Just because the Greeks are old, does not mean they are without value. I have found that the birth of philosophy has more relevance to modern life than much of what counts as philosophy today.
I want to talk about nihilism. Because it is the one framework I believe to be truly evil in itself, and one must relinquish to evil in the soul to foster and follow it with anything more than a useful idiot’s 3 second attention.
It’s main attraction is that, while it is horrific, it looks true. Because it rejects everything human and comfortable, it takes a very special someone to fully embrace it. One who is brave, but needs no other contribution or qualifier other than to stare into the darkness without flinching. Combine that with habit void of self reflection, and you have a lethal brew. I’ve seen this ideology destroy men, even drive them to to suicide. What I’m talking is a total destruction, an unwillingness to live so extreme that suicide is too much effort.
To speak it in spiritual terms, A black hole is your God. But you must be truly Godlike to accept it. Your sense of reality will self destruct real soon now.
Seemingly unrelated, this was first Easter without my husband. When you see that much chaos and entropy up close is when Nihilism becomes the most tempting. After all, death seemed to win before my eyes, everything I’d built over a period of 7 years washed away in what was the worst week of the worst year of my life. Matt’s heart stopped, he stopped breathing. Pale, waxy and starved, he lay as an indictment to everything I believe in. His body reminded me of nothing more than the lifeless corpus hanging up in every church I attend.
If that weren’t enough, our house and most of my belongings were torn away less than a month later. I lived for months on the charity of a few random people I met off the internet.
[Ok, they weren’t exactly random as it was Christian charity, or just plain good neighbor charity in more than a few cases. Thank you all, by the way. ] I have some breathing space, but that will soon be gone like the rest.
If everything is meaningless, than there is no reason not to grasp what you want. But if you think about it, why should you bother? If my situation isn’t really real, why should I even respond to it? It’s a summation of every depressive episode ever.
IF there is no real, there is no reason not to be a force for good– because at the end of this tortured logic, the only good is to degrade and debase what most call real. In this fun-house mirror, the only real act is to destroy what you see, to shatter the “delusions” of others. You declare the entire universe built of deluded fools, because your secret master will devour them all in the end. It is the Elder gods without a face, and every face will be smashed. Except, wait, it’s not real. So explain to me why being deluded is a sin, again?
And this is how a man can in his heart delight in evil, yet not violate the laws of fiction. The Hebrews who wrote the old testament were old travel companions of nihilism. It is no more new than man’s first Covenant. We just had longer, more circuitous names for it, because philosophy used to be categorized on understanding if, what and why anything was real at all. The city of chaos that is philosophy has built so many flying buttresses on the air it has forgotten the foundations that support it. It seems that it only remembers them to have something to deride. (there are exceptions, like Edward Fesser. But there are too few, and too far between. I’m not really smart enough to understand most of what he’s written, but what I do understand I happen to like.)
It is an inversion of what all Christians worship, whether we understand that or not. We have our small flawed pieties that analogically speak to The God That Is. But no conception we could contain in our minds is reflective of what must be Most Real. All that is real in that sense is what God tells us to do, which is the start of Catholic liturgical traditions, but I won’t go into that here. Just remember that God frequently spoke in parables, and parables are fun stories that burn analogy as fuel. It may not be a perfect reflection of what is Most Real, but it points to what is in a real way.
It seems to me that too many of the philosophical moderns have attempted to discredit the real until it is irrelevant to rid themselves of analogical thinking, or perhaps for some other reason. Trouble is, once you do that, nothing is real.
Christianity is wise to keep philosophers around to keep us honest. It is also wise to keep reality around to keep philosophers honest. And mystics close the circle of balance, because they remind both of what is beyond our rational borders is not always a sham. When it’s real, it’s what keeps us alive.
A life without good and evil is more profoundly empty than a life without reality, or truly, a life without God. But the trifecta of Nihilism is the dark siren song of prematurely banking on the wrong side in victory. It is an endless darkness that devours all potential. The only reason it works is because most people still run on the base assumption that what they see is a real thing. Shock value is as timeless and relentless as tyranny.
And about twice as banal.
Only a belief that the Good is more important than suffering can get one through the night. Note I did not say belief in God.
For me there isn’t much difference.