I once thought that to think that there was an intrinsic purpose to life was silly. I thought if one thought there was, one only got there by lying to themselves, deluding themselves in fear of death. I saw the world as just a place where things existed and everything happened purely by chance. Everyone and everything was here because of an uncountable number of chance happenings that lead to the universe, and to life. To me this suggested there lacked any purpose, for it to be chance instantly makes life arbitrary. The only conclusion I could come to was that our only purpose was to reproduce. That was it, like all other animals, we were here to live meaningless lives merely to create more meaningless lives.
What I now know is that my nihilism lead to, or in some way correlated with being hedonistic. I’m yet to work out, whether it is our nihilistic society that teaches hedonism, or if it is an evolution within the individual, perhaps a combination of the two. Whatever the cause, I lived my life for the moment, everything around me told me that this was the way to live. People, advertisements, magazines, TV, all said almost everything should be sacrificed to gain experiences and pleasures. Why? Because you might die tomorrow, because what else could you possibly do worth while in your life. More importantly because other people were doing it and posting it on their Facebook. Everything was about instant gratification, nothing could wait. If quality had to be sacrificed for time, I never thought twice. Now was all that mattered. Tomorrow doesn’t exist, the eternal now was all I had. Why should I make a sacrifice for what might not pay off, or that I might not be around to cash in.
The combination of these two philosophies were destructive. I made choices against my future for the benefit of the next five minutes. In the moment I could be satisfied, underneath, I was struggling. Life felt empty. I resented myself for not making better choices for the future I inevitably had to face. I needed to change, but I could not see how, or even why. I convinced myself I just needed more. More experiences. More stuff. Then I’d feel good. Then, I’d be happy.
So how did I escape the nihilism and hedonism which is so rampant in our western societies? Firstly I have to thank Jordan B. Peterson. It was not only by his word, but he is certainly the most influential of all. But to break it down, it was just a matter of learning. I found answers, I found that I was wrong. Now when I say wrong, I mean it in two ways. Technically, and pragmatically. Both are important in a journey in understanding your place in life. What saved me was my passion to learn and curiosity. My desire and interest in new ideas, slowly I found a path toward better ideas. These ideas were like pistachio nuts, each one you ate just makes you want another one.
We chase happiness as though it were air to breath. Like there was nothing more important or even anything else to consider. There are a few problems with this, firstly, happiness is fleeting even for those who lead the best lives (whatever that means). But really life is fundamentally suffering, you ignore this fact at your own peril. To do so will inevitably lead to frustration with life and resentment against whatever you come define as God, if you cannot conceptualise such a being, then the results are even worse. In this situation there is no one to blame or be angry at, the results of this can be as we see with mass shootings. Nihilists who wish to show the world just how resentful they are to the nature of being, hence why they always go for the most innocent victims available. I can’t help but believe that those who know that life is suffering are prepared and see no reason for resentment for their lot in life. It’s something to do with expectations, which are a real problem in our society. In the West today we raise children to be resentful. We instil in them a level of expectation that one could never hope to satisfy and philosophy destined to fail them.
There is a number of ways I believe we fail children, the first is this idea of inclusiveness, of removing the meritocracy. The first thing we do with children is tell them they can be anything the want, they just have to try. It sounds lovely and innocent but the effects have been shown to be quite the opposite. We continue to reinforce this belief when we give them medals for participation. We remove all capability of learning from failure, of learning perseverance. Next we remove their ability to push their own boundaries and learn what they are and are not capable of, everything, and everyone must be wrapped in bubble wrap. We don’t allow them to do anything that might be possible to hurt themselves, or others. In turn, this hurts our children and inevitably, our societies. Children no longer find and experience the limits and the boundaries, instead they are sheltered only to grow up to become adults who have failed to learn their own boundaries and limitations, they fail to learn about the world correctly.
The answer to nihilism isn’t simple or easy, or maybe it is. Maybe it is the logos. This is the spoken word, the truth. For me it all comes back to pragmatism. This ability we have, we must use to bring forth what helps us. If we continue to foster youth whom misunderstood the fundamentals of life then we are not achieving what we could. If we are here to do anything, then that is to make tomorrow better, not just for yourself, but for all.