly hopeless and kill themselves?

Hope and faith are two things I have major problems with because they don't make sense to me. I appreciate them for what they are and what they do, but many of my existential problems come from hope and faith. I feel incapacitated when I think "Well, I hope this works out." Obviously this isn't something only I have to deal with, but for my mind it's a lot of gymnastics to say "I'm going to do this with the intention of succeeding, knowing that I can fail no matter how important it is to me, how much effort I expend, how sincere my desire, or whatever else I can think of that would provide justification for me to reach my goal." So what I'm saying is that I have this need to know that it's all going to work out, but I know that's not the case, yet I still try because I hope it all works out. It's just a completely irrational thing for my mind to understand even though it's the only logical thing.


Number of people who have cured themselves of a major axis disorder by thinking or "adaptive behaviors" = Zero.

It is a good thing that you are here, asking for help, asking questions, talking about it. But you are not just someone who is feeling down and out. You have a major medical disorder just as I suffer from depression. Talking about it is good but it isn't enough. It will never be enough.

"What is the deal with people who are truly hopeless and kill themselves?"

There is no "deal", they had a mental illness that took their life and if left untreated will take your's too. It's no different than if you had cancer, the disease will have it's way with you unless you seek proper medical treatment.

"Hope and faith are two things I have major problems with because they don't make sense to me."

Of course not, they are emotions and emotions aren't rational. So what is to be done? Take your meds for starters then see your therapist and attend group. Don't have one? Get one. Get a therapist NOW. The treatment program that I mentioned above teaches people well researched techniques that are known to work. And by known to work I mean known through clinical studies to be effective. I'll give you an example: the half-smile. One technique that is taught is when in distress one adopt a "half-smile". A very slight and almost invisible smile. Even if you don't feel like it. Why does this work? It works because your sub conscious mind notices that you are smiling and it thinks, "Hmmm, maybe we should be happy?" and before you know it you actually are happy. It has been shown repeatedly that when unhappy people adopt the behaviors of happy people they become happy. This is of course no panacea. It works to get you over a rough spot and through a difficult time. It is only one technique among many others, but it does work.

There is much more here - Self-Help: Organized and otherwise. Read the whole thing. Especially if you have any self harm behaviors. Which I would expect you have.

Let me repeat:
You have bipolar disorder, a known mood disorder that left untreated will eventually kill you. YOU MUST SEEK TREATMENT NOW! Are you cutting or do you have any other self-harm behaviors? If so then YOU MUST GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM NOW! I am alarmed at your apparent resistance to treatment here. Is this some sort of good-bye thread? I won't allow you to do that to me or the others here. This discussion is at an end, it's over and done with and I will not respond further unless you seek treatment. Period. End of message.

To clarify... there isn't any "cure" for bipolar disorder. It's something I will live with for the rest of my life. Luckily I'm type-II so I don't have psychotic mania; I have hypomania. The psychotic-level mania is one of the hardest elements to deal with in bipolar disorder and thankfully I don't have to deal with that. And it's not something that's being ignored.

As far as the treatment of my Bipolar disorder is concerned, I have avoided treating it with medication because before I was diagnosed I had already developed a lot of adaptive behaviors and thought patterns to help manage my thoughts/emotions and keep my head in the game. I'm actually quite positive about my outlook on life, but I have a skeptic's cynicism. More importantly, the negative side effects of the drugs are less desirable then the side effects of lack of medication and would serve to make life more difficult. This isn't something people around me are unaware of and I currently do speak with a counselor weekly to help keep everything in focus. I am around plenty of people who are concerned with my well-being and would probably tell you that I'm doing exactly what I should be in regards to treatment. You don't have to be overly concerned about me. This isn't something that isn't being paid attention to or dealt with as necessary. I could have posted without mentioning the illness but I'm a sucker for contextual information. I've been diagnosed for 2 years or so now and things have only got better since then. The awareness of the fact that I have an illness keeps my perception of my moods close at hand so I can separate my true self from my bipolar alternatives. That's part of the adaptation. I understand your concern, I need you to understand that I'm not being irresponsible about my illness.

I think the key is not to completely vest your entire interests in the positive outcome, and that even if you do not succeed, it is not necessarily your fault for not trying hard enough. (The people who tell you otherwise are those who had the good fortune to see their own tremendous efforts bear fruit.) Things aren't quite as exciting from that point of view, but they're also a lot less stressful.

