On Friday quite a number of my Facebook friends shared a video of comedian Louis CK on Conan O’Brien’s show, talking about smartphones and why he’ll never let his kids get them. Louis CK is one of those funny guys whose best comedy comes from human truth, not quite “you have to laugh because otherwise you’d cry,” but close to that. You should watch the clip, but if you can’t, here’s what he said that I loved:
Underneath everything, in your life, there’s that thing — that empty, forever empty, you know what I’m talking about? That…
[Conan: Yes, I--]
[Conan: Yes, I know--]
[Conan: --what you're talking about.]
–that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. You know it’s down there. And sometimes things clear away, you’re not watching any–, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘Ohhhh no, here it comes — that I’m alone!’ Like it starts to visit on you, you know, just this sadness.
Life is tremendously sad, just by be–, you know, being in it. And so you’re driving, and then you go “Uhhhhhhhh” — that’s why we text and drive. I look around and pretty much one hundred percent of people driving are texting. And they’re killing — everybody’s murdering each other with their cars, but people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own, because they don’t want to be alone for a second. Because it’s so hard.
Erik and I were on the T, going to Arlington to hang out with our friends, and I was telling him about this video and we talked a bit about the sadness. Louis CK describes it as “the knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone,” but when it hits me, when it’s 1 AM and I can’t sleep and find myself crying for no reason, I’m crying over the knowledge that we’re all going to die and none of this matters. (Same thing as what Louis CK says, but not exactly.) This is one of the things I love most about Erik, that I can talk to him about things like this and he doesn’t try to soothe me, tell me it’s okay or not to worry about it. A lot of people think that having these thoughts means I need to be cheered up, but I hate that, because you can’t be made to feel better about something that can’t be changed. At least I can’t. It’s not something to feel better about, though it’s true that sometimes I feel more okay with it and sometimes less. Would you tell a dying person to cheer up? Because that’s what we all are: dying people.
I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear that I have these thoughts, because I’m a generally happy person and many people read these kinds of thoughts as dark or bleak. Perhaps you’re thinking this now: “Good lord, she thinks we’re all dying and nothing matters, she must be really depressed,” but I’m not. I mean, sometimes I’m depressed, but isn’t everyone? Sometimes I’m depressed, and sometimes — most of the time — I’m happy, or even really happy, and the happiness isn’t some kind of thin-stretched façade just barely hiding the sadness. The happiness is real. The sadness is real. I’m not trying to feel better because that implies there’s something wrong with the sadness, that we should try to stave it off, and I don’t believe that. The sadness is here because it is based on inescapable facts that we have to live with, and so we live with it. Fending it off would be as stupid as trying to fend off happiness because it’s getting in the way of the sadness.*
By the way, I should say that I don’t truly believe that none of this matters. Or rather — I don’t only believe that none of this matters. I think nothing matters, and I also think everything matters. In a way everything matters precisely because nothing matters, if that makes any kind of sense at all. Everything matters, because it’s the only thing that stands against the giant infinity of nothing, and that’s why the happiness matters and the sadness matters and the pettiness and the ridiculousness and the bugs and the bombs and the cat videos on the internet. This is all we have, and so it matters more than anything.
This was going to be a post about, like, two or three other things, but it turned into this. That’s okay. The other stuff will keep. But here, have a kitten. Our friends are fostering her and she’s about five weeks old and the shelter named her Monkey Face.
*Note, though, that I’m never the kind of depressed that means not getting out of bed for days and not wanting to talk to anyone. I think that kind of sadness – and “sadness” is not really the right word for it — does need to be fended off.