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Nick Cave has enjoyed a prolific career since the 1970s, starting out as the lead singer of The Birthday Party before becoming the frontman of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The musician has also found success as a writer, publishing several novels, lyric and poetry collections, and non-fiction works.

Over the decades, Cave has transitioned from the spectre of pale, ghostly skin and striking black static-shocked hair to a suave, suit-wearing crooner. However, this doesn’t mean that Cave has lost the qualities that made him successful as a member of The Birthday Party, an outfit who were once labelled “the most violent band in the world”. In fact, his continued exploration of death, love, religion and violence – only now with a more polished sound – has allowed him to remain triumphant.

Cave explores themes that are at the core of humankind, which offers a reason for why his music is so adored. Yet the Bad Seeds frontman doesn’t just use music as a vessel for contemplation, he also continually manages his own fan-led platform, The Red Hand Files, which he frequently uses to communicate with his followers.

Acting as a continuation of his ‘In Conversation’ Q&A tour, Cave invites fans to ask him questions, which range from the deeply philosophical to more trivial inquisitions. This month, a fan asked Cave the particularly bold question: “What is the point of life?” It’s a query that has been asked since the beginning of time and has received countless different – and ambiguous – answers.

However, Cave gave his best shot at answering the question. He said: “To understand the point in life, we must first understand what it is to be human”. Describing the experience of loss as the connecting force between all humans, Cave explains that “the point in life must be measured in relation to that loss.”

Detailing further, he added: “Loss is absorbed into our bodies from the moment we are cast from the womb until we end our days, subsumed by it to become the essence of loss itself. We ultimately become the grief of the world, having collected countless losses through our lifetime. These losses are many-faceted and chronic, both monstrous and trivial. They are losses of dignity, losses of agency, losses of trust, losses of spirit, losses of direction or faith, and, of course, losses of the ones we love.”

Only a few months ago, Cave lost his son Jethro, who was just 31. In 2015, his 15-year-old son Arthur also died after tragically falling from a cliff near Brighton. The musician has stated that writing for The Red Hand Files has helped him to process his grief: “I feel compelled to let people in the same situation of grief know — and there are hundreds of people like that writing in to The Red Hand Files — that there is a way out.”

Cave continues to ponder the meaning of life by writing: “We are capable of the greatest atrocities and the deepest sufferings, all culminating in a vast, collective grief. This is our shared condition. […] This is where meaning establishes itself, within the connectedness, nested in our shared suffering.”

He adds: “I believe we are meaning-seeking creatures, and these feelings of meaning, relational and connective, are almost always located within kindness. Kindness is the force that draws us together, […] despite our collective state of loss, and our potential for evil, there exists a great network of goodness, knitted together by countless everyday human kindnesses.”

Cave concluded by writing: “Through kindness we slant, shockingly and miraculously, toward meaning. We discover, in that smallest gesture of goodwill laid at the feet of our mutual and monumental loss, the point.”

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Nick Cave explains the meaning of life

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