I had a friend ask me tonight what I think of nihilism as a philosophical movement and it got me to thinking that I probably do come across as being quite nihilistic a good deal of the time, between never taking much (including myself) too terribly seriously and my overall pessimistic outlook on life.
Regarding nihilism, I admit that I do have a bent toward that philosophy by default…having spent a bit of time studying physics and cosmology, I know how small and insignificant we are…in addition to that, I recognize how generations from now my own descendants won’t even know my name unless they happen to be researching genealogy or something of the sort.
The fault that I find with nihilism is the basic assumption that nothing matters because of those simple things being true.
Sure, unless the human race experiences diaspora on a massive scale, we have no more than two to four billion years (depending on our level of technology and capacity to adapt to an increasingly harsh environment) before we, and all that we have built (but for a couple of deep space probes), will cease to exist…but we should all be doing, within our lifetimes, whatever we can to leave our mark on the world to come…to be remembered…to live on after biology and science have failed to keep us going.
However, even if we spread ourselves out through the solar system or this particular quadrant of the galaxy…or even the galaxy as a whole…there will come a point, another 100 trillion or so years from now, when no new stars are being born, and the universe will begin to dim and all will be on the path to emptiness and void.
But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be striving to be present for as much of that as we can be…as a species, as individuals…in whatever capacity we possibly can manage.
I can laugh about how nothing matters…how everything, in the end, will have ceased to make any difference…and I mean it too…but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to sustain my own life as long as possible, to make some difference, to leave behind memories and monuments to my successes and even my failures in life…to resonate as far down the road as I can.
Knowing that something is futile doesn’t mean that the battle shouldn’t be fought. I always was a sucker for the tragic hero archetype…willfully sacrificing themselves instead of running away when there was a foregone conclusion to the struggle.
I believe in no afterlife…any mumbo-jumbo, hoodoo nonsense about how we live on in some personal, individual sense after the cessation of corporeal functionality is categorically ludicrous to me.
Even if I did, I would consider it to be of paramount importance to do what I could now, while drawing breath and capable of interacting with the world around us, rather than sit around waiting for some illusory post script to life.
It’s that very desire to make a difference, the self-important need to leave a mark on future history that causes me to do a lot of what I do with my time…the reason I write, the reason I once recorded music, the reason I do my best to have a pronounced influence on my children and how they see the world. These are my tethers into the world beyond my limited existence, my way of surviving beyond death. It may be selfish, I won’t even disagree…but it sure as shit isn’t nihilistic.