Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Don't believe anything they tell you about nihilism
Those nihilists are nuts aren't they? Take me for example. Here I am tapping away at a keyboard that I don't even believe exists. I'm madly putting words in some kind of idiot order that can't possibly make any sense for non-existant people whom I don't believe can read, since there's no such ability. You'd wonder why I bother.
That's what a nihilist is, isn't it? Someone who madly thinks nothing exists? Has anyone met such a creature? Roll it around in your head - 'a person who thinks nothing exists'. Does that make any sense? Does it sound sustainable? How does it work on a day-to-day basis? Why would this mad fellow eat? Or scratch his arse? Or bother living at all? Honestly if you're prepared to entertain such a thought you really should wonder at yourself. The whole idea is idiotic on its face. And yet that's what I get accused of being. Since I choose not to believe in things, somehow nothing is real.
What nonsense. Real things don't require belief. They just are. The butcherbird singing a song on my windowsill in the hope of getting a piece of ham doesn't require a stretch of my imagination. It doesn't require me to take someone's word for it. I don't have to dispel doubt that he's there. No belief is needed because he's Right Fucking There, singing that berserk song. G'day mate, yes I know you're there, and no, you're not getting any ham. I'm a cruel man but fair.
What other things apart from butcherbirds don't require belief? Well, it's simple. Everything you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste is completely unconnected with the idea of, or the need for, belief. To attack an otherwise rational person on the basis that he can't tell the difference between what is and what isn't, is, gee whiz, I don't know... I just shake my head at the stupidness of it. But believe it or not, ha ha, I've encountered it many times. It's the standard sleight of hand employed by religious types to conflate a belief in a thing (ie. religion) with an absence of belief (ie. atheism/nihilism). Says they, these are equivalent 'beliefs': a Christian believes God exists; an atheist believes no god exists; whilst a nihilist goes further and believes that nothing exists. God spare me. It's a crap argument but crap arguments is all religious types have.
Perhaps when arguing with mad Christians it's better to concentrate on shared disbelief. Do Christians believe that that blue-headed elephant guy is a god? No? Okay cross him off. We could go through god after god in this fashion and have a lovely time agreeing with each other over and over. Cross, cross, cross. Yay! We smash fake gods! If we were to come up with a complete list of gods, the Christians and I would be in complete agreement over the non-existence of 99.99% of them. Go figure why they'd get all huffy about a single god amongst this uncountable multitude. Apparently this one god is special. But aren't they all? Who would worship a god that isn't special? Christians shouldn't take this personally. This line of logic is not specific to any particular religion. It's a 'catholic' argument, if you like, ha ha.
Anyway let's say we've arrived at the obviousness of atheism. Then there's the unavoidable question - why stop with gods? If I'm prepared to make that final tiny step from 99.99% atheism to 100% atheism, might I not cast my jaundiced eye at everything else I'm meant to believe? There's no shortage of these things. They define us and bind our society together. For instance, I am meant to believe that it is right that one should have unlimited desires and go to great lengths attempting to satisfy those desires. Apparently I should base my life on this. To moderate my pursuit of this self-gratification, there are certain fear-based proscriptions on my behaviour. All our laws pivot on the assumption that I shall not do a thing because I will be fearful of the punishment that will result. Is that the best we can do? We geniuses? We white men? Honestly?
What bullshit. I reject desire. I reject fear. A fig for arranging society thus. See if I can't do better, ha ha. I gave it a try just to the right here with my abjectly unsexy continuum. Between self and selflessness no belief is required. The less cluttered it is, the better. There are no proscriptions, no rules, no loopholes - merely an ideal to be aimed for.
Think about it. Nowhere here do I ask anyone to believe in anything. Nowhere do I say, Take my word for it. In fact, for the record I say, Don't believe it. Belief is not required and will not help you. Sure enough, in the meeting of the pursuit of selflessness and the mindset of perfect nihilism, there is no clash, only harmony. In fact I'll go further and state, right here, right now, that they are the same thing. True nihilism involves embracing the ultimate truth that there is no self. There is only a self if you believe that it is so. A person who can abandon this belief will know the mind of Buddha. You, me, anyone. If other people choose not to think about this, to use it as a self-serving straw-man argument, turn it arse-about, or any other goddamn thing, a fig for them, ha ha.
PS. And then there's the Buddha - "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense". Now that's nihilism.