My philosophy of life
Andy Weir is the author of the acclaimed book and film The Martian. Like I’m sure many authors, he has written a number of short stories. Unlike most, however, he has published them openly on his website for our appreciation.
I recommend first reading the short story The Egg, which can be found on Weir’s website here, mulling over what you understand from it, then returning to read my comments.
Philosophy as a tool
As I see it, The Egg asks us to consider human consciousness as a singular entity, spread across time and space, encompassing all humans – those alive today, once alive in the past, and yet to be alive in the future. While we occupy individual flesh and bone bodies that grow and die, our minds are tiny fractions of a unified whole. Our collective mission is to learn and grow, such that one day we might move beyond our physical separation and become a deity.
I’m not interested in the veracity of such a claim; whether or not its ‘actually possible’. Instead, I think we should employ Weir’s parable of The Egg as a philosophical tool to help us lead more satisfying, meaningful lives.
And I don’t think that the divided union of the human soul described in The Egg is too great a conceptual leap to make. How often do we, like Homer Simpson above, think about our individual life episodically; feeling both a lifetime away from ourself a decade ago, and unable to imagine who we will be and how we will live in a decade’s time. If we recognise different selves in time, thinking “that’s a job for future Homer”, then why not also in space; “that’s a job for French Homer”, and in space and time; “that’s a job for 8th century Viking raider Homer”?
As a way of approaching others, the philosophy of The Egg is much like the Christian tenet to ‘love thy neighbour’. But contrasted with the mere tolerance of the ethic of reciprocity, The Egg is much closer to actual empathetic understanding.
When others offend you, or disappoint you, or do or say things that appear to you complete devoid of humanity, The Egg asks you to look within yourself for answers. Every trait they display is also within yourself, and I guarantee you’ve felt similar things before. Remember why you felt such feelings and desires and how you worked constructively thought them. Through this genuine understanding of oneself and others comes real opportunity for meaningful improvement in our human conditions. If we view those people with whom we disagree, or live radically different lives to our own, or commit crimes as radically other, then we will always be at war with them. They will always be at war with us. We will be at war with our collective self and unable to make progress towards the transcendence offered in The Egg.
As a philosophy of looking at oneself, however, it is much more empowering than the Abrahamic religions. While most worldviews prompt us to ask, what would others think of you? A question which can only be answered with the eventual, ‘I have no way of knowing’, the philosophy of The Egg asks, what do you think of you?
What does the high-flying businessman with penthouse apartments in three European capitals you think of the minimum wage 9-5 job you? Does he think you’re a failure? Or does he miss having housemates to share his daily troubles and successes with at the end of each day? Does he think you’re without ambition, or does really appreciate the creative works you’re producing each week? Do you think he’s a heartless capitalist who’s made his riches from theft, or wish you had some financial security for the future and could just blow a few thousand on a holiday every now and then?
The Egg is a philosophy of accepting that which you cannot change in life, and striving to be the best at what you can. It’s a philosophy of unashamedly being yourself and following your own path, so long as that path is not destructive to the rest of you – other humans. It’s a philosophy that proudly recognises the essential, unique contribution each of us can and should make toward us as a whole god-in-waiting.
Purpose and meaning
Some read the egg and think its nihilistic. They come away feeling like, if it’s all just one big playground and you have endless goes, why bother with anything at all? I return to my earlier question, what do all the other yous think about this you when you get angry for no reason? When you hurt others? When you miss opportunities?
They’re you. They know you can do better. You know you can do better. Sure, some of us need to explore lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride, but “The meaning of life”, the god in The Egg informs us, “is for you to mature”. Most of us need to be focused on the learning and self-development necessary for us to reach our eventual collective goal – to transcend mortal life and become a deity.
Unlike so many self-help philosophies that encourage a single-minded inward focus on personal aims, our human project as told in The Egg requires teamwork among all of us, and it’s incremental. We all have individual parts to play, but we can’t just leave half of us behind to pursue the future we think is best. True progress will only be made when we listen to all of us, understand all of us, and find compromise so that we can all move forward together, step by step.
The author’s AMA (ask me anything) on The Egg, in which he expands upon his thoughts about the short story, can be found on Reddit here.
For short video introductions on a wide range of topics explored from a humanist / existential / agnostic philosophical angle, I recommend the YouTube channels The School of Life and Kurzgesagt. Ideas from their videos on Optimistic Nihilism and Addiction were used in the writing of this post.