Like most of the inspiration that motivates me to blog these posts, the particular drive, you can call it, that caused me to write this one started with a conversation.
I was talking to my friend, and this time it was another discussion about nihilism. To be clear, I probably should include what the definition of nihilism is. So here it is.
ni·hil·ism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless
Sounds pretty dark right? How could you believe that life has no purpose?
I know I made a post earlier about this, but I want to expand on it some more, and for good reason too. This time during my conversation, I had a bit more time to talk, and we were able to discuss the dangerous path you go down when you adopt nihilistic principles into your life.
And this time, I think he listened. That shows progress, even a little progress, and that’s better than nothing. It really is.
What was the point I made in opposition to nihilism?
Potential is an odd thing if you think about it. What is it exactly? The standard definition we accept is having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.
So then I made the weird observation. We, humans, have a key characteristic that separates us from animals, we can see the future. But it’s more subtle and complex than that. I said, we can not only see the future, but we have the ability to change it as well, and no other living creature can do that, not really.
He then went on to tell me about how a bird will make its nest a particular way, in a particular color, so that future female birds will come, attracted to this particular nest and its color. He told me, it’s like they’re preparing for their future.
And I thought about that, and thought, on one level of analysis, you could definitely see it like this bird’s preparing for his future, but on another level of analysis, it’s more like he’s just a bird trying to fulfill his primal instincts to reproduce. And we don’t really see that as “preparing for the future”. Birds don’t think about one day sitting vacationing on a beach in Mexico, they simply aim to survive and reproduce. The point I was trying to make was, animals, as far as we know, don’t consciously and carefully plan and adapt themselves to prepare for the future. They don’t embody their potential because they don’t really have one. They’re just animals.
But humans, we’re different. We see who we can be ten years from now, ten months from now, even 10 days from now. We can see the problems with who we are now, and better yet, we can actively work on correcting those problems to become that future self we foresee. It’s almost like the future us is talking to the present us and telling us what to do, judging us, directing us.
So then my friend said, what if I don’t listen to that future me? What if I just ignore that because, in the end, it all doesn’t matter?
And I told him, you can try that, but there will always be this urge, this strange, uneasy feeling, that, if you don’t live up to the potential you know you can be, you feel as if you’ve failed, that some part of you was never able to live properly when you know it could have. And even worse, when you choose to ignore this urge, this call to action, you not only make your own life worse, but in many ways, you make the lives worse of those around you.
Let me give you a short example.
I know a lot of people with depression. They often describe getting out of bed as the hardest part of the day. They say I feel as if it doesn’t matter what I do, so why should I even get up? But they still get up. They still go to work. They still take the kids to school. They still “act” as if things are okay. And then people interact with them throughout the day, none the wiser that they are depressed. They smile when it hurts, and “talk” as if the world is an okay place. Deep down, they know they’re faking it. They know they’re lying. But why go on if acting as if things are okay if it only makes you feel worse? And some people, they make the choice to not go on. They choose the permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide.
And it’s not as if the suffering of the world is a temporary problem either, it’s more like, the goal you were aimed at was not enough to justify the suffering of the world, so you chose to do the only thing that seemed to solve the problem. Death. Nihilism.
And listen, I don’t want to portray depression as if it’s simple problem or has an obvious solution, because it doesn’t. I just think, the reason why so many of us are depressed, or at least conclude that we are depressed, is that we, as a society, have brought forth and venerated happiness as the ultimate goal in life, and if you’re not happy, you’re doing something wrong. But we’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We’re really not.
So if you go back to the example, the person who feels as if they’re depressed, you ask them, why do you think that? And many, not all, will say I just don’t see a way I can ever be happy again. And if you actually take the time to listen to them they’ll tell you why. Maybe they’re unappreciated at work, at home, or by their spouse. Maybe they can’t pay the bills. Maybe they don’t have any close friends, so there’s no one they can truly have a deep conversation with. Maybe they’re facing so many problems, that no one knows how hard it is for them to keep going on. Then they ask themselves, so why should I keep going on?
My response to that question is, what would happen if you didn’t? What would happen if you weren’t here to take care of your family? What would happen if you weren’t there to go to work, or even as simple as talk to your mom, your brother, your family? There are so many lives you touch and will touch, is it worth it to let that die?
Many depressed people will say to that, They’ll realize how much suffering I was in, that I had a reason to end it all. Still, I respond with, do you think it’ll make things better?
Some would answer, yes, it would make the world a better place. Again, I keep asking why? To that, I’ve heard, because I’m doing nothing to make it a better place, I’m only hurting the world.
My final question would be, but is there any way you could make the world better? What if the problems you face, what if they could be solved? Would that then justify the world to continue living in?
The answer to that is yes, no matter who you are. That’s where potential comes into play. That’s when you realize, you can conceptualize a future self that is better than the one you are today.
Then you ask yourself, how do I get to this future self? How can I become this person?
Stop complaining? Quit my job? Go back to school? Stop blaming others for the negative things that come in my life and take responsibility?
And when you break it down to something as simple as this you realize, life isn’t about happiness anymore, it’s about simply aiming at the correct target, aiming at something meaningful. You realize life, it’s suffering at times, but it’s up to you to stand up to this suffering, and live up to your future self, your potential.
You might ask how I came to these conclusions, and it’s simple really.
I asked myself the same thing.
thanks for reading,