An Overthinker’s Escape
How I fell into philosophy & stayed there
While getting ready for the day, in the 5-minute breaks between meetings, in the transient quiet during an office lunch, on long calls with family, before I go to sleep and as soon as I wake up I have been gifted with only one job: overthinking. It could be about why certain people behave a certain way, why we have such beliefs intertwined with our upbringing, our country’s history, and why we even overthink. Oftentimes, it leads me to question my motivation of being, enjoying, working, breathing and also the way I think. This is how it has been with me for as long as I can remember!
Despite all the internal questions life continued normally, until a few years ago when I read a book. A book that took me 5 years to finish. No, I’m not that slow, I just didn’t think that book held any interest for me when I started but ended up changing the way I think and the way I see the world of “thinking”. I’m talking about “Atlas Shrugged”. The book talks about objectivism, which is a philosophy strengthened by Ayn Rand. More on this in a second. Objectivism is in many ways linked to individualism, in my opinion. I was no stranger to individualism due to my roommate in school, who unknowingly baptized me into it. Atlas Shrugged transformed it into something more. Ayn Rand exemplifies objectivism through the lives of the heroes in her book. I not only fell in love with them (especially Fransisco) but also started to identify with them.
“Objectivism holds that reason — not faith or emotionalism — is man’s sole means of gaining knowledge. Her theory states that an individual has a right to his or her own life and to the pursuit of his or her happiness, which is counter to the view that man should sacrifice himself to God or society.” (Source)
This philosophy made me feel free, and also like I belonged. It enabled me to discern between my needs and wishes and the things I was doing to fit in or even for the perceived greater good! Unsurprisingly, it didn’t stop there, I wanted to know more. I felt the need to understand things I didn’t know yet and possibly didn’t even agree with. For me, there were so many more ‘ism’-s to be discovered, and so many more perspectives to marvel at!
Philosophy became fodder to that overthinking mind of mine. It became a solace for the questioning. It also helped me realise how nuanced the answers to questions can be, not only to mine but also to almost all existential and philosophical ones.
Philosophy primarily will a lifelong pursuit of knowledge for me. But, at the very least, I intend for it to calm my overthinking mind by helping me think better. It has helped me see things lightly. Descartes, a renowned philosopher is known best for his quote: “I think, therefore I am.” There are tonnes of arguments for and against this, one of which states that we might also be a fragment of our imagination & could actually be living in the matrix. But, what that teaches me is- when I get too attached to the thoughts or the (made-up) world, instead of punishing myself, I sometimes can think “Hey! well even the concept of ourselves could be just in our head!” Yes, we think, therefore we are, but if you look closely, we just exist because of this fine balance between what we understand and accept as true and what might be beyond our current comprehension.
This being just one of the ways in which philosophy helps me, it has also humbled me. It enables me to see the follies of my worldview. More on this on some other day; but, who wouldn’t want some humbling, right?