THE QUESTION OF MEANING IN RICK AND MORY
- January 06, 2018
What is the meaning of life? You may roll your eyes right now because you have heard this unanswerable question way too often. Or you actually might think about it hesitantly. However you react to it, let us agree that it is a – if not THE – most interesting question of mankind. I know I am late on this one BUT I have discovered Rick and Morty and I have fallen in love with it because of various reasons. It is a pretty well made science-fiction cartoon series loosely based on the characters Doc and Marty of Back to the Future but instead of travelling through time Rick and Morty are going on adventures in innumerable types of parallel universes. Besides the diverse creative ideas and all the jokes, the show comes up with lots of references to classic horror and science-fiction stories and deals with philosophical themes like existentialism and nihilism.
Let’s focus on existentialism. Most existentialists assume that there is no authority (e.g God) which tells us as humans how to act and what to do so that we ourselves need to define the meaning of our existence. The problem with that – there is no objective meaning. In the episode Meeseeks and Destroy (Season 1, episode 5) Rick and Morty leave Jerry, Beth and Summer to go on another adventure. As they always want Rick to help them, Rick gives them a box which makes Mr. Meeseeks appear who is able to fulfill simple tasks. After Beth and Summer get what they wish for (popularity at school and being a more complete woman), Jerry still could not manage to take two strokes off his golf game. Everything ends in a big chaos with lots of desperate Mr Meeseeks who decide to kill Jerry. One of them says
“Meeseeks are not born into this world fumbling for meaning, Jerry! We are created to serve a singular purpose for which we will go to any lengths to fulfill! Existence is pain to a Meeseeks, Jerry. And we will do anything to alleviate that pain!”.
This statement sums up the general indissoluble conflict created by this worldview. One of my favourite existentialist philosophers is the French author Albert Camus. Camus’ idea of absurdism exemplifies the contrasting ideas of the human striving for meaning in life and the indifference of the universe to the existence of life. In Camus’ eyes, the world is absurd and in addition to that we are not able to do anything to create meaning. Our whole life consists of on the one hand a striving for meaning and on the other hand the realisation that there is no meaning. This senselessness is illustrated by the myth of Sisyphus who was doomed to spend an eternity pushing a huge rock up a mountain, only to see it roll back down afterwards. The Meeseeks are a sort of counterexample to Camus’ idea. Just as existence is pain for the Meeseeks, it is for every human being. The crucial difference is that the Meeseks have one single specific purpose which they need to serve while we do not have any given purpose. In contrast to the Meeseeks we have the freedom to do whatever we want to but this freedom can lead to disorientation – just as Sartre said “Man is condemned to be free”. In life we cannot avoid to make decisions and we are responsible for them.
Even though Camus’ existentialism seems to be dark and hopelessness, he does not think that we should picture it like that. Although in regard to our existence all of our actions are futile, we should bear them nevertheless. We should do whatever we do as well as we can and acknowledge the fact that we are able to experience life as it is. In the end we all are Sisyphus but as Camus said, One must imagine Sisyphus happy.