One of the things “they” don’t tell you about parenthood is that at some point, you may feel like a prisoner in your own home. Your wonderful bundle of joy becomes a tether, and the outside world takes on a magical, limitless quality that makes you yearn for freedom. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to combat this feeling is to invite people over, feed them pizza, and let them regale you with stories of a mystical, faraway land called “outside.” They may leave at the end of the night, but their stories will stay with you and make you happy, that is, of course, unless your husband (acclaimed Science Fiction author Daniel Verastiqui) hijacks the conversation and steers it towards The Dark Place.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on the concepts of meaning and purpose as it applies to our lives. I used to be obsessed with identity and how it is defined (by you? by society?) and that obsession is reflected in my books. But in the last year or so, after El Matador came into our lives, I’ve found myself less concerned with who I am as much as why I is.
What prompted me to write Hybrid Mechanics was the opportunity to examine four characters whose lives are made utterly meaningless with the flip of a switch. The question of whether life has meaning is answered with a resounding no. What would that do to a person? What would it mean for their identity? Would they hold to their old life? Or reinvent themselves in the moment?
I gave one of the characters a trait I’ve had since before I can remember, an unshakable feeling of detachment from the world. It’s not that the world is artificial or that I’m not real or that nothing is real, it’s that I just don’t feel like a part of it. My influence on the world ranges from minimal to nil, which suggests my presence is not quantifiably necessary.
Now you can see why Dom calls this The Dark Place.
Myself, I don’t see it as dark; I see it as a valid thought experiment on the nature of existence. Sure, it’s probably not the best topic to bring up when you have people over, but if not your friends, who are you going to talk to about this kind of stuff? Strangers on the internetwork?
And besides, the dark place is only half of the argument I’m usually trying to make. The other half is how children give us purpose. Over the last fifteen months, I’ve redefined the purpose of my life (which was really nothing before) to be to care for El Matador. Go to work, get money, buy food, enrich his life, play games with him, and so on.
Exercise is a nice-to-have. So are TV shows and movies. Video games are a luxury. And writing? Well, that has always been little more than a hobby anyway. I know I promised Hybrid Mechanics would release sometime in 2018, but I’m probably going to miss that deadline. And you know what? I don’t care. It’ll get done someday, but what matters now is fully committing to a primal instinct to protect my offspring.
And that’s what makes me think our brains get in the way sometimes, that consciousness gets in the way sometimes. We evolved the ability to think there is something more to life, some meaning or higher state of consciousness, but there’s not. It’s all a self-induced illusion. We only have purpose, and that purpose is defined by our DNA, by an endless series of mutations and abberations.
It’s somewhat comforting to someone like me who can’t see an end to the exploration of meaning and purpose and identity. Maybe there is no end. Maybe there are no answers.
Maybe we just have to be okay with the absence of meaning.
Feel free to bring this topic up at your next dinner party.
If you need some primer material, check out these books: