If someone is depressed you can say, "We knew about his depression." How about the feeling of meaninglessness? I think you can't say, "We knew about his meaninglessness" (since it's not a state or condition).
Perhaps anomie is the word you are looking for:-
- Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals [American Heritage Dictionary via the Free Dictionary]
A dusty old word for what you describe would be, "acedia."
acedia noun: spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui.
Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, "negligence") describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but arguably distinct from depression. Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life. St Martha is the spiritual conqueror against acedia.
Or ... if that one's too obscure, then perhaps ... "apathy" & "apathetic" would be more contemporary and suitable terms?
apathy noun: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. "the widespread apathy among students"
synonyms: indifference, lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm, lack of concern, unconcern, uninterestedness, unresponsiveness, impassivity, dispassion, lethargy, languor, ennui; rare acedia
“meh ... oh but my life sucks.”---Will Weltschmerz
The answer is nihilism
The rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless. (Oxford)
Nihilism (/ˈnaɪ.ɨlɪzəm/ or /ˈniː.ɨlɪzəm/; from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical doctrine that suggests the negation of one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. The Greek philosopher and Sophist, Gorgias (ca. 485 BCE–380 BCE), is perhaps the first to consider the Nihilistic belief. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or ontological/metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.
You might say that person is having an existential crisis:
An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether their life has any meaning, purpose, or value.
I think world-weary fits perfectly:
no longer excited, interested, or enthusiastic about anything in life
World-weariness is the state/condition.
How about lethargy?
I admit, it's not the feeling of 'uselessness' itself, but it might the consequence...? It's a bit dependend on the context whether it would be right to use.
I would suggest the word UNFRUITFUL for the "STATE" of feeling that one's life is meaningless, and UNFULFILLED for the "CONDITION" describing the FEELING of one's life being meaningless.
UNFRUITFUL: not yielding good crops; infertile: --I am unfruitful therefore my life is meaningless.
UNFULFILLED: not happy or satisfied, from not having achieved one’s desires or full potential:
--I feel totally unfulfilled, I feel that my life is meaningless.
Both of these words stem from the state of being lost in life and not having established any bearing in life. Of course feelings are overcome by fact and action. Even a pebble in a river has a purpose. It contributes to the river even though it does not actually know it.
It seems to me, that this statement is two sides of the same coin. If we are writing about some one having depression, we first need to take a closer look at this word to be sure that it is the correct one in the context of the writing.
Overuse of this word in modern lanaguage belies the true nature of a very serious and surreptitious illness.
Only that person and anyone who has experianced genuine Clinical Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) can understand the endless feeling of bottomless, desolation and dispair. Without question, it is the disease itself that insideously takes over the mind convincing the sufferer that their life has no meaning or value to anyone.
True depression is akin to seeing a little block of ice a short distance away in the ocean, when on closer inspection the reality of its true nature is a thing that is frighteningly massive, dark, life threatening and as deep as the mariana trench.
Therefore, by the very nature of the disease, if the person in question is able to describe his feelings as all, the closest accurate words would probably be dispair or despondency.
In no way can these inadequate words convey the experience of the course of such a disease, any more than looking at an ice cube in the ocean reveal its true nature as an iceberg. As a result, mere observation of an individual who appears sad, cannot reveal the true nature of the suffering and danger invading his mind and spirit.
The first half of this sentence appears to imply that the subject is living whereas the part in quotes seems to indicate that the subject is deceased.
If the meaning is the former, I refer to the above. If the ladder, then without further context, it reads as indifferent to the subject.
At best, the sentence structure needs revision without further information.
Winston Churchill often described his own depression as a black dog. It is a commonly used metaphor today.
I reference personal experience.
I think despair is what you want.
The complete loss or absence of hope.
Like some words previously mentioned, it covers the "how". There's an element of introspection.
However's there's also a spiritual dimension that gives this word depths the others don't have.
Despair, ethically regarded, is the voluntary and complete abandonment of all hope of saving one's soul and of having the means required for that end. It is not a passive state of mind: on the contrary it involves a positive act of the will by which a person deliberately gives over any expectation of ever reaching eternal life. There is presupposed an intervention of the intellect in virtue of which one comes to decide definitely that salvation is impossible. This last is motived by the persuasion either that the individual's sins are too great to be forgiven or that it is too hard for human nature to cooperate with the grace of God or that Almighty God is unwilling to aid the weakness or pardon the offenses of his creatures, etc.
Despair the sin is such because it denies salvation outright (and because it presumes the nature of God). It requires an active decision of the intellect, as opposed to "apathy" or "anomie" which are akin to passive acceptance. Salvation gives life meaning. Deciding one's efforts are in vain is one thing; to do so, and then reject the possibility of any meaning is much more powerful.
"Ennui" and "nihilistic" describe modern attitudes to an ancient condition. There's assumed apathy. "Despair" connotes wrestling with a notion you can never recant, imho.
here's a spiritual definition for hope
The best ones so far:
- Ennui (emphasis on boredom and lack of purpose)
- Nihilism (emphasis on the lack of meaning, often used outside of the philosophical sense of rejection of principles on that basis)
- Malaise (discomfort from an unknown source, usually general dissatisfaction with life)
- Acedia (emphasis on apathy. Will probably be lost on most people.)
I'd stay away from:
- Weltschmerz (world-weariness; despair at the unfairness of life; knowledge that worldly things will never satisfy the mind)
- Despair (mostly about the lack of hope)
- Anomie (doesn't imply dissatisfaction or meaninglessness. It's more of a lack of ethics or standards)
- Angst (anxiety or dread)