d. i. richardson
I Might Be a Nihilist, but That Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care About Anything
First of all, maybe the word nihilist is a little strong. I certainly don’t believe in every true and complete nihilist view, but in that same regard, I do not believe in absurdism in its entirety either. My views sort of lie in limbo within the void of philosophical views on meaning and morality, and I feel as though they will continue to change throughout my life, as most views do.
I find that some people think that holding nihilistic views means the person just simply lacks care or would rather choose to not think about life and meaning, which is the opposite of the truth. We all wonder about life’s meaning and its purpose. That’s how nihilists arrive at their conclusion that life is meaningless. This same argument could be made against religions, and has been even referred to as “philosophical suicide” by giving up own thought for that of a religion and allowing the religion to teach you your meaning and morals (which there is nothing wrong with being religious, I might add).
For myself, I view life itself as being inherently meaningless. In the chaotic void that is the entropic universe, we simply happen to be here and conscious. It could have happened anywhere, but it happened here and to us. We are the lucky clumps of matter that have gained sentience. We won the lottery of consciousness. There is no inherent, objective meaning in the universe nor in life existing in it.
Can your own personal life have meaning? Absolutely. This is where I differ from nihilism in that personal lives should have some kind of reason to move forward, something to aim for. We can assign our own meanings so long as we accept the inevitability that all our meanings are subjective and meaningless in the end. Time is a slow march toward death, after all. I do not think that the pursuit of meaning is meaningless for human lives while we are living them, but they always conclude at the same point: death, the void.
So then why live at all? Because we are still sentient beings capable of feeling things. We have the rare gift of being able to experience anything at all. Every atom of our body could have been anything else, but they were used to make us instead. A human life is but such a small, minuscule part of the universe, and to deny ourselves the full ride would be foolish. We can lead happy, full lives and come to terms with the void awaiting us on the other side.
Morality is a different can of beans. There is no objective morality. Everything is assigned by humans. Religions have different morals. Cultures have different morals. Individual people have different morals. There is no objective morality, so instead we should live our lives being empathetic towards others. That is to say that we treat people with kindness and compassion, to do well for others and not harm them physically or mentally nor to steal from or lie to our fellow humans.
So, does this mean I just don’t care? Of course not. I still care about people. I want people to live full and happy lives in the best way they see fit, with or without meaning. Regardless of existential outlook and world views, we can still aim to be kind and caring to one another for empathetic reasons beyond simple morality. It does not make it easier to live thinking that things are meaningless either. We simply exist, so let us exist in peace and with happiness.
Life is just a thing that happens to us. We experience life. It does not experience us. We do not have meaning just for existing. Life does not exist for a purpose. The universe would survive without life. The same as the stars have no greater meaning, so to does life lack meaning. We are insignificant, but that’s not a bad thing. We can still be significant to each other. Be kind out there. Life is fleeting, so try to enjoy it.
I believe that coming to terms with your view on life, morality, and the entropic void can be a good thing, no matter the outcome. Critically thinking about our own existence helps us to make sense of the world around us.
I’ll leave you with this (sort of absurdist) quote from Stanley Kubrick: “The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
Take care and love yourselves, friends.
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Have a good wander, friend.