Calming Your Inner Nihilist

Photo by Ian on Unsplash

I’ve been visiting the nihilism subreddit lately to learn more about how to be a better nihilist without having read a full book of Nietzsche (I’m a poser, I know this, he’s on the reading list mmkay). I’m glad my need to fit in directed me there because after some investigating, I realized the nihilism subreddit is actually where souls go to die. There is a lot of great info in there from I’m sure great, brilliant people, but there’s also a looming sadness that hangs over many of the conversations. As someone who has identified with their pain and sadness for much of their life, this was fun at first, until I decided that getting off on my nihilism, or view that life is meaningless so why bother, is keeping me complacent and uninspired.

As a self-proclaimed “posing” nihilist, it seems to me that part of the philosophy warrants a generally cynical outlook towards humanity — and all of life really. Everything is ending, the sky is falling, we are doomed, and it doesn’t fucking matter. We are merely animals with wants and desires for our own gain, and we’ll kill in order to make sure they are met. And this isn’t untrue, but it’s also not the whole truth. There is never, ever just one way to look at something — we must remember this, and this became crystal clear with a recent perspective I heard in an interview on Youtube.

Noam Chomsky was being interviewed by Wallace Shawn. It begins by Shawn saying something to the effect of, “Aren’t humans just lazy, material comfort needing, selfish sons of bitches?” To which I was thinking, yes, obviously. But then Chomsky replies with something like, “No, not at all. That’s what advertisers over the last hundred years have been trying their hardest to instill in us. Humans are actually resilient af.” He went into more detail, which brought the wheels in my head to a halt. Oh, well, hmmm, I thought. Is my nihilism I resonate so deeply with, the nihilism I find so cute and witty (and probably annoying and overdone), actually just the “media” and “society” and “the man” and “advertisers” winning my views of the world? Have humans been brainwashing other humans (including us brainwashing ourselves) into believing things about themselves that aren’t actually entirely true? Am I — someone who claims to be so profoundly aware of themselves — actually falling for the very ploy I think I’m above? Well, yes, more or less.

Maybe everything matters, just not for any reason.

I know it looks grim out there. I’m not saying the world isn’t dark and scary and that people harm other people (and animals) for no apparent reason, they do. It seems so senseless and our minds so desperately want sense. Why does the world have to be the way it is? And once we begin to truly investigate this, we just may find our issues are often much more complex than just “they” are evil and “they” are good. What keeps becoming more real for me, when I really inspect humanity openly and honestly, is that we are all forces of nature, and we all harbor within us the capacity to use this force for better and worse, depending on our circumstances, and that to live a good life is to actively choose to over and over despite the madness. It’s easy to focus on the madness because it is gripping in nature, but we mustn’t be pulled down. It is best to focus on the light as we work beside and within the madness.

We must realize our own strength, our own power, and then we must choose how to use it. This is no easy task, and for many of us, we lack the opportunity that begins to awaken this truth within us. If you’re here reading this, let this be that moment. You are not a lazy, selfish, skin sack that will soon be dust for no reason. You are a wondrous, powerful, awe-inspiring skin sack that will soon be dust for many reasons that you get to decide (with conscious awareness), and this is what you must believe about yourself and others moving forward if we want this world to become better for everyone, which includes ourselves.

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.

— Nietzsche

Look, I should really read a book from Nietzsche before I go rambling about him and his philosophy on the internet, but from the small bits I know of his deeply profound and poetic musings, he isn’t wrong. I think many people confuse nihilism with cynicism and pessimism, the same as we confuse human beings with being evil monsters, when really we are just complicated creatures reeling from years of trauma and confusion as to why we exist. Humans exist beyond good and evil, this I know, and whether any of it means anything isn’t a driving force for me anymore.

I do believe life is inherently meaningless and that nothing matters, not to some grand cosmic jury anyway. But I mean “meaningless” as in empty, or a void, not to be confused with no value or worthlessness. Which means life having no meaning is really just the beginning, not the end. This means if there is no inherent meaning (or none that we can perfectly detect or agree upon objectively), each and every single one of us gets to create our own meaning — we get to fill our lives with the meaning we create— and we do, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. It’s just what our minds are geared to do: make meaning, connect dots, to know; and once we become aware of this, we must take the extra time to carefully input what we want our minds to be made of, because there is no blocking everything out that you don’t want in. Brains are hackable, we are fallible, and we are far from perfect. But once we know this we do gain some agency. It’s a lot of responsibility to define one’s own meaning, it is the task of a lifetime, and it is what we must do or we will forever be bobbed around by what others want of us.

Maybe nothing matters, except the things that do, and we get to decide those things.

No matter how long or hard we search, define, dissect, contemplate, and long to know the truth(s) of the Universe one thing remains objectively true: You are. I am. We are. And that’s that. Regardless of why or even how, there is what is which is our existence, and the existence of everything else, too. We are here for an unknown time in a vast and chaotic Universe, and maybe we are meant to be here because we are here. Happy exploration, friends.

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