Accepting the Void

The hardest thing in life is learning to accept the void.

The void is the realization that life has no final destination. There is no last stop, no “done,” no happily-ever-after. This will never change. Life will always go on. It went on long before you were here, and it will go on long after you’re gone. That is the void.

The void is not negative, but it is empty. It is a blank canvas of potential, but only you can choose to fill it with something meaningful. You won’t always have the strength to choose the meaningful over the trivial, but even once you’ve learned to reject the wrong colors outright, on some days, the canvas will still stay empty — and that too is something we must learn to accept. Let me explain.

Initially, most of us try to fill the void by stuffing it. We chase money, sex, food, drugs, travel, friends, or other thrilling, “I am alive” experiences, and we try to maximize our freedom to keep chasing whatever blend of “more” we have chosen. But that’s all there ever will be — more — and it will all go into the void. The void will endlessly suck up whatever we acquire in the video game of life, be it status, power, or the material possessions and access to other humans that come with it.

Some people never begin to try filling the void (and that’s actually a smart thing to do), but most of us eventually sense its disquieting presence, even if only subconsciously. Once we’ve begun seeing the void as an enemy and are trying to fight it or at least stave it off, it is hard to stop. Therefore, many get stuck at the “shoveling more coal into the fire in hopes of extinguishing it” stage, a strategy which, by definition, won’t work. That’s why you see old, already-rich people argue over an extra $10,000 from an inheritance they probably won’t get to spend, why people get married for the 6th time, usually someone a quarter their age, and why people struggle to maintain a better diet even after already being diagnosed with diabetes. The void is too terrifying, and even though it’s not working, it feels better to keep trying “more” than to just accept its presence.

Ironically, the people hopelessly lost in the vortex of “more” often look down on those refusing to play. I used to think that the people who stayed in my hometown, got normal jobs, bought a house, had kids early, and did nothing out of the ordinary must be bored out of their mind, but actually, I think many of those folks are very happy. They just live life. They play the game as it is to be played, blissfully unaware of the void, yet somehow naturally showing the appropriate response in their complete disregard.

If you are unlucky enough to get sucked into the infinite Chutes and Ladders game of more but lucky enough to eventually realize that more is not the answer, you will enter a long staring contest with the void. You might feel sad or even get depressed. A bout of nihilism is common. “What’s the point if there’s no point?” you might ask, and rightfully so. Somehow, you’ll need to get your telekinesis working so that your stare may swing the pendulum back to the more hopeful side of the void: potential.

Once you do start to accept life’s cold indifference as a starting point rather than a chamber at the morgue, you begin to see what’s good about the void. If nothing matters all that much, you may as well pursue the goals and dreams you really want. You can focus on making yourself useful right here and now, to the people you love but also to people in general, and you don’t need to do any more than that to have a good day.

You’ll also no longer need any of the crutches you used to rely on for so long. Money stops being useful after you have enough, and enough won’t be all that much. Sex no longer functions like valium. You can focus on the connection aspect of it instead of treating it like an anxiety pill. Food is nice but not necessary in huge quantities. Neither are travel, using the VIP entrance at the club, or jumping out of an airplane with a parachute on your back. You won’t drop all of your vices immediately, but slowly, over time, they’ll peel away, and what’s left is the real you…and the void.

By now you’ll know the void need not be depressing, but even its liberty is something we must learn to accept. For me, writing books is probably as close as I can get to my true calling, but I might never get around to publishing all the books I want to write, let alone publish all my current ideas at once. On some days, I make no progress at all. On others, I get dangerously close to throwing myself down the rabbit hole of a massive, “make more money faster” distraction. Those days don’t always feel a lot easier just because I know the void is nothing to be feared. Most of the time, it is keeping me good company, but its vastness can still feel daunting.

There is incredible peace in accepting that you don’t need to change the world, that it’s okay if some or maybe even your best work will remain unfinished, that you can just live day by day, focus on the present, and not worry about…anything, really. But the void will still always be there, and sometimes, it will send your mind in circles. That too is nothing to be feared.

When the world feels either too big or too small, try taking a break, primarily from thinking. Leave your house. Buy a donut. Go for a walk with the void. By the time you return, you’ll have remembered what matters. You’ll write one sentence, prep one meal, call one friend — and tomorrow, the sun will rise again.