92: Existential Angst

Heather, Clay, Nick, and Greg discuss existential angst.





Existentialism (Wikipedia)
Angst (Wikipedia)
True Detective
Type I & II Errors (Wikipedia)
Sky Cake – Patton Oswalt
Lying to Ourselves – RadioLab
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Tim Minchin’s UWA Graduation Address
Infants on Thrones: Death – a listener essay by Nick
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Lie Has Infinite Possibilities Pie Comic by John McNamee


  1. Uncle Ralph

    “To Be Devoid of Meaning Is To Mean It All”

    The GOOD news is that the utter meaninglessness of life is, itself, utterly meaningless. Believe it or not, entertainment is the point of all existence. Entertainment is the only point there can be. Existence is the Universe entertaining itself. There can be no meaning because meaning requires meaning. Meaning requires meaning which requires meaning which requires meaning. It’s turtles all the way down. If that makes you happy, you can stop there, but if you think about it, not only can there not be turtles all the way down, there can be no turtles. For religion, or anything else, to give your life meaning, there must be something to give the giver of meaning meaning. And there must be something to give that meaning meaning. If you think back far enough, building bigger and bigger stories and intellectual frameworks for your levels of meaning to nest themselves in, you realize it can never end. And because it can’t end, its beginning and its very existence is an illusion.

    We simply are and no one can explain why. Not the proponents of The Big Bang or TBMs or anyone. All there is to do is to create stories to entertain yourself. But entertainment includes all of the good stories and all of the bad stories, “Leave It To Beaver” and “Schindler’s List.”

    There is no meaning, there can be no meaning and that’s wonderful. It means what it is until it isn’t. Lack of meaning is freedom. Existence is an unexplainable miracle that means absolutely nothing. To give it meaningless meaning makes it small and a lot less scary which is the point of seeking meaning. And that’s entertainment.

    Reply Mar 11, 2015 @ 04:16:28
  2. Dave H

    For anyone having existential angst, go watch Mr. Nobody. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or atheist, you’ll get it by the end.

    Reply Mar 12, 2015 @ 14:34:36
    • Uncle Ralph


      Reply Mar 13, 2015 @ 02:49:40
  3. JB

    This is my life right now. I am in the thick of leaving the church, getting a divorce that I never gave myself permission to leave a very unhealthy marriage due to what priesthood said or even my own expectations to sacrifice me for the family, losing my previous identity. It is hard to discover the you inside and what that means to have an inner identity to nurture. Even what brings ME joy and happiness.

    I enjoyed one of Clay’s social gatherings a few weeks ago. There were lots of beverages for the taking and it was one of the most enjoyable social evenings of the last 20 years. I have only recently asked myself, what do I want? What do I need? What makes me feel good and satisfied? I had the most enjoyable conversations that were truly REAL and Authentic at his home and over that weekend, and not the fake BS we put on at church. It does take time to even know what is being authentic to ME.

    I have suffered for 20 years in the church and now my family does not know what to do with my apostate condition from doctrine (not rebellion like my bro/sis who both got pregnant in highschool – abstinence works until you have sex), my husband (who is fond of prostitution and alcohol) has become the most ‘churchy’ I have ever seen as a weapon with my family and my friends don’t want to even hear what is going on (this is my life right now), and I am learning a new way.

    The greatest blessing I think of that has helped me is that I had tools BEFORE leaving the church. I spent the last two years in therapy for depression and anxiety (no problem in the church here….lol), and told day one to take care of myself. What? Me? Then with medication I started to clear my head. He was the most liberal minded mormon i knew and it was a good place for me to start.

    I then became yoga certified teacher and that training affected me because I learned the mind/body connection and that it wasn’t ‘Satan’ putting thoughts in my head – it was me! My head! I had control over that. I began a meditation practice to facilitate brain change and then I realized I was a female feminist intellectual yoga health, food snob ‘in the closet’ who likes to write and do yoga, eat good food, and I even didn’t wither away drinking a little alcohol for the first time since 16 (just twice then but it was with lots of guilt and shame).

