How to Deal with an Existential Crisis
One of the results of wealth is having the luxury of being able to think about existence, what it means, and what the purpose of life is. There is a reason that most religions are started by rich people (Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, etc). The book of Ecclesiastes in the bible is traditionally said to have been written by the endlessly wealthy King Solomon. The author of the text talks about all that he has achieved. He talks about the buildings he built, the women he bedded, the money he accumulated, and he calls all these things vanity.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the southand turns to the north;
round and round it goes,ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,there they return again.
All things are wearisome,more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
These are the words that haunt many people. Elon Musk? You will be forgotten. Barack Obama? You will be forgotten. Donald Trump? You will be forgotten. Joe Rogan? You will be forgotten. The Beatles will be forgotten. Van Gogh will be forgotten. Isaac Newton will be forgotten. Napoleon will be forgotten. Maybe not soon. But eventually. As hard as it is to believe, time destroys all things. No one can withstand it. We are sandcastles on the beach. No matter how big we are. No matter how well constructed we are. Eventually the tide, the wind, and the rain will wash us back into the sea and nothing we do ultimately matters.
Oh... you have a lot of followers on Twitter? Good for you. You will die, you will be forgotten soon afterward. You are lucky if anyone notices when you do. You wrote a book? Good for you. You will be forgotten. You made a lot of money? You will be forgotten. You cannot build your sandcastle big enough. It will be washed away.
And this is incredibly depressing. This is why we drink. Do drugs. Why we watch TV. Why we distract ourselves with entertainment, arguments on Twitter, sports, and porn. Anything to avoid looking into the emptiness that is coming. The blackness that will follow this brief spark that we call life.
But does this need to be? Is it possible that our life could actually have meaning? Is it possible that what we do matters? Is it possible that in 10,000 years we will not be forgotten?
I would argue that the only way that we can live a life that lasts - build a castle not made of sand but of stone - is for our life to somehow be tied up with something that is eternal. Instead of our life being built on our own mortal souls, build it on something that does not shift, sink, or fade.
A prophet who wrote 700 years before Christ said,
All flesh is grass,and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;surely the people are grass.The grass withers, the flower fades,but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8)
Humans fade like grass in the sun but God is forever. When we attach our life to him, suddenly, we have meaning. And we can have meaning no matter how many Twitter followers we have. We can have meaning no matter how much money we have. We can have meaning whether 10,000 people show up at our funeral or if the church is empty other than our dead body and the pastor. When Jesus saw a poor widow give her pennies to the temple and he observed that her small gift was greater than that of the rich and powerful in the eyes of God (Luke 21:1-4).
If you have no money and give $5 to the church offering, that will be remembered for 10,000 years. If your ministry is limited to raising your five kids in the faith, that will be remembered for all ages. If your art is ignored and forgotten but done to glorify God, it will hang in the halls of the Kingdom in the year 3000. If your Twitter is shadow banned and your tweets are followed by 20 people but you tell those 20 people the truth, those tweets will be remembered for all time. Whatever you do, Jesus says, to promote the Kingdom.... matters. Your life is not worthless unless you spend it on worthless things. Making people like you. Spending your money on things to make you happy. Tweeting to make yourself famous. Running for office to get power. None of these things will matter as much as the guy who gave what he could for the Kingdom.
You have an existential crisis. Why do you exist. This is why. What you do with it is up to you.