In my experience, grief stimulates existential questions. An example of a question that kicks around in my head a lot these days is: What is the point of living if we’re just going to die? Are we born just to have kids, work a job, buy stuff, and die?
I was a little gloomy today and brought these questions up with a friend. He said they reminded him of a scene from the film ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ in which Andre tells his dinner companion about a type of self-reflection where you ask
the same questions that Stanislavski said the actor should constantly ask himself as a character: Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I come from? And where am I going? But instead of applying them to a role, you apply them to yourself.
The quote from the film brought to mind a passage I’d seen recently from Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory:
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged—the same house, the same people—and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence.
This is so true of my experience. I have never worried about where I came from, and I haven’t heard anyone else talk about that, although I’ve heard a lot of discussion about what happens after life. Is it because the universe exists in our reality only from our point of view? From our vantage point the universe only truly became alive with our entrance. All that history that happened before we were born is merely wallpaper for the events of our life. But how can the universe go on without us being here to observe it? And who wants to become wallpaper for someone else’s life?
When I got home my cat was playing with her ball. I got down on the floor and played with her. She told me: this is the point of being alive. Being. Experiencing. Loving.