For the last three days, I've been writing a piece attempting to nuance my definition of nihilism. And it was brilliant! Marvellous metaphors, jolly japes, pretty pictures, and even a little alliteration. But in amongst the frivolity I had some questions about that mumping villain Nietzsche and dipped into Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Dear oh dear, how little I know. Never mind Nietzsche, whatever clever guff I had to say on the subject of, let's call it scepticism, I was perpetually being beaten to the punch by the Greeks of two millennia ago. Bloody Greeks! How dare they reach out from the past and shatter my illusions of me as great sage and equal of heaven!
Happily, the nature of monkey is irrepressible, so here I am blathering on with another 1000 words that hopefully I won't have to junk. (Hmm... perhaps 'happily' is the wrong word what with Monkey being on a mission to abandon his monkey nature 'self', but never mind). Anyway I'll start again and fingers crossed none of those rotten ancients gate-crash the party.
And so on to the grand topics! Take belief. Please! Any number of people will tell you that belief is a wonderful thing and without it we're all doomed or somesuch. That's all very well, but my problem is that there are so many beliefs, half of which are completely at odds with the other half, that one's necessarily forced to pick one or t'other, or some combination thereof. Sure enough, in choosing what one believes, one automatically rejects any number of other beliefs. Which is to say, a person who extols the rightness of belief is ipso facto simultaneously condemning the falseness of it. Or to put it another way, they're asserting that a false belief is better than none at all.
To be honest it never works that way. The epic majority of proponents of belief are not so much keen to have me, as unbeliever, believe in something-anything-as-long-as-I-believe, so much as to have me believe in their specific version of that-which-must-be-believed. It seems it's less about belief per se, but rather about whether or not one has chosen a belief that accords with that of the commentator. Hmm... perhaps belief is not so very different from teenage fashion sense, ie. it's little more than an expression of peer group pressure, which is to say 'fear'. And a fig for that.
What then is a self-described nihilist (that would be me) to do about otherwise credible people telling me stories completely beyond my ken and otherwise requiring my belief? Ha ha ha, is everyone here familiar with the phrase 'beg the question'? 'Beg the question' does not mean 'prompt the question'. Rather, it means to ask a question in which something is assumed or taken for granted that really oughtn't to be. And that sentence at the beginning of the para is a classic example. It assumes that one must either believe a thing, or reject it in its entirety. Which is to say, take it holus-bolus or throw the baby out with the bath water.
What's that clippety-clop noise? Is it some philosophical knight on horseback come to rescue me from my dilemma? Oh wait, it's the Buddha banging two coconuts together - a Python fan obviously. Says he, ever sensible, we may choose the middle way. Both belief and rejection are two diametric extremes. If one is convinced that belief is fraught with paradoxes why should it follow that disbelief is automatically the correct position? It's the equivalent of a nine year old in a car swerving from one over-correction to another.
So, er... what are we meant to do exactly? Neither believe nor disbelieve? Sure why not? Subsequently yours truly, otherwise full of loud-mouthed opinions, will upon hearing mind-boggling stories hold no opinion at all. Like I've said elsewhere, I dismiss nothing. I hear a thing, I hold it in my head, and I turn it this way and that: maybe I make something of it and maybe I don't. Do, don't, it doesn't really matter - whatever it is I've been told merely 'is', and nothing more.
Thus for all manner of things, from my friend John's curious preternatural encounters (Hey John), to Les' messages from the Devic Realm (Hey Les), I choose to form no opinion. The only thing I can say with complete certainty is that I have no experience of these things. And between what I have experienced and what I haven't, one makes the other look like Charles Atlas' 97lb weakling. For me to make declarations about what they tell me would say as much about me as them. Besides, here I am conveying thoughts to you the reader in spite of the fact that we're separated by hitherto unimaginable distances. 'Hitherto' is the key word there - when those smarty-pants Greeks were kicking around to even suggest that such things were possible would have been laughed off as a lunacy, or otherwise something belonging to the gods. And now we just take it as read.
Speaking of the Greeks, I'm off now to finally read Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. I'm keen to see if any of those marbled ancients knew karate. Okay, perhaps not the thing itself but at least the intent that inspired its name. For those who don't know, it means 'empty hand', which I might paraphrase as 'with no pre-conceived idea'. And the Japanese didn't call it that for nothing. It's an acknowledgement that in a meeting between two entities, no one can know what the stimuli will be, nor the response. And crucially (not wishing to beg the question again) - nor if one is even necessary. It's a simple fact that within the concept of the open hand is the perforce possibility that one may do nothing at all. Hmm... I'm pretty sure the Greeks mastered the concept. Well, it would certainly explain why they all turned into statues, ha ha.