Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Finding Meaning in the Meaningless | 5.5.24
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Finding Meaning in the Meaningless | 5.5.24

Are We Only Ants? - The Sunday Edition
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Not an ant, but a tiny little creature living a tiny little life. Just like us.

“We may not get to choose how we die, but we can chose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn't matter. Because we are the ants, and we'll keep marching on.” We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Steven read me this, sitting across the kitchen table, and as most things do, a long conversation was born from it. We’d just finished talking about the microcosm that was his job, the little hive of activity and life and the spinning machinations that keep it running. We spoke of how in a sense, it truly was a stand-in for the planet as a whole, and that all around us, the same dramas, sagas, struggles, triumphs, joys, heartaches, and politics are playing out. Over, and over again, they are playing out, in every business you drive by, every household whose lights glow yellow-orange in the blue hour when you walk by in the evening.

Multiply this by a few billion and you’ve got the planet we’re on, the blue ball we call home. All across this place, little universes bloom and erupt as though big-bang born, little worlds filled with people and things and wishes and dreams and hopes and stresses and worries and heartbreaks and joy. Inside are the politics aforementioned, the little rules and roles that we play though we never bother to stop and ask why we’re playing them. Some carry more weight than others, or should at the least, though I think the ones that often do are those we should relegate to necessity only. We work and work and work just to have short moments of blissful vacation, we spend such majorities on such minor importances, though we inflate them as though they are everything to everyone. Hours we work, hours and hours stuck in offices or warehouses, tall buildings or classrooms, and fail to see that we are drones doing the bidding for a queen we’ll never know.

I asked Steven, when we were in the midst of the conversation, if he thought we were only ants, if he felt like one as he recounted the dramas that unfold in his workplace on a daily basis. I asked him if he, like me, ever stepped back and wondered the purpose of all this, if he ever wondered if what we do for a living, if the exhaustion we work ourselves to has any value inherent, or if it’s just all the spinning of the great big machine we have convinced ourselves is so necessary for the fate of this place. He answered with the quote I opened this essay with, and while it made things we were thinking make sense, it didn’t answer it, and instead got us wondering more.

Can we choose how we live, as Shaun David Hutchinson says? Can we, or is the choice lost in the pursuit of a nice stable job? Have we put such a high premium on the acquisition of wealth that all other pursuits fall and lag behind?

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This hustle and bustle we call our lives, this endless treadmill that begins sometime after we finish high school or college, and doesn’t ever really slow, does it all add up to something grand? I ask these things because they are answers I do not have, wisdom I do not possess, and I ask these things because I wish so much to know the thoughts that live inside you, dear reader. I ask because to ask is to risk that nagging feeling of silliness that people tell me I’m supposed to feel in the attempt to purge the naive ignorance that lives where the answers should. I ask because I want to know:

Is it all meaningless? Are we only ants?

Perhaps you can tell me this, perhaps you’ve received the wisdom in your studies, in your experiences, in your understanding of the machinations of this wild place. Tell me what answers live in you, please, but whilst I wait I will just say this, and I will say it with all the vulnerability that lives inside of someone utterly convinced they have no idea what it’s all for, what it’s all truly about.

I say, it matters not.

Everywhere there will be a job like Stevens, there will be a town just like ours. Everywhere, there will be families scurrying about, dropping children off at sports practices or dentist appointments or helping them with homework; everywhere, people running errands and stocking their pantries and fridges with food to keep them alive. If we zoomed out, then out further, then further than that, if we looked at it all from some great height, there is no doubt that it would all seem meaningless, that it would seem like we are of no more importance than the tiny ants we all see on the sidewalks below our feet and feel such great pity for, thinking all the while “it doesn’t matter, little one, nothing you’re doing will keep you alive that much longer.” On the infinite timeline of such cosmic scale, we are half blips of a whisper of a blink, we are the sliver of a millisecond of a single spark that starts a match head burning. We are nothing.

In this, friends, we are also everything. We are the infinite that lives around us, made of the same pieces of exploded stars that have shined since long before time was time at all. We are minuscule, and in this, free to be anything at all, we are the ants, yes, but my god, in all that emptiness, we are the ants, my friends. We are ants when we could have been absolutely nothing at all.

I believe we assign the meaning to the meaningless, I believe we decide, every single day of our lives, if the undeniably silly (on a cosmic universal level) things we assign importance to are wastes of our limited time, or part of the story we’re constantly telling, the people we’re becoming. As Hutchinson said above, we get to choose how we live, and we can choose to believe in its worth.

We watch ants from our elevated positions and it all seems so small, so unimportant, and it’s precisely the same for us.

Still we scurry, still we stress, still we buy presents and give love and work in offices and feel the sting of drama surrounding those office politics and worry about money and worry about productivity and laugh at jokes and watch strange tv shows and make popcorn for dinner and sit in metal boxes on rubber wheels and drive for hours and hours over mountains and through forests to spend weekends with people that share our blood and miss them when they are far and mark anniversaries on calendars and celebrate them when they come and blow out candles on birthday cakes and make the cakes at all and swipe right and swipe left and own pets and walk them even when it’s cold or hot or raining and pick up their shit with little plastic bags that will spend years in a landfill slowly rotting and believe that some clothes are more valuable than others because they carry a logo or a name and we kiss and hug and stare out windows and believe we’re so very alone when all around us sits so many feeling the exact same.

Are we only ants? Probably yes, probably always yes, but I’ll be damned if we’re not stunningly beautiful anyway. Is it meaningless? Probably yes, probably always yes, but guess what, it all is, and just the same, it’s still filled with stars.

It’s all filled with stars.

Is it meaningless,

the hustle bustle of life?

Are we only ants?

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson


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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.