A person’s life isn’t staged like that of Truman in The Truman Show, nor is there a single “author” of a person’s life deciding everything that happens in that person’s flow of events. In those respects, life isn’t literally a story. But if life weren’t comparable to a narrative (beginning, middle, end: childhood adulthood, retirement), life would be perfectly meaningless. We ascribe meaning to the events in our life, not by rationally explaining them but by understanding those events as falling into an ennobling pattern.

In some cases, that aesthetic interpretation is at best a noble lie and in others the interpretation may be narcissistic and fanciful. The best stories aren’t the Mary Sue projections, the flattering fantasies that ignore the inhuman realities, including the role of sheer chance in what happens to us. Some stories are better than others and the same is true for authors. The question is fair, then, whether the meaning we attribute to our life, by interpreting our experiences in light of the ending or the depth we hope we’ll have or the virtues we practice is an honourable response to the ultimate foolishness of life’s emergence.

As far as the universe is “concerned,” life has no meaning and thus our lives don’t literally have story arcs. But we make sense out of everything, including ourselves, largely by telling stories. Suffering can’t be objectively redeemed, because the universe doesn’t care either way, but if we don’t live according to ideals that contextualize suffering in such a way that we don’t lose all hope in view of life’s absurdity on the cosmic level, there would be no point in going on.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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