Optimism About Nihilism

Gray_bike racka_2012-08-03

2015-03-17 – The snow is nearly gone, but the filth of winter emerges in the melt. A season’s worth of soot-from-the-air and pebbles-from-the-disintegrating-street.

This is not poetry. This is my front yard.

Forty some years ago, when I was an angst-ridden college student, in deep through-the-night discussions, learning about the world, the word nihilism rhymed with “realism.” Now, apparently, the pronunciation has changed. There is no rhyme word, only a word I made up: “bile-ism.” It makes me optimistic.

Back then, we sought the meaning in the sky and we found it lacking. No god to love us. No special place in nature. Yes, we always had our families to give our lives meaning, but we were leaving the nest. Our nihilism was a kind of late-teen, early twenties separation anxiety. We left our parents’ home and found no place for ourselves in the world. Our fledgling idealism was met with worldly indifference.

It was glorious.

The truth is that life’s meaning wasn’t to be found in the sky. It comes from our connections to family, to friends, to community. Life’s meaning is like language. The words of this post have no meaning from the sky. Their meaning is derived solely from the fact that you are able to read them. Their meaning is the bond between you and me. No god, no nature required.

Even the great God-Book, the Bible, understands that. In Genesis, we read that the city of Babel was destroyed by making people unable to understand the language of their neighbors. The book of John tells us “In the beginning was the word.”

Old-style nihilists, who sold themselves as realists, could still band together and derive meaning from their shared pessimism.

New-style nihilists, who are realistically bile-ists, are in a bind. If you hate your neighbor, who do you bond with?

Nihilism has come a long way. I’m very optimistic. In a nihilist sorta way.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, by the way.

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