I have, on multiple occasions, been a firm believer in the absurdist school of philosophical thought. But lately, as my news feeds get filled with more of the same political drama and I hear more from friends being dragged down by the weight of the world, I’ve been falling back on my absurdist thoughts. To that end, I feel I owe it to those that may be struggling to go into the very core of my philosophy. And if any of you know of someone that that is being brought down, I pray that you take this view to heart and share it with those that may need it.
To that end, let’s talk about nihilism.
Nihilism has a lot of different meanings depending on what field of study you use it in. For the purposes of philosophy though, we’re talking about existential nihilism – the belief life has no intrinsic meaning or purpose. If you’ve paid attention to my long-winded speechifying on the subject though, you will note that – despite being born of the existential school of philosophy – this concept of meaningless and valueless existence is the very definition of absurdism.
It seems that, to the average person, a nihilist is just a gloomy, misery obsessed downer who seeks to bring others down with them. And while those people do exist and should be avoided at all costs, they aren’t the what the average nihilistic absurdist strives to be.
To an absurdist, the knowledge that we are all so insignificant in the grand scale of the universe is not a spirit-crushing thought, but an uplifting one. The fact that human existence is an aimless task with a definitive and likely fast approaching endpoint means that the only things of any importance are the things and that YOU personally prescribe value to; Only the things that bring you joy matter.
As for all of the negativity in your life? All the mistakes you made? The people that hurt you? Yup, they’re just as pointless. All of those terrible things and people that have tormented you will evaporate into oblivion along with you and the rest of humanity when our time comes. So it only makes sense to ignore all of that infuriating nonsense that only serves to distract you from the things that enrich your limited time.
Now, I realize that this all sounds very egocentric and self-absorbed. But if you’re the kind of person that gets enjoyment from other’s happiness (and you are, AREN’T YOU?), this is also a huge motivator to want to improve the world and the equally brief lives of those in it. After all, there is a legitimate case to be made for altruism motivated by self-interest.
To put it in nerdier terms, imagine life as an RPG. You spawn on Earth with a randomly generated character and are given a sandbox environment so massive that neither you or any of the other players will likely ever be able to see it all. You can build and grow your stats through the various quests you can choose to take or leave at your leisure. You can choose whatever class you want to play or even discover a brand new class that others may want to play as. You can customize your character with all sorts of gear you can earn through any number of means. You can go on party quests with as many or as few people as you want. But most importantly, there is no end to the number of achievements you can earn and no one knows what kind of great loot you can find for earning them. There are no boss battles, but those would just distract you from the thrill of exploring the environment, interacting with other players, and watching the beautiful cutscenes of the most immersive story in gaming history. And should you start feeling sad because you failed a quest, don’t despair. That only means that something amazing happened during that quest to make you happy to begin with and that you’re still alive to find a new quest or maybe even try that quest again.
This is why I embrace nihilism. I’m not miserable, as I’m often lead to believe; I’m merely contemplating what quest I should take tomorrow. I’m planning my next big raiding party. I’m wondering what gear I need for the big PvP event next month and how much gold it will cost.
If you or someone you know is feeling trapped by the world – like prey to a carnivorous and uncaring universe, please take these words to heart: Focus on your past only long enough to avoid repeating it. Walk through the things and people that hurt you like the vapor they are. Only YOUR journey and how YOU choose to make it truly have any meaning in such a beautifully brief existence.
May the chaos of nihilism shatter the chains that bind your soul.