Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Giving advice to a suicidal (long-time) viewer.

[Question from a viewer.]
Hi Eisel. I'm a 17 year old from [an English-speaking country] and have been a fan of your YouTube channel for maybe a year and a half. I'm writing because I believe we share many similar viewpoints across different topics (though over my time watching your channel I have found many things I've disagreed with) and am hoping that maybe you can offer some kind of advice.
I'm a nihilistic athiest like you and at the moment am really suffering and struggling with an existential crisis. This has been progressively worsening with time to the point where now I consider suicide anywhere from 3 times a week to 3 times a day or more. I eat well and I exercise frequently but I essentially just think this depression is because of an unchangeable truth and see no possible way to overcome it. Today I saw a doctor and he'd like to meet again but I've seen your video on antidepressants and it seems very convincing, especially coupled with the fact that what is bringing me down just seems to be an unchangeable part of reality, so I'm not sure what I should do about that.
Essentially I'm just searching for some kind of point or meaning in my life and have reached what appears to be a dead end. Do you have any kind of advice for getting out of this pit I've ended up in? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
[My reply.]
There's a parallel here to advice I can offer about diet:
People ask me, "What should I eat?"
In reply, I have to say, "I can tell you what I eat, but I can't tell you what you should eat".
I eat a lot of broccoli. Every day. I eat broccoli, beans and bread.
I think that plenty of people would "go crazy" if they ate the same diet I ate (i.e., they couldn't tolerate it / cope with it) —I can't really recommend it to others.
Likewise, my own nihilistic philosophy (and yes, it has a playlist… possibly you've already seen all of these videos) isn't something I can easily recommend to others. That's the first big caveat I need to state, before offering any kind of advice.
Re: "…what is bringing me down just seems to be an unchangeable part of reality…"
You are probably correct, but this is like regarding a mountain range and saying, "It's an unchangeable part of reality". You can't change the mountain range, but changing your perspective on it can be a very fundamental sort of change: living on the north vs. south side of the same mountain range may be a very different thing —living on the top or the bottom of the slope, etc.
I've known medical doctors.
Some lead very harried, meaningless lives: they do repetitive, brainless activity every day —and they never have time to read a book. They work in a bureaucratic system they despise, and so on.
However, you say you're 17: really think about how different your life would be if you became a medical doctor.
Try to imagine how different your perspective on the same mountain rage would be if (e.g.) you woke up every day knowing that you'd be helping people (even if you're literally helping them with acne, or other minor complaints) —and, yes, that you'd also be harried and exhausted, working long shifts in a highly bureaucratic, somewhat denigrating profession.
It changes: you can't change the mountain, but you can change yourself —you can change your position relative to the mountain —in ways both subtle and coarse.
Even in the process of doing the reading to become a medical doctor (needing to motivate yourself to get through the details of organic chemistry, etc.) your perspective would change: the things in your life that were meaningful and meaningless would change…
…and my point is, of course, this isn't merely true of becoming a medical doctor. It's true of becoming anything —doing anything —especially if there's real ambition involved.
It doesn't matter if your ambition is to change the mountain: your ambition will change you. It will change your position relative to the mountain, and (thus) it will change your perspective on the mountain.
I can't change the Canadian university system (and it's just awful) but I can tell you: being in a department of First Nations languages is completely different from being in a department of Political Science —even if you want to deal with exactly the same problem (the politics of First Nations language education/extinction). Being in a Buddhist Monastery in Sri Lanka, doing humanitarian work in Laos, living in a language school in Kunming, wiping the window clean at a Starbucks in Toronto —even if you didn't think these things entailed profound personal change, they force you to adopt a new perspective on that same mountain range. And if you've got the ambition to learn, you can learn new things in all of those circumstances, wiping windows at Starbucks included.
That's my advice.
Like broccoli: it isn't for everyone. Frankly, just like broccoli, I do believe it is "good for everyone", but not everyone can tolerate it.