    My husband didn’t like me anymore. I was not the shut down robot wife that he thought was controlling him and then I realized that it was the church and him controlling me and I had choices- leaving both. My therapist thinks I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater but there was no baby, just dirty bathwater. I had an investment in something that was not but just a fake baby in the bathwater- going with my analogy.

    Can i say that I love to hear the words of the guy from Salt Lake (name?) who loves to cook and be outdoors and not spend his life in front of the TV (I called her the concubine and I killed her…pulled out her cords…oops…not that anything is wrong with TV as I do like to relax but it felt like in my marriage she got more attention and love…plus she didn’t talk back, and you can change the channel if you don’t like her at that moment). I have craved all those things over the years in a man and now I realize I can give them to myself. I can practice self-care- a foreign concept in the church.

    Thanks again Clay, and if you ever have a get-together again, I would love to come. I needed that. I really found healing that weekend that I spent with our mutual friends. We need community and Mormons do that well- it is just not authentic. I truly believe we are creators in the NOW and not some distant future planet.

    Podcasts are my friends when no one talks to me and for some reason they keep talking without listening to me. Oh, I guess that is what the comments are for. Thanks for listening to me.

    Reply Mar 14, 2015 @ 14:27:38
    • Greg Rockwell

      Well said. I guess I am “that guy” in Salt Lake. Thanks for appreciating the perspective and thanks for listening. We are happy to give you some support right now when you need it most. If you find yourself in Salt Lake let us know and we would love to visit with you.

      Coming out of this closet is the same as coming out of other closets. It gets better. But there is a while when it really sucks pretty badly. Existential or family angst can both batter against us insistently and it may seem like there isn’t any reprieve in sight. There is.

      Hang in there.

      Reply Mar 23, 2015 @ 10:30:11
  4. William Law

    ängstlich existential dread –– Mormon Narrative ––
    Oh saints of lucky privilege
    Human irrelevance within the cosmic gyre.
    Yes, The swirl within the void is preferred compared to what?
    It is and it will go away soon, suffer for the road not traveled.
    Senseless, randomnesses are given to we, we merry few who embrace the ambiguity, the irony, the utter uselessness to really understand.

    Embrace the paradox and be what you think, and do what you will.
    John Larsen has given Greg a gift, privilege is many things to many people.

    The Spirit Commeth to the simian savant, the sapient sapien
    The sun was dipping so low, it could drop below the horizon never to come back, then what do you do? It’s cold too.

    Huddled under a rock shelf, Lashed by storms like we had never seen, and wild fire tore across the savanna, animals in terror. Our putative leader would begin a low moan to come to a high vibrate and drop again –– we did the same.
    Huddled about the flames as they dance on the cave-wall, the earth was shaking again. These pleadings of fealty worked for a time taming the spirits driving this place, but as our learning progressed we, with ritual chants and the giving up precious possessions, bought favor from that force most powerful.
    Our Elder Priests were the guardians of the keys. Our fate was in their hands.

    For me, it’s all buried in us, we R us, for the better but for our damned vestigial tails reminding us who we really are –– me thinks he has one too, which is still to be divined perhaps never will, be divined that is?
    History reminds us of our short memories.

    Willlilam Law

    Reply Mar 15, 2015 @ 22:21:36
  5. Greg Rockwell


    Reply Mar 23, 2015 @ 10:35:02
  6. CS

    I’ve been meaning to listen to this podcast for some time, and this was my first episode. I couldn’t resist the topic, and it was funny how closely the discussion tracked thoughts I often have (often being an understatement).

    I also sometimes tire of the talk of “authenticity” and happiness outside of religion. I’m happy for people who find what they are looking for, of course, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone happiness. But I can’t help but wonder how people manage to stop their questioning before going all the way and concluding that everything is absurd, not just their former religious beliefs.

    I’m definitely going to have to listen to more episodes. Keep up the good work.

    For those who like this topic (and don’t get depressed over it), I recommend a book called The Conspiracy against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti. (The True Detective lines included in this podcast might as well be direct quotes from this book.)

    Reply Apr 14, 2015 @ 18:18:41
    • Heather

      Thanks for the recommendation and kind remarks! I’ll definitely check out that book.

      Reply Apr 14, 2015 @ 22:20:33

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