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True Detective - Season 1

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

In the TV series True Detective, season 1, the meaning or rather the meaningless of life is touched upon several times by the character Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey. Although not discussed in full here, Rust often had philosophical tirades which as per Marty Hart, played by Woody Harrelson, was just not something people from the south discussed.

Below outlined briefly are the discussions from the show which relate to the meaning of life.

Episode 1 - The Long Bright Dark

Rust: I consider myself a realist, but in philosophical terms, I'm what's call a pessimist.




Rust: I think human consciousness was a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.

Marty: Huh. That sounds god-fucking-awful, Rust.

Rust: We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, this accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody. When, in fact, everybody's nobody.

Marty: I wouldn't go around spouting that shit, if I was you. People around here don't think that way. I don't think that way.

Rust: I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.

Marty: So what's the point of getting out of bed in the morning?

Rust: I tell myself I bear witness, but the real answer is that it's obviously my programming, and I lack the constitution for suicide.

Episode 2 - Seeing Things

(reflecting on his daughters death)

Rust: Well, you got the hubris it must take to... yank a soul out of nonexistence into this meat. And to force a life into this thresher. And as for my daughter, she uh... she spared me the sin of being a father.

Episode 3 - The Locked Room

Rust: Certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain, dull critical thinking.

Marty: Well, I don't use $10 words as much as you, but for a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure fret about it an awful lot, and you still sound panicked.

Rust: At least I'm not racing to a red light.

Rust: People. I've seen the finale of thousands of lives, man--young, old. Each one is so sure of their realness, that their sensory experience constituted a unique individual with purpose, meaning... so certain that they were more than a biological puppet. Well, the truth wills out, and everybody sees once the strings are cut, all fall down.

Episode 5 - The Secret Fate of All Life

(Marty reflecting on his mistakes and missing what is important in life)

Marty: The solution to my whole life was right under my nose--that woman, those kids--and I was watching everything else. See, infidelity is one kind of sin, but my true failure was inattention. I understand that now.

Rust's existentialism goes even further than want is outlined above, as he states that life, time, and all things are destine to repeat. History repeats, because given infinite time, in a finite reality, all possible combinations are exhausted. It is like rolling a die, eventually you exhaust all possible outcomes... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. In the last episode, Rust does appear to come around to the idea that light may prevail over darkness. Looking out at the night sky with Marty, discussing the stars, the universe, and the afterlife, Rust states "Once, there was only dark. If you ask me, the light's winning." But of course Rust's remark is both incorrect and correct. Current cosmology models theorize that after the big bang, there was an intensely hot (and hence bright) soup, which eventually cooled and gave way to darkness. Eventually stars formed, but, now, darkness once again appears to be winning as the universe cools due to the expansion of the universe approaching absolute zero--the darkest possible reality.

(image from Wikipedia)

With that said, what do you think? Is history destine to repeat itself? Have we all lived this life before?

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