Inspired by Lex Fridman

The entire school is buzzing in anticipation of the upcoming final assembly, just ahead of the mid-term break. Teachers are struggling to break up the scuffles popping off amongst the overzealous pre-pubescent boys. Phew! A few more hours and they wouldn’t have to deal with these rugrats — not for 14 days at least.

Out of the blue, the desk and windows start vibrating, followed by a rumbling sound so deafening that the students had to cover their ears as they scampered to assume the well-drilled prone position. The unfathomable, ear-busting clanging of the bells in the belfry adds to the frenzy.

Did a war break out? Is it the Soviets? Is it an earthquake?

As two boys and a teacher scurry to the windows to get a better view, they see an on-rushing cloud of darkness hover above the classroom, followed rapidly by a dark mass of slurry racing downhill to the school from one of the mountains of coal waste behind it. 

One of the boys lets out a sharp scream, pointing in the direction of the shadow as he leaps for the door. No time to run. 

Before the class can react, the slurry engulfs the entire school instantly, wiping out an entire generation within seconds and leaving the survivors horrified as they helplessly watch their friends’ bodies stiffen in the sludge. 

No bombs dropped. No earthquakes. Just the piercing shrieks of survivors stuck in the deathly sludge.

Source: Ichef

After the final count, 116 pupils (out of the 240 in attendance) and 28 staffers were found under the black mass — some teachers had died in a crouching pose, with lifeless toddlers taking shelter underneath them. One of the dead kids still had both hands over their ears when the rescue team unearthed the body the following day.

This is the story of Aberfan. This is one of those stories that make you shudder and shrug as you question the meaning of life.

Since the dawn of life on earth, scientists, philosophers, and religious scholars have tried to understand the meaning of human life. 

Jordan Peterson believes life is suffering, Viktor Frankl thinks life is all about experiencing love and always looking at the positives, and other intellectuals believe the pursuit of happiness is the sole purpose of living. 

Christians think an ‘unexamined’ life is worthless — whatever that means. Other religions believe whatever they believe; some even think life is meaningless. 

But in all these definitions, no one has made sense of a child dying in infancy, unleashing so much pain on the mother that she takes her own life. And through her death, pushes the grieving father (and husband) to drugs, debauchery, and eventual murder-suicide in a crowded movie theatre. 

How about that for meaning?

Granted, people like MLK could find their purpose and dedicate their lives to it. Gandhi, Nyerere, Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa, Hitler, Judas; you get the point.

But what about the office staffer who works at a 9-5 job they despise and even takes extra shifts on the weekend to supplement the income, just for a hurricane to swoop in and sweep them off their feet — an act of God, as they say. 

Where is the meaning in that? Maybe Peterson was right: Life is suffering. And only by embracing this suffering can we find eventual purpose.

But if life is suffering, why do we marvel at art and beauty? How then do you explain the joy of watching your favorite team score a last-minute winner? Why does the sound of music serenade you during hard times? 

If life is meaningless, why do we fall in love?

Frankl might have a point. Amidst the chaos and trials of life, you can envision a moment in time when the birds sang soulful melodies — when you made a child smile in the aisle across from you while heading back from work. In those moments lie the hope that makes your life — your suffering — meaningful.

Who knows, that sweet tune from Ye might be your saving grace when terrorists are about to behead your spouse. Maybe you can swallow a gulp of happiness and optimism to cure your kwashiorkor. Or your admiration of poetry might come in handy when you get that cancer diagnosis.

What is the point of worrying about the meaning of life if a random stranger can crash a plane into your workplace at 8 a.m.?  

What if life becomes so terrible in your country that falling off the wings of a taxiing plane is a better alternative to staying alive?

What if you are born into an age-old conflict with your bully neighbor?

There is this game called GO that is similar to Checkers. After the first two moves in GO, you have 13 000 possible moves on the board. 

Source: The Guardian

As the game progresses, the number of available moves outnumbers the atoms in the universe.

That’s how I think about life. 

From the moment of conception, you become a product of probability, starting from an orgasmic sprint to outrun 8 billion other sperm cells. Then, you enter a world of possibilities that outnumber all the atoms in the universe. And at this point, you are doomed to your fate.

As far as I know, we are pawns in this multidimensional, dysfunctional game called life. 

Maybe the best way to live is to make every moment count. Maybe life is all about finding meaning in the farrago of madness. Maybe life gets better when you close your eyes — or torture stray cats in your free time.

Instead of fussing about the meaning of life, worry about the present; worry about how to navigate the troubles of today. After all, tomorrow won’t matter if you are dead.

For every individual, life is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes, you get the meaning; sometimes, you just want to end the suffering. 

You are not that important, but you matter a lot. 

If you are lucky to be in a good place, enjoy your life. Immerse yourself in the things you love. Learn new things. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Live.

Artwork by Adrianne Walujo

20 thoughts on “Life”

  1. Yo! This is so beautiful and relatable in so many different ways especially the part where you said something like suffering becoming meaningful. This is a beautiful piece😩

  2. Thanks for sharing these Deep thoughts & somewhat encouraging end. I agree to living every moment like it’s your last; cos it could be…
    Life is meaningless, yet a beautiful gift.

  3. Life is about finding meaning.I ones asked my neighbor, from my old neighborhood, ‘why do you get up and go to work (physical labor job that I hated doing when I was younger) everyday , and he replied, when you have a family that depends on you, you’ll be happy doing it.

    Now, I’m an adult, met the woman I want to spend my live with, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. It so true. I’ve felt the profound meaning and purpose that I cannot describe.

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