Our theme for the month of October is “flash nonfiction.” Writers were asked to submit pieces that were 250 words or less.

One of the reasons politics so often depresses me as a policy advocate is the overwhelming sense that nothing I or almost anyone else does matters. Will Congress pass legislation to improve the lives of tens of millions of people, or will it fall apart because a small handful think it costs too much? I don’t know, and nothing I say or think will make a difference. Will Biden stop using the Trump-era horrific, inhumane policy of violating asylum-seekers’ rights by turning them away at the border? Signs point to no, despite months of strenuous advocacy by dozens of powerful organizations. It’s hard for me not to wonder what the point is of trying to make a difference. (Of course, thinking this way is a luxury not afforded to the many people who actually live with the consequences of bad policies and who fight every day to change them.)

But recently I’ve been trying to think through my feelings in the context of existentialism and absurdism. The defining concept of both philosophies is, I think, hopeful: because there’s no inherent meaning in the world, and despite the often disturbing and absurd realities of life, all we can do is make our own meaning through our actions; in fact, that is what we must do. To give into the senselessness would itself be senseless.

So that’s what I’ll try to do: create my own meaning in a world devoid of it. What else is there?


  1. Phil Rienstra

    I don’t know much philosophy but I like the idea that meaning and significance are generally projected onto things by the person experiencing them. That feels pretty true to me.

  2. Alex Johnson

    This title hits right in the gut.

    And if it makes you feel better, I feel this as a teacher too. All these kids are going to go through my class, and they probably aren’t going to remember a single thing I teach them no matter how much I agonize over lesson plans. I’m not sure I find comfort in those philosophies like you do but instead more in that I know there are forces at work beyond me with my kids: other teachers, other parents, other communities.


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