I've always kept in mind that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. But it doesn't stop me from caring about where I end up :wink: Even if I lost what I have/had, I say that losing what you had should primarily serve to validate your attachment and retroactively increase it's meaningfulness and your appreciation for it.

And the thread wasn't a mope thread it was an inquiry for information. The more I understand about these things that can trigger depression, the more capable I am to deal with them appropriately.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Adalwolf » Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:09 am UTC

niolosoiale wrote:Understand, as I'm writing this I'm in the middle of a depressive bipolar swing. :|

Anyway, I'm cursed with an obsession to understand as much about life as I can. While the obsession has led me to a lot of fantastic experiences and gains in understanding, it's probably one of the most prolific sources of frustration for my "over-thinking" mind. Combine that with the bipolar swings and hypomania and you have a recipe for some really crazy trains of thought.

Commonly, I find myself in one of those funks where I look at the whole "living my life day to day" process and find my mind trying to rationalize why I continue going on with life when it feels so futile. When I speak of this futility, I'm referring to this powerful desire to achieve personal success mixed with an overwhelming sense of inevitability and lack of control as well as relatively rational attitude that things rarely quite work out exactly how you want or expect them to. Obviously, I'm aware of the fact that very little ever falls under my personal control, but that doesn't stop the attempt. My problem really centers around a couple of personality traits:

1. I have goals and standards for success that are mediocre and maybe even show a "lack of ambition" through most people's eyes, but for me are obscenely high because they are set to a level that I feel I would become "perfectly content" should I acheive them.

2. I have a sense of despair based on some of the above mentioned statements that puts my mind in a negative state because I feel that it doesn't matter how important something is to me or how passionate, motivated, or driven I am about whatever it is I'm dealing with, I will still end up failing in some way to achieve my goal.

What I'm getting at here is that I have a keen awareness about everything I'm doing and what I'm going after along with a keen awareness that I will never be satisfied with what I'm doing and may never get what I'm going for.

To tie this in with the title of the thread, what I'm wondering is what is it inside me that allows me to persist and press forward even though, rationally speaking, on many fronts, I find nothing but a substandard sense of satisfaction with the way things work out. I'm not asking "Why are we, as humans, constantly unsatisfied?", what I'm asking is why we, as humans, continue to persist even though we know* we'll never be satisfied? Logically speaking, if you're not truly going to succeed, what keeps you from throwing in the towel? Why is it that, no matter how many times you try to hammer a bent nail, you just keep hammering?


Pride, religion, bravery, the knowledge that is better to try and fail than never try at all.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby cypherspace » Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:27 pm UTC

I don't want to die. That's about it for me. I will keep going as long as I can for no purpose beyond wanting to enjoy the only opportunity at life I will ever have.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby ignosco » Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:10 am UTC

Well I believe love is what keeps us going. Not just love like between a man and women but all types of love, like that of family, friends, things, and yourself. Though people can do anything if they put their minds to it, it's not always going to be just as you want. What you're saying does sound like defeatist talk. If you give up on doing things then you will never do anything. Do what makes you happy and you will be satisfied. Of course you should try everything too. It's not that humans are unsatisfied as much as they are motivated to do more.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby alexjohnc3 » Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:02 am UTC

DougP wrote:I will vote for deeply ingrained biological will to live and reproduce. This is not necessarily conscious. However, a species that wakes up in the morning and gives in to depression and kills themselves on a regular basis is not a species that is going to be around for a long time.

I agree that's a major factor, along with, perhaps, societal standards that say "killing yourself is bad".
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:21 am UTC

What keeps me going is that it's hard for me to find an easy way to kill myself quickly and easily. If only there was a suicide machine I could get my hands on. :wink:


Go get help.

That being said, if you can't find an easy way to kill yourself quickly and easily, you aren't trying hard enough. There's hundreds of ways that involve buying nothing, thousands if you don't mind spending a few bucks. I'm just saying that if you wanted to off yourself, you'd have done it by now. The fact that you're saying that you want to, but can't find a way is.. and I'm no head doctor, just an asshole with a lot of free time... what they like to call a "Cry for Help"

So.. yeah, go talk to someone with some edumacation in this field. Not in the internet.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Knucklecallus093 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:43 am UTC

The desire for a purpose, The remainders of our survival instinct, the oppression of true intellect in our world. (Intellectualism, I am convinced, can usually either lead to the recognition of the truly hopeless life we possess, but at the same time, may paradoxically lead to a greater appreciation and love of the surrounding and the whole experience of sensation itself.)

