Last week on my way to a Peoria Chiefs baseball game, I drove past a lone statement spray-painted on an otherwise naked wall: existence is futile.
What is one to make of such philosophical graffiti?
My first thought is, how can one know this? If existence itself is truly futile we should be none the wiser for it. As C.S. Lewis observes,
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. (Mere Christianity)
Thus, it seems to me that “existence is futile” is a self-refuting, and therefore a false, sentiment.
Nevertheless, it is entirely possible to honestly believe an erroneous statement. That is, the human mind is susceptible to sincerely holding false beliefs. This brings me to my next query.
Why does our graffiti philosopher go through the effort of spraying his message—if he actually believes existence is futile? Is there not a contradiction between what he sprays and that he sprays? The act of spraying belies what is sprayed. He does not—indeed he cannot—live what he claims he believes.
Finally, I wonder how or if the futility of existence can be meaningfully demonstrated. I suppose some would suggest suicide as one possible way. Atheist, Albert Camus philosophizes:
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.
Thankfully, most folks professing the futility of life keep on living; viz. they commit philosophical but not physical suicide. Either way, it’s a pretty tough sell.
No matter. I’m not buying “existence is futile” because I’ve already sold out to Jesus Christ. Because of Him I know intellectually and experientially that life has meaning, value, and purpose.
And besides that…
About an hour after reading the writing on the wall I was taking in a minor league baseball game on a spectacular May evening with my main squeeze. We were in love and elbows deep in a larger than life bag of caramel popcorn. Existence isn’t futile. Not even close.