“We lay out our lives in a narrative we understand, like a movie, but are you enjoying making it or are you wondering who’s watching my movie?”Donald Glover
An all-too-common phase in western society among its inhabitants is one of Nihilism: the idea that life simply lacks any transcendent meaning or purpose; that nothing does, has, or ever will matter. This school of thought takes the ideas of the Absurd as defined by Albert Camus, with the Absurd being all that extends beyond a physical and empirical plane, and choosing to assume the worst. Assuming we are alone, assuming nothing and no one can or will save us from what extends beyond the observable eye. This is a draining way to live life; it serves to make yourself feel lesser and littler than you are. The cynical mentality of the modern mind makes this thought easily seep in, often reinforced by the rejection of extensive meaning in and beyond our universe. This school of thought is tremendously easy to latch onto, and while it is an understandable train of thought given our modern age of science and secularism, it is a painful way to live life.
While it is not its chief goal, the purpose of religion often involves addressing this idea, and addressing or attempting to solve the concept of the Absurd. Most religions have competing conceptions of how the Absurd interacts, and how we interact with the Absurd; and one large aspect of that is how we, as humans, live our life within the Empirical plane to serve what lies in the Absurd. Nihilism would reject this idea, in favor of the idea that nothing we do serves or is even observable by the Absurd. This concept is taken a step further, believing that there is nothing within the Absurd, a black hole of nothingness that we only meet in death. Christianity, among other Abrahamic religions, as well as a fair majority of structured, traditional religions, believe that we meet what lies in this Absurd at death, and what Absurd we choose to meet is reliant on the decisions made during our time on the Empirical.
One man’s approach to curing his Nihilistic depression stands alone in originality, timelessness, and impact; taking the persistence from his upbringing, God-given talent, and a thirst for Justice, to form a Modern spin on the Classical Mind.
A born Jehovah’s Witness from San Bernadino, California, graduates from NYU in 2006. Due to some fortune, a script he wrote for a fictional episode of The Simpsons ended up in the hands of a group of former writers for the American comedy-sketch show SNL. This episode wowed enough intermediaries to end up in the hands of Tina Fey, a decorated actress, and comedic writer, who loved it so much, she offered an unproven 23-year-old living in an NYU dorm, a writing job on an NBC Primetime TV show. This man would go on to star as a lead actor in a critically acclaimed comedy, become a platinum-recording artist, and create one of the most beautifully artistic, and real-world applicable programs of the millennia.
Donald Glover never bought into his hype throughout this journey; he remains humble, and states that the art he has produced is simply, “pointing out what goes unnoticed.” His latest and most compelling piece of art in the film industry, Atlanta, was his first directing, writing, and acting project, and serves as a canvas of his mind, it is him and he is frank. The show balances art, delivery, humor, and melancholy to create and share the cure to the depression he encounters as a byproduct of his cynical skepticism.
To explain the plot of Atlanta on anything less than a canvas is doing a disservice to both the show and anyone trying to understand it; for the sake of clarity, the base story goes as such.
Donald Glover portrays Earnest “Earn” Marks, an Atlanta native, and a troubled, yet brilliant desk jockey who sells usurious credit cards at the Atlanta airport. Earn also represents his cousin, Al, a budding rapper, known as Papa Boi, as his manager. The remainder of the core cast is filled out by Darius, a wildcard art and fashion fanatic who develops his own philosophy of life throughout the series, and Vanessa or Van, Earn’s on-and-off girlfriend and the mother to his daughter.
The series follows the progression of Papa Boi from an underground artist in the Atlanta scene to the head of a rap conglomerate, selling out every stop on European tours. Along this journey, Earn tries to balance his relationship with Van, and his daughter Lottie, while trying to deal with his deep-rooted psychological trauma, and his personal troubles dealing with racial prejudice. Darius’ character leads a lot of wild goose chases and novel journeys while interacting with the worst of the worst and the best of the best in society. Vanessa’s character tries to cope with her craving for purpose, and feeling of abandonment while fighting personal addictions.
While Atlanta in itself is a lengthy topic, with a basic idea of the plot and characters, you can understand Donald Glover’s artistic vision and how that can be applied to the world.
Each of the characters represents a deep-rooted issue of Glover’s, and their journey is Glover’s understanding of the world he has built for himself, and how he has impacted and been impacted by those around him.
Glover treats Atlanta as a canvas of life, his life in different stages. We see battles with poverty, racial injustice, concern over the world he sees himself in, and the personal world he has created personally.
Glover has used Atlanta as a catch-all for all the issues he observes within himself and within society. He feels misplaced and misunderstood; the idea of retribution and meaning within nothing are points that are heavily emphasized. We see the characters go through similar, yet distinct bouts of Nihilistic nothingness. These troubles match Glover’s own and are reflections of his uniquely brilliant way of dealing with such.
In a world that prioritizes self-pleasure and giving in to the idea of nothingness. The approach of finding pursuit in your passion and being resilient to bouts of internal struggle is evident and reflected through Glover. To acknowledge there is inherent evil and sadness in the world and choose to fight that through what you do best is a worthy pursuit at any level. Due to Glover’s talent, a large audience follows him, and he is a consistent representation of what is to come if one follows the example of Christ: knowing suffering and doing all you can to accept and make the most of it.
Living proof in the 21st century. Art cures Nothing, Art cures the fear of Nothing.