Ever since the emergence of consciousness, human beings have struggled to find meaning in their lives and the world. This obdurate insistence of nebulous minds to attribute meaning to a seemingly Laodicean universe eventually culminates in the vituperation of incontrovertible facts of existence. Whether we exist objectively or inside the dream of a nerdy teenager is not really the problem. Contemporary philosophers like Sam Harris claim that free will is an illusion. For all we know, existence itself could might just be an illusion. We live as if existence is real. None of us think about it until we engage in a philosophical debate.
By existence, I refer to our sense of self. From a materialistic perspective, the self is all that exists. Yet, we find ourselves trapped in a world where we have no control over our *self*. Our sense of self is the result of events and experiences over which we have no control whatsoever. Our personalities are mere fabrications. The self that we project to others is simply a conglomeration of the identities of different individuals whom we have encountered since our birth. Our attitude towards others depends on our closeness to them. The way you present yourself to a friend is different from the way you present yourself to your boss or your teacher.
Cogito ergo sum, asserted Descartes. Our minds are all we have, asserts Harris. What is it, then, that leads human beings to chaos?
It is important to make a distinction between the anarchy that emerges through ideology and the violence that emerges from an individual. The violence that emerges from the individual is the result of hopelessness and pessimism towards human beings. For instance, consider the character of Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis popular novel American Psycho. Bateman is a materialistic hippie and a serial killer who is incapable of emotions. Almost all of the characters of the group are greedy capitalists who show no emotion towards their fellow acquaintances. Patrick Bateman is the archetypal nihilist. In his case, the shadow is his sentimental side.
The eradication of human beings is the logical conclusion of nihilism. While Germany wan on the brink of defeat, Hitler ordered his Armament minister Albert Speer to destroy all the architectural feats of the Nazi Germany in the Nero decree. Hitler believed that the German civilians weren`t worthy of this. Mass murderers often justify their atrocities by claiming that human beings don’t deserve to live.
Nihilism does not always lead to destruction but it often does.
The world does not have a purpose but individuals do. And its necessary to praise the heroic force that lies beneath everyone.
“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus