They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.
Waiting for Godot (Act 2, Line 773) by Samuel Beckett
Well. That’s fucking depressing, ain’t it?
Out of the whole, entire conceivable universe of quotes I could’ve picked from…
And with the privileged honor of choosing The Cave’s inaugural “Handwritten Quote of the Week” (no less!)…
I had to go with something out of Samuel Beckett’s existential play, “Waiting for Godot”, didn’t I?
(I mean aside from the fact that this and Tom Robbin’s “Skinny Legs and All” were the two most influential books in my university years)…
Pozzo’s last line in Beckett’s play means a lot to Joshua and I here at The Cave.
In fact, it’s foundational to the core philosophies of The Cave.
This Is What The Cave Is Built On
When we were developing The Cave in the summer of ‘17, one particular Kurzgesagt video struck it home for us.
It was a departure for them from their typically scientific content.
It was… wait for it… a philosophical inquiry into “Optimistic Nihilism”…
Optimistic Nihilism by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
The short of it is this:
Everything is meaningless. And because of that, it’s up to you to make your own meaning in life.
Now, there’s a branch of nihilists that say, “well, if nothing has meaning… why bother doing anything?”
But obviously, if The Cave subscribed to that philosophy, this website wouldn’t exist.
We believe realizing “life is meaningless” is a great way to begin anything. Any project. Any relationship. Any meeting.
If we start there… we can clear away all the baggage, the old beliefs, the junk ideas, the myths, the lies, the false narratives… everything.
We clear the slate.
And then — we add in new context, new frames, our perspective. Maybe we put some of the old stuff back in if it’s helpful. But you — as our first axiom says…
Start At Zen Zero
To us, this way of approaching life, activities, whatever… is at once, both the most freeing and the most responsible.
If you walk into the situation carrying stuff… it colors it. You make assumptions. You put on blinders. You dismiss and generalize and miss the nuance of “what’s different”.
But if you walk in with fresh eyes… even if it’s something you’ve done a thousand times before… you see it in a new light.
I’m not saying you don’t bring your wisdom and experience with you. That would be foolish. But you walk in with your eyes and ears open for the changes.
So what does all this have to do with Pozzo’s bleak rumination on time?
In the grand scheme of things…
Our life is, as Macbeth laments, a brief candle.
After all, as per the Kurzgesagt video, 13.75 billion years passed before humans came along in our vast universe… and trillions will pass long after we’re dead.
But in that small insignificant moment…
From that first second we’re released from our mother’s womb…
To that very next instant where we fall into our tomb…
A Lifetime Has Passed
A lifetime of 71.5 years…. Or 26,097 days… or 37,580,400 minutes.
And in each of those 37-some million minutes… we can bring joy, laughter, sadness, anger, pain, pleasure or love to another human being…
Every minute we are alive, we are affecting a vast webwork of human lives.
Think on that.
Is life so meaningless when we touch so many others simply by existing?
Your friends. Your family. Your coworkers. Your past loves. The strangers you met today. The Starbucks barista. The guy who let you pass on the freeway. An old acquaintance.
That’s the duality I see in Pozzo’s line.
You can see it in the context of the play, where a frustrated Pozzo can’t deal with the simple question of when he became blind.
Time means nothing. A human life is fleeting. None of it matters.
Compared to the vast universe and all of space-time… we are nothing.
Because a human life is so short…
And we are brought into a world of entangled relationships, of people we will meet and will spend hours, days, years with…
We are everything.
What will you do with your brief, gleaming instance of light today?