Comments on “Nihilistic anxiety”


Nihilism as base camp

End of the world philosopher's picture

There is massive universal suffering going on and everything is just wrong in the world.
Some people, like me, take the blue pill in order to escape the Matrix but stray to nihilism. I would like to become a bodhisattva but I’ve been stuck in dualistic nihilism. Maybe because I haven’t yet been able to locate the hero aspect of myself.
I keep trying to climb up the high mountain but always, after some initial success, eventually fall back to base camp Nihilism.
I’m getting old and tired. Please tell me what do you think there is silly in that situation?

Enjoying the foothills

Nihilism is a basically intelligent stance, because it requires seeing through the Matrix-like illusory promises of eternalism. So it’s not silly in general.

It’s also extremely unpleasant. Nihilistic depression and anxiety are awful. (I am prone to nihilism, so I know this well.) I don’t mean to make light of this at all.

As an understanding of the world, though, nihilism is simply wrong. Usually it obscures its wrongness through intellectualization. When you see through that, it can be very funny; and when people insist on being serious even when it’s obviously wrong, that does become silly. (My essay about Lovecraftian nihilism is about that.)

Nihilism, here, is the stance that everything is meaningless. This is obviously wrong; meanings are obvious everywhere. When we point this out, nihilism falls back to “it’s not really meaningful” or “not ultimately meaningful”; and when you ask what that means, eventually nihilism retreats to “meanings are not enforced by God,” which is perfectly true, but so what?

When you notice that ordinary meanings are meaningful, and cosmic meaning is an irrelevant mirage, nihilism ceases to be a problem.

“Trying to climb up the high mountain” sounds like it might be the stance of mission, which is exhausting. When it fails, nihilism is a likely next stance.

Nobility does not depend on accomplishment; it is sufficient to maintain the attitude. Realizing that, one can enjoy the foothills, and find ways of being helpful around the base camp.

Positive antidotes other than amusement at absurdity

Remedios's picture

I understand what you’re saying, in this post. The transformation or antidote you suggest (to laugh at absurdity) isn’t accessible to me on a physical level. I find absurdity mildly distressing, not humorous… just because. This could be from some OCD tendencies. To complicate matters, during a bout of depression, it can be impossible for me to experience joy or humor at all.

There may be antidotes for anhedonic nihilists like me, however. Amusement is only one of 13 types of enjoyment identified in the Dalai Lama’s atlas of emotions!

To transform my nihilistic anxiety without requiring amusement, I will sidestep the “Even if this is funny, I don’t find it meaningful that it’s funny” problem and go straight to an enjoyment emotion I do have. Since for me laughing is meaningless, I’ll invoke the types of enjoyment that are meaningful to me:

  1. Excitement and Pride
    I’m figuring this out!
  2. Peace and Relief
    Some of this might start making sense now.

Have you looked at the

Seymour Brighton's picture

Have you looked at the universe? It is absolutely Lovecraftian. Planet earth alone is riddled with the sublime. It’s horror for any conscious being, from the most massive, all the way down to the smallest objects and creatures. If there’s a God he’s a sick, sick puppy.

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This page is in the section The emotional dynamics of nihilism,
      which is in Nihilism: the denial of meaning,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

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