“If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.”
– Angel, Angel
Season 2, Episode 16, “Epiphany”
Finishing out the Halloween festivities here, this came to my mind while I was discussing last week’s quote.
When Angel says this, he is saying it in light of a bitter truth he’s been forced to swallow, which drove him into absolute despair, from which he has emerged with another truth, an epiphany. Which, I find, is often the way of such epiphanies. The way to enlightenment often passes through darker valleys… but I digress.
Angel has lived a long while without any real hope, and then he found some and became a real fighter, a warrior. He hoped for redemption from past misdeeds, he hoped for the sort of cosmic reward that follows the grand victory of good over evil, and he hoped to simply beat down the darkness with bloody ruthlessness. All of those hopes have been dashed to pieces and burnt, leaving only ashes behind. He no longer believes that he can see the end of his own suffering and live through it. Indeed, he no longer believes much of anything. There is no grand plan, no last and everlasting victory, no light at the end of the tunnel. So he believes.
Now, I disagree entirely with that, but I must admire the conclusion that Angel reaches, which pulls him out of his despair.
See, if nothing we do matters… if there is no big win, no absolute victory, no reward or recognition… if nihilism is right and there is nothing else… then what we do is everything. In other words, it’s all we have, and all we are. That makes it the most important thing in the world, because it’s all there is, and how can you top “everything” in terms of importance?
So, maybe our deeds count for nothing in the grand scheme, where nothing changes, nothing improves, everything eventually falls to entropy and becomes nothing, and so on and so forth. Maybe we don’t get anything for it, good or bad. Perhaps our efforts are completely doomed to be utterly futile on a cosmic scale.
We still have our ability to choose! We still have our choices, our actions, our superpower that even the universe cannot match! In fact, that’s all we have, it’s everything, and thus it automatically matters more than anyone can comprehend.
“The smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world,” Angel says, finishing his explanation. He is absolutely right (and I will delve further into that another time). And it goes even further than that.
Every act of kindness, every choice to be brave, all the little sacrifices we make for those around us, these matter, both to us and to those whom we help.
Every time we choose to be better than we might otherwise be, every temptation we turn down, every sin we cast aside, turn our back to, and walk away from, every change we make for the better, these matter to us and to those around us.
Every time we say something kind instead of something rude, every time instance where we respect someone we disagree with, every time we speak up, and stand up, for what we believe is right, this matters to us and to the world we make together.
…every time we vote, even if we have good reason to think that our vote does not matter. It matters. If only because we have raised our voice.
Every time we defend someone in need, tend to someone sick, protect an innocent life, these matter, and these larger decisions are made up of many, many smaller ones.
Every time we make cookies for someone who’s going through a rough time (for instance), we are helping, in some small way, and making the world that much better.
Even if nothing we do matters in one way, everything we do is still all that matters.