Programming - - By James Edwards

Nihilism, accessibility, and the preponderence of amazing co-incidences

I was feeling pretty nihilistic this morning.

Overwhelmed by having to navigate the dirty waters of capitalism trying to do what I feel is right. Not exactly cheered by the possibility of serious health ramifications from more than 20 years as a heavy smoker. Miserable about how long I’ve been single. Generally lacking in inspiration to see me through another day.

Then to read Molly’s recent post about the state of our industry and community, I became even more despondent, as I remembered how the microformats community and WHATWG are behaving like cabals in their self-interested refusal to acknowledge the accessibility issues with that they’re doing; and how so many of their leading lights are utterly refusing to accept this.

By mid-morning I had my head in my hands, sighing, there’s absolutely no point to anything.

The preponderence of amazing co-incidences

Do you ever find yourself amazed by co-incidence? How several things can come together all at once, in a way that so profoundly resonates, it seems like it must mean something more, that it can’t be just a co-incidence? And have you felt, at times, like this happens so frequently that co-incidence no longer seems like an adequate explanation; that perhaps, it indicates fate?

Well I have, but for me, it’s the preponderence of amazing co-incidences that finally convinced me of the non-existence of fate. If astounding, spellbinding, awesome co-incidences can and do happen every day, then why can’t the whole universe be nothing more than a series of crazy co-incidences?

There is no meaning of life; no cause or purpose to the universe. Faith and spirituality are the ego interpreting reality. There’s no reason for our existence, it’s all just a bunch of stuff that happened.

But that’s not a bad thing. If anything, it’s a good thing, because it gives us the freedom to create reality for ourselves — to decide what we want our lives to be about, and then try to make that happen.

Accessibility and the internet

As far as I can tell, there are two universal realities to our human condition — suffering and joy. I care about accessibility because it affects real people’s lives. Failing to cater for accessibility can and does create suffering; making an effort to ensure accessibility can and does create joy. In the human sense, that’s pretty much the best you can do for anyone — reduce their suffering, and increase their joy, even if only a tiny bit.

I care about the internet because it aids communication, especially for people who are isolated — by disability or geography, by physical, financial or emotional limitations. But capitalism cheapens everything it touches, and Web 2.0 is a capitalist bubble. It’s no surprise that some of us get so disheartened trying to advocate better accessibility. We find ourselves in a situation where things were just starting to get better — the pro-standards and accessibility wave had just begun to really repair the damage caused by the last dotcom bubble. Then suddenly a new one forms, and everything goes to shit again.

Optimistic nihilism

Still, in the wider scale of things, none of that really matters. What we do doesn’t matter, the internet doesn’t matter, and if I woke up tomorrow and there was no internet, I’d just do something else.

So screw the endless arguments. I’m just going to quietly get on with doing what I think is the right thing to do, in the way I think it should be done. And in the meantime, what keeps me going (and what really cheered me up today) is communicating with people — talking, sharing time and energy, flirting ;-) and having a laugh.

What else can we do — each other is all we have.

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