Upon cursory reading, Chesterton also makes several comments to this effect, though madness, not simple despair, is his result. I concur: it’s quite daunting to have none but yourself to rely upon for guidance and whatever “purpose” can be had.
It doesn’t follow, however, that the truth need not be dire. Invoking fruitlessness or direness as illustrations or proof of absurdity would seem relevant only if we take as given a need for life, a purpose in it other than as a means to excrete and feed other life by dying. That effectively cuts to the heart of the issue, and begs the question of whether or not humanity exists to serve a designed purpose.
Furthermore, to support a designed Reason via despair in its absence is tantamount to “finding religion” as a means of escapism, and it should be insultingto the believer. Clear said, There are no atheists in foxholes”; and I say that grenades don’t make believers. More than mere delusion, it appears circular: believing in a higher authority as an alternative to a dire life in its absence presupposes that the universe gives a fuck. Again, that points to the face of the question, and is unconvincing.
Of course life can be desperate. It has, does, and by all indications, will, from time to time, become so. I counter that it must be so in the absence of an extrahuman power, man-jerk or otherwise. I find it unfortunate, both that the believer is oft characterized as a zealous mystic, ignorant of fact; and that the nonbeliever is characterized as suffering from a melancholic humor, lost and listless.
To say that death is the only viable option in a world without an intrinsic, enterprising purpose is to say that life lived for its own sake is not viable. If a morality devoid of extrahuman stewardship requires no distinction between raping and not raping, then there can’t be any differentiation between the choice to live and the choice to die. Even if the world of the nonbeliever is this absurd, there still is no de facto reason for suicide. Even if life is nothing more than a protracted process of cellular division and decay, of conversion of energy into food into energy, why is living not a justifiable choice?
Consider, then, that even the nonbeliever can accommodate a belief in something grander than himself: an elegant proof; a refinement of a physical theory; the next quirky thing your son says. All are informing, all contribute to making you more than you were before them. Even oppression, persecution, and assault are potentially additive, if variably unpleasant. Those who don’t believe it was created are not necessarily restricted from admiring the natural worldthis is no one’s special province.
I awake each morning and rise, not because today will be better than yesterday; but because today is today, and is not yesterday.