I do not quite understand why, but the subject of nihilism has hung over me like a shroud in recent months. I realize this will be more deeply personal than intellectual, but I would hate for it sink into the sea of memory before I have the chance to get it off my chest.
I have, at various points, stopped to reflect on the question of why I was born, and sometimes I still do. Why was I born here, at this particular moment in time. In fact, I dare say that it is this moment in time – a period where we seem to be on the cusp of the end of an era, where we’re teetering ever closer to destruction, where some say we might be seeing the last generation of humans that won’t be almost completely immersed by the technological realm – that has made me feel this way the most. Why now, in this seemingly most chaotic of times? And I know that you might say “oh you were here because your dad fucked your mom”, and I mean, it’s not wrong, but it hardly answers anything, and if anything begs the question of why they were born too.
And often times, when I’ve reflected that, it’s accompanied by a different thought – actually, more often than that thought to be honest. The thought of entropy, of demise. Existential terror still creeps up on me. You know what that question people often ask themselves about how what’s the point of doing anything if it’s all going to be gone? I feel a lot of empathy for people who look a universe characterized predominantly by entropy, where we’re all here for a bang in the grand scheme of things and then fade out as though it were nothing, never to know the nothingness that may well await, or perhaps the truth of their fate. I say this because I sometimes feel something like that come over me, and I feel like “there has to be a reason why we go through all this shit”. The more I think about it, the more come to the conclusion that it makes no sense that there isn’t some reason for everything being the way it is is an absurd thing to contemplate, and hence I have trouble with the idea that there’s nothing about life be but born, eat, shit, get screwed over, have sex, have kids and then die for nothing.
When I say that there must be some meaning to the universe that we’re all sort of weaved into, I do not say this out of a conviction that there is a heavenly father watching over me, guiding my movements, judging me for a path that let’s be honest he’s ultimately responsible for me having taken in the first place. Instead, I say this out of the conviction that, in spite of how absurd and chaotic the universe often is, the universe we live in is in fact an ordered body of laws, that can be understood even to a limited extent by humanity through the capacity of his mind and his reason. Through the knowledge derived from this philosophical and empirical inquiry, mankind achieves liberation from bondage in a way that he does not do through faith of any kind. Of course, from an occultnik perspective, you could apply this to the idea that the spiritual realm, the “other side”, or indeed “God’s mysteries” in the sense implied by many classical forms of occultism, can be discovered, understood and systematized by humans. If you’re a nihilist, you believe in nothing and so must reject even this principle as possessing no legitimacy, for under nihilism all things are without any intrinsic meaning or value.
In fact, as I mull over the occasional feelings of existential dread and morbid questing, I feel more and more averse to nihilism. I see it as an empty framework, a childish rejection of all values and all meaning, leaving nothing to progress with, destined only either to give way to a more useful framework , as order can be said to emerge from chaos, or to be the basis of a lifelong quest of negation and perversion driven only by the will to power. The view that there’s nothing of value intrinsic within the universe strikes me as the view of one who is numb to meaning itself, one who can never access meaning, and characteristic perhaps of an existence that becomes more common as capitalism erodes all value that cannot be reduced to commodity. You might even say nihilism is reactionary in a sense, because in many instances it emerges purely in reaction to the death of God as the prime source of meaning and values.
I must stress that for me this has little in practice to do with the God question. An atheist need not be a nihilist, and indeed some theists can be very nihilistic (I’ve seen some young Christians defend the existence of God by insisting that nothing is actually real, not realizing of course that this should mean God isn’t real either). Indeed, for a non-theist seeking to combat nihilism, the mission is invariably to craft the world after God. In fact I believe it to be possible to render nihilism an infantile disorder by dealing with morality as an evolutionary concept, a tool subject to natural selection through its adaptability for the utility of large scale societies in response to emergent conditions.
All in all, the more time I spend alone on the subject, the more I just seem to feel like nihilism in a loose sense comes across pretty absurd, even if you believe the point of life is to get as much pleasure out of it as possible (for surely with nihilism the pleasure itself is meaningless).