Search this blog

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Am I a Nihilist?

Existential nihilism is the belief that nothing in the world holds inherent meaning or value. We’re here because we’re here, the universe has no meaning and life is purposeless.

Do I believe this? To a degree. I believe that meaning has to be created from within, and that nothing holds external ‘value.’ Value is only something we place on things. No one is special, nothing means anything, it’s all stuff we’ve created. I don’t know if other animals try to evoke ‘meaning’ onto things, and the likelihood is that they don’t. All animals are sentient, but only humans (as we are aware) have the ability to rationalise and reason. This is what has made us the most advanced (and most dangerous) creatures in the world.

I guess that makes me more of an existentialist than a nihilist, although I don’t believe in free will so I guess I’m an existential determinist if that’s a thing. If existentialism is about nothing having inherent meaning, and determinism is the notion that everything in life is linked by causal chains of events as opposed to ‘freedom of will’, then I guess they go together. (You can give me your thoughts on this, reader).

But returning to existential nihilism; we all like to believe that some things are special and important, and all try to find our own ways to have a purpose in life. I believe spiritual growth is about finding meaning within, living life as fully and as joyfully as you can, spreading good to others and being at peace with yourself. These things all take a lifetime to grow and maintain.

My brother is deeply special to me, to the point where I can’t express it in words. We’re like Cersei and Jaime Lannister without the creepy incest. But to most people, he’s just a random guy walking down the street. My brother is not inherently special, but he is special to me.

This is where meaning can also be found. If we only make up 0.01% of this enormous universe, why do we even matter? The answer: we all matter to someone else, and therefore give each other’s lives meaning. I believe that everyone has at least one person in this world who cares about them and doesn't want them to die. For most of us these may be our parents, siblings, close friends, spouse or partner, AA/NA/CA/GA/SAA/ sponsor – someone who loves us unconditionally.

There are times when I’m walking down the street or lying in bed staring into space or crying in the shower thinking ‘no one likes me or cares about me, maybe I’d be better off dead.’ Of course rationally I know that’s not true, but emotionally/spiritually I can feel empty and dead inside. Not as much as I did aged 14-19, but I still get flashes from time to time. It’s easy for me to be standing in the kitchen making tea on minute and seeing a knife, picking it up and scraping it across my arm the next.

In terms of moral nihilism, I don’t get ‘horrified’ by things in the same way many do. My notion of morality is extremely relative, and I often look at things from a logical, matter-of-fact way, as opposed to a ‘moral’ way. In fact, I either look at things from a place of logic or emotion, but seldom moral. This is because morality is never quite right. Emotion is about how something makes you feel, and we can’t ‘control’ how we feel, hence why we use logic and reason to draw the right conclusion. But morality can never be precise.

A man cheats on his wife. Logically, he can work things out with her or figure what the next step is in their relationship. Do they stay together, is he unhappy, was this a long time coming, etc. Emotionally, she’s probably upset, and maybe he is too. Logically understanding the emotions around the scenario and how to deal with it will help what to dictate next. But when you throw morality into the equation, suddenly it’s ‘he’s a bad guy! I never should have married him!’ ‘Oh no, I’m a bad person! I deserve to die!’ That’s an exaggeration, but my point is that looking at ‘good vs bad’ is not really helpful in the situation.

Those who are anti-abortion always say (stupidly) ‘they shouldn’t have had sex!’ ‘should have used protection!’ Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. I say ‘well it’s done now, how are you going to proceed?’ Sometimes our notions of morality come from our emotions, but often they just come from how we’ve been brought up to think and our environment.

This may sound strange, but I don’t actually get the link between religion and morality. I don’t actually see how a religion can dictate a person’s moral state. Our notion of ‘morality’ comes from our experiences and our brain chemistry (i.e. how empathetic you are is determined by grey matter in the amygdala). I don’t know what ‘Christian values’ are; the person came before the religion, and the person’s moral compass dictates how the religion is interpreted, not the other way around. This is why I get confused at the phrase ‘how do you be a moral person without religion’ as it’s the morality that influences the religion. (A good way of understanding this is observing the difference between Jesus Christ and Muhammad. One was a peaceful carpenter, the other a ruthless warlord).

Existential nihilism helps me function, and also helps me accept things the way they are. I don’t waste time looking at ‘good vs bad’ because there’s good and bad in all of us, and what’s good to someone else is bad to another. I try to see things for what they are (which I’m still working on) and pay attention to how a situation makes me feel as that will dictate what I’m comfortable with.

Edit: 'Amor Fati' is the philosophy of looking at one's life and accepting things the way they are. Accept your fate, accept the good and bad, as opposed to 'complain' about it or try to fight against it. 

I'm repeating myself a bit here. These are two similar posts to what I've written above:

1 comment:

  1. i agree with this, i do think people make their own value in life but i also believe that there's no objective meaning in us being here


I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: