Author Topic: Beating existential nihilism  (Read 1483 times)

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Offline lomolo

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Beating existential nihilism
« on: June 17, 2012, 03:14:59 AM »
I de-converted from Christianity several months ago. Now I'm an agnostic atheist.

Initially I felt that the world was my oyster and anything was possible. Since the future isn't ordained and there's no reason to worry about dying, I could do anything.

Lately, though, I've just been wondering what the point is of doing anything. When I've asked other people they told me things like "why start a book if it's just going to end?" and such to try to explain why they don't find existential nihilism to be worthy of their time. But, then, I'm the kind of person who doesn't start a series because it will eventually end... :(

Eternal Recurrence is an interesting way to encourage someone to enjoy life (a la that Futurama episode) but it seems unlikely to me. I don't know. I am not suicidal by any means but definitely entirely unmotivated to do anything with my life. Everything's going to disappear eventually and nothing will matter after a billion billion years. Any sort of 'meaning' that we're supposed to come up with on our own seems disingenuous in the grander scheme of things.

Has anyone experienced this, and if so, what caused you to see things another way? Or, am I considering this wrong? I admit I really really want things to have a purpose. Maybe I shouldn't have burned the bridges from my former theism so quickly because I'm getting all depressed thinking how much sense everything made before.

Offline kin hell

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 04:22:21 AM »
....there is no purpose if you are talking about "greater universal truth bogus trademark waffle" purpose.

However you might consider the ridiculous odds of you being alive as awesome enough to warrant "living".

I am plagued by existentialist angst, .....there is no fucking point, but then I remember that I do not need a point to exist, I just exist.
If as I believe this is the only chance I will get at this, then for me personally it seems stupid to require "a point" in an obviously random generating universe, instead, I just remind myself to "just get the fuck on with it".

So my existential angst becomes subdued under deliberate active pursuit of the experiential, the sensual, the (to my brain filter) beautiful.

Perhaps my extremely low tolerance to boredom helps, I have grown into an active state of escapism as life, and the most social contracted position I take in this pursuit of my will, is the second half of my stated intent "to live as happily and harmlessly" as possible".

Given this our moment in evolved monkey "civilisation ;)" if life is supposed to have an external eternal point, it is only for the dull.
The real point (if any is to be found) is self realisation and self realised.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2012, 04:25:23 AM by kin hell »
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Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2012, 06:38:28 AM »
Everything Kin Hell said.

I'd only add this:  We're only here for a short time, and we only get one turn on the ride.  Have as much fun as you can.  Enjoy moments for what they are rather than what they mean.  Contribute to the things that matter outside yourself; your family, or welfare of others, so that they too may enjoy their moments more.  Work hard so that you may maximize both the satisfaction of doing a job well, and the money or security you may need to keep on enjoying those moments.

There really is no future nor past.  There never was.  There's only the 'nows'.

Just my .02 as a fellow atheist.

Offline inveni0

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2012, 06:20:14 PM »
You owe it to the fact that you can contemplate meaning at all to be as meaningful as something meaningless can be.  In other words, look at what you really are.  You are not a star, billions of years old, only to die in a billion more.  You are a life form.  And while the elements that form you will eventually be broken down, shifted a billion light years across the universe, the thing that makes you you will never exist again.  Your consciousness.  Your ability to appreciate music.  Your ability to love.

If you don't do something with that knowledge, you do a disservice to all things, matter and energy alike.
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Offline lomolo

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 02:01:48 AM »
Thanks for your responses. (I kind of want to delete everything I wrote below because I sound like an angsty teen, but it's just what's been weighing on my mind lately.)
....there is no purpose if you are talking about "greater universal truth bogus trademark waffle" purpose.

However you might consider the ridiculous odds of you being alive as awesome enough to warrant "living".

I don't know what I mean by purpose. I don't really mean anything I guess, it's just kind of depressing that there is ultimately no meaning to anything that I ever do beyond making myself and others happier for the short fling that we get before dissolving into our basic elements. I used to think that people who kill themselves were simply insane but I think I can understand it now. If life is beyond enjoying then there's no reason to carry on with it. I still enjoy some things in life so I won't ever do that.

I don't really like thinking of the past in terms of probability since that was just what happened. Predicting the future is one thing, but once it's become the present and then past, it's just an interesting aside. It's amazing that any of us exist, but since we do, it's already accounted for. :P

Quote
I am plagued by existentialist angst, .....there is no fucking point, but then I remember that I do not need a point to exist, I just exist.
If as I believe this is the only chance I will get at this, then for me personally it seems stupid to require "a point" in an obviously random generating universe, instead, I just remind myself to "just get the fuck on with it".

I imagine this is what I will eventually come around to. It doesn't really assuage any of my desires that what we do has an impact on anything anywhere, but what I want isn't important.

Quote
So my existential angst becomes subdued under deliberate active pursuit of the experiential, the sensual, the (to my brain filter) beautiful.

Perhaps my extremely low tolerance to boredom helps, I have grown into an active state of escapism as life, and the most social contracted position I take in this pursuit of my will, is the second half of my stated intent "to live as happily and harmlessly" as possible".

Given this our moment in evolved monkey "civilisation ;)" if life is supposed to have an external eternal point, it is only for the dull.
The real point (if any is to be found) is self realisation and self realised.
Escapism... I guess that's all we can do.

I grew up being told that everything I did was part of a great and beautiful plan. Every small thing I did was for the greater glory of an eternal cause. Kind of a letdown to discover that none of it exists.

I can hope that I'll pass on to another life but that's as far as I can go without feeling I'm deluding myself to get on with living. Phenomenologists try to move beyond Cartesian skepticism and existential doubt, but at the cost of objectivity. I just want to be honest with myself about everything and contriving a purpose for myself seems hedonistic at best.

I'd only add this:  We're only here for a short time, and we only get one turn on the ride.  Have as much fun as you can.  Enjoy moments for what they are rather than what they mean.  Contribute to the things that matter outside yourself; your family, or welfare of others, so that they too may enjoy their moments more.  Work hard so that you may maximize both the satisfaction of doing a job well, and the money or security you may need to keep on enjoying those moments.

There really is no future nor past.  There never was.  There's only the 'nows'.

Just my .02 as a fellow atheist.

This is a useful mindset to have but it's not helping me where I am right now. This is what I felt before as I described in the OP. It's a lot of effort for a whole lot of nothing in my mind right now.  :-\

You owe it to the fact that you can contemplate meaning at all to be as meaningful as something meaningless can be.  In other words, look at what you really are.  You are not a star, billions of years old, only to die in a billion more.  You are a life form.  And while the elements that form you will eventually be broken down, shifted a billion light years across the universe, the thing that makes you you will never exist again.  Your consciousness.  Your ability to appreciate music.  Your ability to love.

If you don't do something with that knowledge, you do a disservice to all things, matter and energy alike.
As far as I can tell nothing is keeping track of what we're doing or will ever do. Maybe another group consciousnesses will rise up elsewhere in the universe and find what we're doing, but everything will just collapse in on itself again at the end of the universe. Will that reset everything? That's why I think eternal recurrence is interesting. It's really the only thing I can think of, besides the obvious 'just have a good time', that someone should try to move forward with their lives. If you're miserable this time, you will be miserable the next time!

Urgh, sorry, I don't know why I even made this thread.

Offline Samothec

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 04:22:08 AM »
It feels like there is no purpose because you're used to "knowing" there is a purpose. But was that purpose? Nothing. It was the real nihilism since nothing we did really mattered since it was only God that mattered.

Now, what you do matters. Because there is no god(s). We make our own purpose. We now matter. If you want a purpose until you can find your own, here:

The purpose of human life is to make life fair for each other.

Since life isn't fair but we have a sense of fairness, act on it and make life fair for others. If most people do that then we can make our whole race and planet better.
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther

Offline BaalServant

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 04:00:27 PM »
What kin hell, Bereft_of_Faith, inveni0, and Samothec said, with one minor correction:

The purpose of human life is to make life fair for each other.

I only amend the first word of this sentence to, "One."

Urgh, sorry, I don't know why I even made this thread.

Hey, don't apologize - it's a good question.  The fact that you're asking it means you're still being skeptical of your beliefs.

I personally don't consider it written in stone that everything's going to disappear eventually and nothing will matter after a billion billion years.  What if we do find a way around Godel's Incompleteness Theorem?  What if we do end up solving the n-body problem?  What if we do find a loophole that allows us to overcome entropy? 

There are so many possibilities, but to simply give up reduces all chances to a ratio of zero,  and we all know what happens when one tries to divide by zero.  : )




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Offline shnozzola

Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2012, 05:55:49 PM »
I grew up being told that everything I did was part of a great and beautiful plan. Every small thing I did was for the greater glory of an eternal cause. Kind of a letdown to discover that none of it exists.

Man, I don't agree at all.  And my wife and I can't have children (which in my thinking is the beautiful plan part), unless we win the lottery and get enough $ for invitro.  And that really doesn't matter either -  we all (you included) touch so many other lives, and when we can make a child feel good about themselves and life, we have already become part of the beautiful plan.  Keep foster children, be a big brother or sister, adopt - for goodness sakes, take kids to the ocean to dance in the waves and eat ice cream.  Laugh - just laugh!  It's interesting to realize how incredibly easy it is to see the beauty of it all, while knowing how incredibly hard it can be.  Your choice.

edit - one other thing, Lomolo.  I'll probably get in trouble for this, but oh well.  If you miss christianity - go back.  I don't mean to necessarily believe in god - just believe in whatever you want to believe in.   We make fun of cafeteria christianity, but we are all cafeteria pickers and choosers of everything, all the time.  Relax, enjoy.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 06:04:41 PM by shnozzola »
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Offline The Wannabe

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2012, 06:21:12 PM »
Hey man, i've been there; heck, i still am.  I'm beginning to view my own existential angst as a kind of growing pains.  I've discarded a vacuous, mythological belief system that, while comforting, is built on lies and self deception.  You may have felt that everything made sense before, but maybe that's not a good thing.  Maybe it's better to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of what we don't know, the mind boggling vastness of the cosmos.  Maybe it's better to stand in awe of reality, and be a little confused, even scared at times.  Maybe it's better to live life without a belief system that claims to know everything, but in reality knows nothing.  Because then we allow reality to reveal itself to us, and that my friend is an awesome experience.

"Is there any ultimate meaning and purpose in life?"  I don't know, and frankly nobody does.  There could be some entity or entities that created our universe[1].  We do, however, know that Yaweh could not have literally created the heavens and the earth, let alone literally exist.  Coming to this realization is a great thing.   Now you can pursue knowledge and truth honestly, unfettered by religious bias.  You've got a clean slate, man! 

Whether we inhabit a universe that is purposeful, or purposeless, living a life that is personally fulfilling and meaningful to you is all that's worthwhile.  Good luck, lolmolo.  I wish you the best.   

 1. With or without us in mind.
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Offline joebbowers

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2012, 04:48:08 AM »
Sometimes I think about just killing myself when I think about how I will eventually die so there is no point to anything I do. The Earth will eventually get burned up by the expanding sun so there is no point in anything anyone does. And I hate most people. Most people are responsible for most of the world's problems.

But I don't kill myself. Why? Joss Whedon. Threesomes with asian girls. Chocolate-blueberry-cheesecake-and-kaluah milkshakes. A full-frame Pentax camera.

There are so many fucking awesome things in this world to enjoy and look forward to. Yes, I realize the ride doesn't go anywhere, but I don't want to get off until I have to.
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Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2012, 02:23:11 AM »
[list of awesome things snipped]

Bingo.  Enjoy stuff while you can, and enjoy the hell out of it.  There'll be time enough to die later[/list]

Offline StripeDog

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2012, 05:55:48 PM »
The only aspect, (the most important aspect) about nihlism that makes it irrelevant is the fact that you can't make contrasts like "what's the point?" because there is nothing to compare it to.

While it may be a legitimate question, it's not a question that can be answered. You were right in abandoning religion, and the thing that you wish to believe would be taking a step backward in the process of the acceptance of mortality.

As for the Big picture: there is no one destiny that every man must aspire for. We create our purposes, we create our goals. Based on what you feel, and what you want for yourself, or for someone else, not what some stale book or some idea from everyone else.
Unfortunately, there really is no way to know the need to die until it happens. One can only hope that we can still see afterwards, but there is no reason to dwell on that until then, cause as long as you are alive, make it worth it's while.  ;)
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Online Azdgari

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2012, 06:08:52 PM »
"What's the purpose of X" is an incomplete thought.  "What is Y's purpose for X" is a complete thought.  That's what you had as a Christian; 'Y' just happened to be God.  Now it's you.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2012, 06:17:56 PM by Azdgari »
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Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2012, 01:26:07 AM »
"What's the purpose of X" is an incomplete thought.  "What is Y's purpose for X" is a complete thought.  That's what you had as a Christian; 'Y' just happened to be God.  Now it's you.

Is that a thing, or is that your own invention?  Either way:  Elegant in its simplicity.  Brilliant. 

Online Azdgari

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2012, 09:54:45 AM »
Thanks.  It's mine. :)
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Offline kin hell

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2012, 11:07:50 AM »
"What's the purpose of X" is an incomplete thought.  "What is Y's purpose for X" is a complete thought.  That's what you had as a Christian; 'Y' just happened to be God.  Now it's you.

Is that a thing, or is that your own invention?  Either way:  Elegant in its simplicity.  Brilliant.

yeah   nice one Azd
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Online Boots

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Re: Beating existential nihilism
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2012, 12:10:12 PM »
lomolo,
this might sound harsh, and I apologize if it offends too greatly, but I would like to put in my $0.02 on your issue.

Stop being lazy!!!

I'm hearing your "none of it matters, so what's the point" and I have to say it sounds like whining to me.  If I handed someone an awesome candy bar, and told them this is the only candy bar they'd ever have in their entire life, and they said "meh, why bother if it's going to be gone?"  I'd punch them in the face.

Dude, get over it.  It's ENTIRELY YOUR CHOICE of how you live your life, whether you have this existential angst or not.  So choose to drop it.  Follow the other advice on this thread: laugh.  Go to the beach, preferably with related/friends' children.  Eat ice cream.  Excercise.  Make love to your partner.  Go to a carnival.  Watch a good movie (or a crappy one and laugh at it).  Read good books.

If you waste your life by contemplating the fact that you don't have a "higher purpose," then you're doing exactly that--wasting it.  I see it as a cowardly and lazy way to avoid doing stuff.

Again, I do apologize for being too harsh (I look it as a "be cruel to be kind" example), particularly if it doesn't apply.  But it *is* something to think about.  Just live, dude.  Just live!!
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