(Disclaimer: I “used to be” a nihilist, in both the Nietzschean and Big Lebowski-an sense. Live to embrace exposure, in whatever form it takes. Also, please do not try this at home.)
We hear what we want to hear. This is because we go through life listening for the answer to ourselves. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and read philosophy. Over time this reading has taken on a certain indulgence. Kinda like you get out of bed and dunk your face in ice cream before proceeding to wash it. Nothing like a mix of delicacy and disgust to enhance the senses for the first time.
For many years I lived in order to hear somebody say, “you’re a fucking mess” and so I kept reading philosophy. Eventually I took a break from philosophy and the message came. The answer is almost always a response to a response. (In certain circles they call this echo “healing” but whatever).
Now I sometimes read philosophy but no longer for the answers. The present reading more suggests embarking upon this gleefully tragic bath. From whence you emerge the world is subtly brighter. The act of questioning resumes suddenly heightened, at a slightly more delightful clip. This activity, however, demands moderation. Philosophy, says Yeats, will clip an angel’s wings.
So, one day I’m reading this Philosophical Text and Philosopher Guy proposes that, because claiming The Good as the source of human thought is preposterous (and has been for centuries), the last, great classically philosophical project will be to investigate why human beings are inclined to compulsively choose the pursuit of nihilism. This project will not be undertaken from afar; as a collection of data, set of questions, hypothetical observations. This project must be lived, it must be performed: to be a living, breathing answer while maintaining one’s intention to discover and philosophically assimilate. Practically speaking, one must walk a path that grows atop nihilistic compulsion; she/he is absolutely committed to learning the way, despite the obvious danger of the path ending in a lake or over a cliff. If one isn’t killed or driven mad by the process, it’s likely assumed that one may constructively build (something) upon the lower echelons of biological rapture, and/or grow aware of decay as a sixth or seventh sense. Darkness, despite our best attempts at negation, does have bounds.
Whatever the case may be, Philosopher Guy says that if one truly believes that nihilism reveals a truth above and beyond psychological deviation, one MUST perform this project. There is no other avenue for metaphysical (and possibly societal) growth. The non-existent cry is simply too heavy to ignore.
In plain text, Philosopher Guy is basically proposing the following: will we ever understand exactly WHY we keep fucking ourselves over (and over again)?!
I am a shamelessly grandiose being and so I am going to act upon the assumption that yes, this investigation is possible and does result in growing. I am going to assume that you want to hear what I have to say and thusly that you’ll come to believe you’re growing because I said it and you want to trust me. As it turns out, I HAVE learned a thing or two about compulsively pursuing nihilistic revelation. My process was not unlike the aforementioned proposal, at least I figured as much & felt like I was performing such an undertaking for a plethora of people (meaning maybe 2,000 tops over the course of 9 years); so I’ll wager to explain how this performance works and why it really, really doesn’t.
It gets you kicked off airplanes. It finds you coming out of blackouts wandering barefoot through the streets. It results in needing to apply for a lot of new passports. It accidentally cuts your thumb in half. One minute it gracefully shields you all divine-and-incognito-like, the next you’re a statistical example of alcohol withdrawal on international flights. Also you keep dating men with BPD.
I’d like to wholeheartedly believe that the way to make sense of this rubble is to practice better hygiene, eat more vegetables, exercise regularly, meditate, find a qualified therapist, quit the booze and drugs and read a lot of Alan Watts – and there is, herein, a reliable solution, if you’re ready to accept/embrace it.
The caveat: None of these activities, or all the healthy living in the world, cancels out one’s desire (nay, need) to reveal nihilistic urgency. The pulsation is, for lack of a better term, essential. If anything, a return to “health” results in a progressively finer clarity, an increasingly intuitive comprehending of one’s destructively compulsive nature and the subsequent affirmation of nothingness qua truth therein. There is no overcoming this pursuit, we just get glasses and face it daily, a little braver & more attentive. The beautiful, and at times frustrating, mystery is that we grow to desire this clarity, we live for a more spectacular and specific consciousness of/in it. Over time, we realize that while we can’t expose nihilism, we have learned how to live in it’s brilliant suspension. Our nature, in a sense, pauses, smack dab in the nihilistic center, and eventually this pause becomes our waking life; the destruction revealed from afar in overwhelming detail; we no longer question it, we no longer need to because in stepping back from it, we observe it and are finally satiated.
If there is wisdom to be uncovered here, it is perhaps that human thought begins with a need to deconstruct destruction, and over a lifetime’s course finds an acceptable result in destroying deconstruction. (In plain speak, we seek a way out until the day comes when the seeking magically ends and we realize we’ve been out all along). This trajectory is not undertaken in the light of absolute compulsion, nor philosophical theory, but as an act of joy/bliss. Like joy, nihilism can be a wonderful sight; a glorious enormity. A reality that bears witness. The very truth revealed in acceptance.
I’ll end with this: the more you seek to expose nihilism, consciously or otherwise, the more you convince yourself that it’s existence is questionable. The more you struggle to step outside it, the more you mistakenly insist upon an alternative that reflects it’s non-existence and is not there. The reprieve comes when you realize you’re suspended. You have paused the investigation. You accept and more is revealed. The solution may be simplified but this pause is very real. We have found that commonly sought after experience known as “relief”.
One day we may learn to stare at the sun. When that day comes we will be far enough away (precisely and/or microscopically) to avert total blindness and intolerable heat. Patience is paramount. Hence the pausing.
As far as when and where the pause goes – well that’s entirely up to you.
In all likelihood I am basically rehashing the beautiful peculiarities of thinkers much better equipped to analyze just about everything (or saying absolutely nothing at all, I’ll accept that). I’m going to pretend, however, that I’m not. Because in less than three weeks I’ll fly to Berlin again, the same Berlin I wandered about barefoot in; the same Berlin that beholds half my thumb. Because recalling what we saw and how it felt and realizing that it felt, well, bad, is the only way we stand a chance at living as/for the art and sound and processing we create. Life is simply better lived resounding in the breath we take. I don’t advise committing suicide unless you absolutely have to.
For more information, updates, ideas on/for upcoming Berlin performances, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org