But most importantly for me, the belief that my family's emotional structure contains a significance that far surpasses my apathetic view of life, that if I were to kill myself, my little 11 year old brother, already lacking in the smiles department for many very valid reasons, would be completely crushed by the further uncovering of the fact that no reliable safety in the older family idol / perfect love icon exists. To fully reveal, again (significance of again being that my mom almost died when he was about 7 because of a disease that numerous specialists can't pinpoint. He was just old enough to really understand what was happening, but just young enough to be at the most vulnerable stage in his maturing life; He had to come to grips with reality and partially shake off the protective and instinctive belief that the perfect parent does not possess immortal heroic ideals, as all of us had to do.) But back to the beginning of the sentence... To fully reveal that the absolute love icon is mortal and can be destroyed by forces that even that seemingly immortal icon can't control would ruin him. Also, my mom lived by her pure willpower, her only desire was to live to see her children, the only objects she truly desires. My dad, the remainders of the childhood perfection, would fall down hard. Even though I may not truly believe it, my intuition tells me that being his first born son, he has a connection with me that is unexplainable, even more suggestively potent in it's hidden intensity than the bonds with the rest of his children.

Basically, the desire to hold together the lives of those who I love and gladly would sacrifice myself for their lives(almost Ironically, considering that the safety of my family is the true barrier between me and death. It is twisted how you can prevent your death to help your family, but in a totally different situation, give it away. Quite the switch, huh?)

Yep... Oh, and even though life to me can sometimes seem more cruel than gratifying, there are certain enjoyment factors that can overwhelm rational thought that points to inevitability.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Knucklecallus093 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:46 am UTC

Oh, yes, and Fear. Fear of death, of the unknown.
Be curious, not judgmental. - Walt Whitman
"Tyrannosaurs in F-14s!" - Calvin

Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that
distinguish one man from another. -Hemingway

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Roun » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:52 am UTC

I've also thought about this recently. I mean, I'm only 16, yet I feel so old. So I'll finish high school with slightly less than a 4.0. Then I'll go to college. Then I'll go to graduate school, or something. Then I'll get a job. Maybe I'll find love, maybe I won't.

The point is, my path in life seems so linear. In a world so diverse, everything seems exactly the same after closer inspection. It's like I can't go anywhere, because before me is a trench leading into a series of other, similar trenches. Everyone I know says take it day by day, but I feel if I do that, then nothing will ever change.

I'm pretty smart. I sure if I tried, I could become a wealthy entrepreneur with a six or seven figure salary that goes on vacations to exotic places like the Himalayas or the Alaskan forests twice every year. But that would feel so empty for me. It would feel like I wasn't having a real experience, just a fake show that I paid money to be put before my eyes.

My fear isn't that I'll fail at anything I try, it's that I'll never get the opportunity to experience anything in the first place.

Studying Japanese gives me hope, though, that I can have something different. Though, I also fear that even the other side of the world will just be another trench waiting to be walked into.

Anyway, [/teenageangst]

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby ducknerd » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:04 am UTC

Knucklecallus093 wrote:Intellectualism, I am convinced, can usually either lead to the recognition of the truly hopeless life we possess, but at the same time, may paradoxically lead to a greater appreciation and love of the surrounding and the whole experience of sensation itself.)

I agree with the second sentiment, but not the first. The fact that thought and disillusionment tend to destroy some hopes doesn't always mean that the world looks a little more terrible every time you think. Life isn't "truly hopeless", unless you're hoping for immortality.
Knucklecallus093 wrote: [very sad story]

Hot damn. That's a situation that would lead to some depressing times. I'm really sorry shit like that happens to people.
Knucklecallus093 wrote:Basically, the desire to hold together the lives of those who I love and gladly would sacrifice myself for their lives(almost Ironically, considering that the safety of my family is the true barrier between me and death. It is twisted how you can prevent your death to help your family, but in a totally different situation, give it away. Quite the switch, huh?)

Yep... Oh, and even though life to me can sometimes seem more cruel than gratifying, there are certain enjoyment factors that can overwhelm rational thought that points to inevitability.

Again, I'm just a random Internetian who doesn't know a thing if it's not on Wikipedia, but you might want to get help yourself if you aren't already. The above is a pretty awful situation already, but it seems to have given you a really dark outlook on life. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you, but rationality and pessimism are not the same things.

@Roun:
Spoiler:
Image

Not everyone goes to grad school :D. Figure out what you really want to do with your life, then let everyone else have everything else. You can tell I've been reading Joseph Campbell.

...And @ the OP: The fact that I matter to others, the fact that just being alive is pretty nice, and the fact that I really can't know what'll happen in the future, so I can't really be hopeful or hopeless about what my life will be like. For some reason, that doesn't scare me.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Knucklecallus093 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:53 am UTC

ducknerd wrote:The above is a pretty awful situation already, but it seems to have given you a really dark outlook on life. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you, but rationality and pessimism are not the same things.

I must disagree, but before I go in depth, you must understand that although part of me can see the indifference in life that makes me want to just disappear, there also is a very large part of me that appreciates even the experience of feeling for the sake of anything. My former side doesn't necessarily want me to die in a sense that requires me to be snuffed out, it just doesn't feel the emotions that provide reason for life. I can analyze the hell out of life and ultimately end up coming to the conclusion that life isn't significant because this is still part of the universe, the same universe that would casually point a blast of radiation at earth and destroy more than 2 billion years of it's own work. Part of me can see the validity of the indifference, but at the same time, I can realize that the experience of life is greater than no experience at all; that the emotions we feel are purely human, my human aspect is stimulated and I am glad to be alive. Both of these sides can coexist peacefully, but I decided to write that past piece just to focus on that philosopher's perspective.

Also, to be pessimistic, I would have to believe that evil will definitively trump good, that the worst will happen and that the world is as bad as it could be. But that philosopher's side isn't either pessimistic or optimistic. You could call it apathy, but that would imply that I don't take any interest and that this doesn't even concern me. I would say that the side of me that wrote that piece would say that He believes that whatever happens, happens. But still, my human side prevails.
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"Tyrannosaurs in F-14s!" - Calvin

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Jorpho » Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:21 pm UTC

Overrationalizing my misery and concocting elaborate explanations for why the world is crap worked pretty well for me when I was young, too. Then I was exposed to the "real world" and discovered just how utterly untenable my ideas were.

The most euphonious explanation I can come up with for the moment about the way things work is that much of the irrational behavior in our lives is about control. I daresay it's why some people go to church, stay in doomed relationships, isolate themselves, become anorexic, and so on: it is all to establish the illusion of having some sort of mastery over their surroundings and their fates.

Depression, then, is a last-ditch effort to maintain control. The person who can't even get out of bed in the morning, believing that he can't even make it to the shower without messing everything up completely, is just establishing a new order on his world: absolutely everything bad that happens is his fault. In some ways it is a very seductive point of view. So perhaps that is what goes through people's heads when they commit suicide and self-mutilation and so on.

The solution, then, is to relinquish control, to admit that you really don't have that much influence on what is going on, that everything is chaos and that good things are just as likely to come out of nowhere as bad things, that even the notion of "good things" and "bad things" is just a convenient paradigm and that most things fall into neither category.

...Or maybe I'm just speaking nonsense and chemical imbalances play more of a part than I'd be willing to admit, or something. I said it seemed euphonious, not necessarily right. ;)

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby cypherspace » Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:28 pm UTC

The solution, then, is to relinquish control, to admit that you really don't have that much influence on what is going on, that everything is chaos and that good things are just as likely to come out of nowhere as bad things, that even the notion of "good things" and "bad things" is just a convenient paradigm and that most things fall into neither category.
You are correct here. After a particularly bad experience in which I wondered how the hell I was supposed to ever retain a semblance of control again, I read a particular book (The Tao of Physics) which made me realise that I'm not supposed to at all. Life became much easier after that. Thank you, Zen Buddhism.
"It was like five in the morning and he said he'd show me his hamster"

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Roun » Tue Feb 26, 2008 11:36 pm UTC

The solution, then, is to relinquish control, to admit that you really don't have that much influence on what is going on, that everything is chaos and that good things are just as likely to come out of nowhere as bad things, that even the notion of "good things" and "bad things" is just a convenient paradigm and that most things fall into neither category.


Yeah, but... doesn't that suck?

I'm seriously asking that question. I mean, is that okay? Just throwing yourself like a limp ragdoll into the chaos of fate? Shouldn't we try to make good things happen more often than bad things as well as we can?

Being a stupid teenager myself, maybe I'll become enlightened in six or seven years and see that this post was just me clinging onto a childhood ideal of having control over the world around myself.

I can see what you're saying; it's bad to think you have (or had) control over everything and everything is your fault. It isn't. You really can't control everything around you, and sometimes life throws you things you can't fix or deal with. Stuff happens.

But, I don't think that's a good reason to give up on trying to control your life. Just because we can't change some things doesn't mean we can't change others, or that we should stop trying.

If you enjoy life, by all means, let fate carry you. But if you're unhappy, you can't simply wait for life to throw you a girl scaling down your office building with mountain climbing equipment, asking you on an adventure. You have to carve your own way out of a trench, sometimes.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby cypherspace » Tue Feb 26, 2008 11:55 pm UTC

Roun wrote:I'm seriously asking that question. I mean, is that okay? Just throwing yourself like a limp ragdoll into the chaos of fate? Shouldn't we try to make good things happen more often than bad things as well as we can?
Sure, but realising that you can't do everything and that when bad things happen, it's not necessarily your fault, is important. That when you try, it might not work, and that nothing lasts forever.
"It was like five in the morning and he said he'd show me his hamster"

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:55 am UTC

Roun wrote:Yeah, but... doesn't that suck?


Darn skippy it sucks! But that's life! It's only an exciting non-stop thrill ride in the movies, which of course never show the immense price that such a thrill ride exacts. Abscond with the girl with the mountain climbing equipment, and twleve hours later you may very well find yourself stranded outside in the rain, flat broke and miles from anywhere.

Which is not to say that can't try, and take wrong turns and talk to strangers and open unmarked doors and all that good stuff. And certainly, although hard work does not guarantee that you'll be successful in getting whatever it is you think you want, at least it's fairly likely to get you closer. You just shouldn't be disappointed when nothing interesting happens, and should refrain from blaming yourself when something much too interesting happens.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby green » Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:56 pm UTC

What keeps us going you say?

Well, I can answer with what keeps me going (Nick Drake just came on in my song rotation, so itll be hard to answer this convincingly). Perhaps you'll find it within yourself upon reflection.

When my emotional state plummets and my thoughts run bleak, I tend to bounce out of it by asking myself (with a rhetorical flair) "Why not exist?" It doesn't resolve my depression, but it curbs suicidal ponderings.

The answers tend to be:
- I'm here and I'll probably cease to exist upon death. I may as well go on with this existence nature has warranted me; existence contains possibility nonexistent in nonexistence (a plethora of other rationalizations are possible here, but this tends to be the most prominent - as it contains at the very least a feeble promise of future satiscaction).

- My family would be upset. If anything, the pain they would feel because of my suicide is worse than any pain I'll feel upon continued living. Ending my own pain would relinquish me at their expense. I can't justify that. Bringing me to the next answer...

- Love. Love exists, even if it feels like I scarcely experience it, living in a world filled with love beats eternal nothingness.

- My life feels pointless, but voluntarily ending it and relegating myself to complete nothingness would magnify that void infinitely. The human condition is limited to the confines of perception, therefore your awareness of pointlessness is filtered. Death releases this filtered awareness. Perhaps I won't be able to perceive it, but death would release me from my limited and temporary conscious nothingness into unlimited eternal nothingness. Why then would I sacrifice my awareness when It perceives so many beautiful things? Bittersweet awareness beats nonexistence. I can't justify becoming a part of a void I so dislike feeling.

- There are times in life where I am glad I am alive, even if they are fleeting. Perhaps the reason to keep hammering is to live for the times when I'd rather continue hammering than die. --- Suicidal thoughts/feelings aren't always at the surface. Submitting to them when they are most prominent is an emotional blunder. Consider a kind of "peer reviewed" approach where you look at the decision in as many emotional states as possible. I'm certain there will be a state where I won't want to commit suicide. That state, that moment alone justifies living.

I fully acknowledge that these "answers" might be flawed, but they continue to work for me. I justify them with the acceptance that emotions can, at times, trump logic. It is when I am in an emotional, logically hindered state that these have proven effective.
---
I tend to view "unachievable goals" like this - With rationalization, the fundamental purpose in my life is that I live on purpose. That goal is always achievable.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby __Kit » Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:33 am UTC

I've been told I could do anything I want, but there is nothing I want to really do. I've never had many hobbies, because I was always such a realist. And I think I'd be happy, with simple things and friends, I want love too, so that keeps me going. I always wanted to be one of those cool people who didn't care about stuff and just went and lived, like a squatter. [/incoherent ramble]

Philosophy and neuroscience have always been interesting I guess, but theres no philosophy factories opening soon, so that probably wouldn't end up well.
=]

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby TheBeeCeeEmm » Sat May 03, 2008 8:35 pm UTC

It all sort of comes down to whether you believe that life beats death, even if life may suck major dick sometimes.

Since everyone in this topic is (presumably - god help us if zombies learn to use the internet) alive, we've likely chosen to believe that.

As a side note, the worst life I could imagine would be the one where every moment of your existence is working to keep yourself alive; farmers back in the middle ages, etc. Something where you work all day, every day, so that you will be alive to work all day, every day. That would be hell, to me.
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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby SabreKGB » Sat May 03, 2008 10:00 pm UTC

What keeps us going:

1. Evolution. Species/populations that kill themselves/allow themselves to die don't continue to exist.
2. Life is like a game with no upper limit on the score you can get. Sure, you're never going to get a "perfect game" since that's impossible due to the programmer dicks, but you can still try to get a better score than anyone else.
3. Fear of death. *see #1 for why we have this*

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby FiddleMath » Mon May 05, 2008 12:44 am UTC

Spider Robinson wrote:Callahan's Law: Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased - thus do we refute entropy.


If I have to rationalize it, I keep going because it looks like I only get to die once, and then I don't get to do other stuff. It seems rather suboptimal to end life earlier than necessary. Really, though, I persist because I feel like living, and I bet most people here trying to explain themselves feel the same way.

Practically all of this has been said on this thread, but I wrote things down a couple of years ago, and they haven't stopped seeming true. Folks have told me that they found it clarifying, so perhaps it's worth mentioning.

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Re: What is it that keeps us going?

Postby meat.paste » Mon May 05, 2008 4:52 pm UTC

This is certainly a meaty topic.

As I read the posts, I was struck with the presumption that death is scary. I will certainly admit that it is an unknown (Apologies to those who think some people can rise from the dead. I have never seen convincing evidence of it.) However, our fear of death is, in part, caused by our detachment from it. A century ago, dead people were displayed in the home before burial. Now, hospitals and funary businesses do their best to keep us from seeing death directly. We don't even see the death we cause in pursuit of our food. I know far too many people (including myself) that don't like to see a recognizable animal face on the plate. This is more a North American / European cultural thing, though. In Vietnam and China, food is frequently brought out alive (and sometimes killed) in front of you to demonstrate the freshness. My point is really that we have no knowledge about what happens after death and my culture is scared of death.

I choose to continue to strive for my life's goals not because I am afraid of death (although I am to a reasonable degree, but my un-provable belief in reincarnation reduces that fear), but because I know my purpose. I have developed my sense of philosophy / religion from many different inputs, which include Richard Bach, Robert Heinlein, and Babylon 5. It works for me. As I experience more, I modify my belief system. As a scientist, though, I always keep in mind that I could be completely wrong (I'll let you know after I die.) So, I keep going because I have found my path. I have absolutely no idea if it the right path for anyone else or if I will stay on this path until I die.

As for niolosoiale, please bear in mind that one thing we can not have and remain sane is a true sense of perspective. The universe is a very big place, and we are really puny (cue an Animaniacs song). So, yes every action by man is insignificant on a universe scale, but I continue along because of my grandiose ego and stubbornness. I hope you can find the path that you need to follow in this life. Good luck.

[edit] I forgot to mention that another thing that keeps me going is the humor I find in the general absurdity of life / the universe / people. [/edit]
Last edited by meat.paste on Tue May 06, 2008 4:48 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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