The face of nihilism
You are an organism, sitting on the face of a planet among uncountable planets. Someday, you will die. For now, what you do is meaningful only to you, now; it does not endure. However, what you find meaningful, if you think about it, are things that connect yourself to the world, including the fortunes of those around you. As you are one member of one species, of many, surrounded by planets on which other species may now or in the future exist, when your species dies, it is the end, forever and ever. Your health is dependent in part upon those around you and the natural environment that created you. Thus, even though you are a nihilist, you do – indeed – give a damn.
The face of nihilism is not fatalism, or shrugging your shoulders, exaggeratedly, and proclaiming loudly – as if anyone cares – that there’s nothing you can do, nothing you can know, and no way to effect change. You embrace death when you say such things, and content yourself to simply wait for it – it will be along eventually, and then you will achieve the absolute certainty such statements long for; you will be dead, forever and ever. Nihilism is accepting literal reality, including reality outside of the self, and not being disturbed by its functional nature. Nihilism is cutting aside all of our thoughts and emotions to see the face of reality.
Of course, when one does that, nothing really changes; you still have desires, and wants, and ideas. Recognizing reality, however, you cut out the illusions and focus on what is real. Your survival is real; that of your species, and your people, and your family and friends, is also real. If you presuppose that you know nothing, you are already knowing something, and thus already believing in something – it is real to you, and you care about its outcomes. In this way, total nihilism, which is akin to fatalism, reduces itself from the moment of believing in nothing, to believing in reality. This is the only developed thought of nihilism; to cry out in fatalism is to be an infant, and to thus deny your own life and your own essential wants.
Your essential wants, of course, are those things which are sensible for your adaptation to your surroundings, which unlike all the airy rhetoric of people around you, are real. You live and die by the actions of these surroundings. For this reason, a nihilist after even a few moments of thought ceases to be a fatalist, unless he or she is truly despairing and impotent and suicidal, and becomes an active force of change and life. If you live, it is because you believe in life. If you believe in life, you nurture it and want to make it better however you can; this is also the face of nihilism, because we do not exist in a single moment, but in a lifetime, and our lifetime is both created by and influences things that exist far beyond it.
However, it is important to remember that you are only a creature existing on the face of one planet of many. If you destroy this planet, or its natural ecosystems, or your own peoples, you have thus given in to fatalism, which usually manifests itself in materialism – the best one can do is to be comfortable, and live for one’s own self, goes such reasoning. That kind of thinking is unsatisfying to anyone who has not already given up and become a self-pitying lump of flesh. You want more – you want ways to create meaning. How are these derived, if you believe in nothing? Now you’re back to circular thought: nothing is something, and if you believe in nothing, you have begun to believe in something.
This is not to say that you have started believing in illusion; because your belief includes but is not limited to nothingness, you are aware of the nothingness of illusion, and you live for reality. For this reason, conventional religious and moral thought is dead to you; saying “this ought to be” is a fatalistic response to doing what must be done to make it so. You are stepping outside of the boundaries that most people think make them “free,” but in fact make them slaves to a destructive illusion, and increasingly force them into a diseased society. This is another aspect of nihilism; you have cast aside public opinion in favor of what you know to be true, no matter how much “science” and “proof” of details they throw at you, presuming that a detail equals the whole.
This is not an easy course, as instead of relying on crutches which “prove” to you absolutely that a certain detail means the best course of action is the one we are on, you are using your own mind and knowledge of reality. You know that no matter how much we rant on about the immortality or moral purpose of humankind, we are just creatures of a species on one planet of many, and that we must adapt to literal physical reality in order to see our future. There is either doing what is right, or not doing it, and thus condemning yourself and your species to eventual failure. No one else will realize this, but you have, while sitting here thinking.
And now, despite its seeming nothingness, you can see in this realization that blueprint for a more fulfilling life, a life lived outside of the demands and absolutes of a crowd which cannot find a way to invent something of such meaning as to balance eventual death. This is somehow satisfying, although it calls for you to think and act in ways your peers cannot understand. They might in time see what you see, or they may not; they may be left behind. Regardless of what they see, reality is what it is, and your truth is what you can see in it, and although it may die with you, its effects can live on if you act so they do. You have found somethingness within nothingness, and in doing so, have left both nothingness and illusion behind.
This is the face of nihilism, right now, and forever.
Vijay Prozak, 02/20/05