In The Illicit Happiness of Other People, Manu Joseph writes about a boy who has not only discovered, but has embraced a response to the greatest mystery that plagues men and women – the meaning of their own existence. I love fiction that embraces absences, negations, interstitial spaces – that’s where I find most of my meaning (inadvertently, but undeniably, constructed). If we look beyond the basic philosophical premise of this text, its central fictional catalyst is death – and what’s a bigger negation than death?The underlying implications and meanings are strangely reminiscent of Camus – “come in, I’ve hanged myself” – a declaration on the wall by Cotard in The Plague .The idea that every death demands witnessing, not life – life is unremarkable, life is a series of meaningless events strung together under the garb of normalcy – life is inconspicuous, life is invisible, but it’s the negation of death that jolts you. I think Unni Chacko’s comics, dark, ironic, striking, are a parallel to Cotard’s declaration on the wall with chalk.
Fermi’s paradox is a theory that questions the lack of evidence of extra-terrestrial civilisations, given the high probability estimates. Realisation struck Enrico Fermi while he was observing a line of ants attempting to conquer a boulder. A line of ants triggered a question so bewildering and incomprehensible. Is it then a stretch to believe that everything is contingent, that everything is absolutely random and we exist simply within imposed order, and that human choice is an illusion? With our knowledge of infinite time which has no beginning or end, and of infinite and expanding space, trying to explain everything in anthropomorphic terms is, at best, terribly misguided. Which creates another beautiful paradox of everything being simultaneously meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful, not because of constructed meaning, but because we are, at the present moment, a part of this infinite time and space, and we have no idea how, or if, things happening at the present moment will affect any part of the Universe at any given point, just how we don’t know if we exist because we exist, or because it is the consequence of some activity at some point in infinite time. Meaningless, because of the transience and inconsequentiality of human life, and our definition and understanding of time only through our anticipation of death.
What if we’re just as deluded though, in our quest to comprehend an incomprehensible universe? In the opening pages of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsch
e poses these problems – who’s defining truth and rationality and knowledge as more valuable than untruth and ignorance? Who’s asking these questions? They’re definitely not intuitive. They’re learnt. Which brings me back to Joseph – if two people agree on a certain perception, it’s a delusion. The folly of two. So it doesn’t matter how much we read and think and talk about it, we’re always going to keep wondering, we’re always going to be delusional, until death jolts us.