Come the end of August I burned through all my reasons to stay in the city of Richmond. There was largely a feeling of ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’ about leaving. It wasn’t the worse place I ever lived, but not much good came out of it, and in the last few months there I was working three jobs and barely living at all. And yet I didn’t really have anything to show for it, save perpetual exhaustion.
The night shift wasn’t helping. My sleep schedule went insane, and I started falling asleep at traffic lights in broad daylight.
Never fell asleep at work though. Hm.
So it was relatively easy to leave Richmond behind. But DC hadn’t exactly been a wealth for me in the past, and if it wasn’t for the promise of being able to sleep again, I don’t know with what enthusiasm I would have gone back.
It was all very confusing. And to make it worse, I had:
- No job
- No Career
- No Network
- No fucking clue
- No family (the nearest family member being thousands of miles away)
- No Social Outlet
- A friend network that was slim and largely unreliable
- And no Future Plans
It was a shitty boat to be in. But, I’ve been in shittier. Here is what I did have:
- A house to live in
- A month of residual income from the old jobs, to be paid out throughout the month of September.
- Some savings
That wasn’t nothing. I could use those three things to turn this period into a glorious moment of Liminality.
Liminality i s a concept from Anthropology that deal with transitory periods in people’s lives. Certain societies make a big deal of these times, particularly of the transition from childhood to adulthood, though it can be pretty much any time there is an arbitrary line in the society. Sometime this comes in the form of rites of passage, but it can take many forms. (I am pretty sure I wrote a shitty paper about this back when I was doing Anthropology 101 in University. It’s one of those things that’s lodged in my head well and good, and there really isn’t any other explanation as to why).
I had actually done this before. Back in mid 2012 I found myself with all of the problems above plus a few extra. I had no fucking money whatsoever, and I had a crippling religio-existential set of fears. What I did have is a place to stay in, food abandoned by all my other flatmates, and access to one of the largest libraries in the region. I got a bunch of books on religion and philosophy and told myself I wouldn’t leave my house till I proved to myself that God existed, and that I had nothing at all to fear about meaning and existence and those horrifying thoughts that kept me up at night. I would soon have a reasoned and rational basis for my belief in God, and I would have less worries about what happened on this mortal-
I left that fucking hole hat in hand, a very scared atheist. It was a terrible month in many respects, but it was also a great one. Here is the problem: it was only great retrospectively. At the time it rocked the foundation of my being and made me feel even more terrified. But, several years later I can list the positive outcomes
- I got really into Epistemology
- I got really really into skepticism
- I discovered the virtue of existential nihilism i.
- I became extremely comfortable with the limits of my knowledge, which are fucking vast
- I ultimately developed a comfort with the lack of knowledge of others around me
In short it was the kind of philosophical breakthrough that I needed at the time. I had a huge problem with understanding some aspects of nature and the world around me, and I figure them all out, more or less, from a month of intense study.
So September 2019 was dedicated to that same kind of endeavor. I set myself up with certain self-improvement goals and I told myself that I would do my absolute most to research all of them within a calendar month. Did I get through them all? No, but as I quickly understood what was truly helpful and what was not, and so the goals changed as I went. But on a ten item checklist that I made, I got through seven items. Did I come to any answers? I did for some, but the truth of the matter is that even back when I did this in 2012 the answers didn’t come to me in lighning flashes. Back then, I thought I had wasted a month, and only years later did I realize the value of what I did.
This time around, I will be more patient. I won’t have the answers now, and I won’t have them by the time this publishes.
By the way, you get some bizarre stuff when you look up Liminality on google.
iThis one has to be explained. Existential nihilism is not the mere belief that there are no meaning to things. This is a stupid game people like to play which I have nicknamed ‘Lebowski Nihilism’. What existential nihilism means is that there is no intrinsic meaning to those deeper questions we have about reality. It’s really a response to the old person who when asked ‘what’s it all mean’ answers with ‘get a job get a wife go to church have some kids pay your taxes vote repulican’, and that response is, ‘nah, I’m good’. Existential nihilism is really the freedom to say ‘I’m going to make my life about what I want it to be about.’