To Find Meaning in a Secular Age, Stop Searching

— BigThink

In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, two friends, Vladimir and Estragon, endlessly wait by a tree in the moonlight for the arrival of someone they both claim to know but neither would recognize – someone named Godot. While they wait, they talk about the Gospels, suicide, the past and the future. They exchange shoes and hats. They contemplate leaving. Most of all, they try to make sense of the situation. But doing so – trying to understand and control their circumstances – leads to anxiety. It is the attempt to make sense of the absurd that spells their demise.

Like most postmodern literature it’s unclear what, exactly, Waiting for Godot is about. But that’s the point. You create meaning for yourself. The potential concern is that, while inherent meaning might exist in the world, human beings will always struggle to find it. This was Vladimir and Estragon’s problem, and Beckett cleverly subjects the audience to a similar fate. With so much to interpret, we inevitably interpret incorrectly, and nihilism sets in.

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