Nihilism, part II

Posted: November 19, 2009 in The Hardline According to Ren

Wow, some of y’all got a little freaky on that last one….so I feel I should clarify some things.

And remember all, I am merely speaking for me here.

I don’t, nor have I ever, really believed in an afterlife.  No Heaven, no Hell, no reincarnation, no perfect asecension…none of that.  When you are dead, you are dead.  Nothing.  Oblivion.  Which may sound as depressing as hell if you have not always believed that.  I have. Big difference.  Which lends well to “meaningless”.  I mean shit, this really should be obvious….I am enamoured with the physical because in the here and now that is good, fun, pleasureable….I enjoy it…and time being what it is, no idea how much ANY of us have left of that now, do we?  What I say, do, so on, in the end, it means nothing.  What matters-if anything does- is the NOW.  Enjoy, help, do, whatever, as you will because you should or can.  But for real?  Meaning?  Come on…

You do charity works- it matters to you and the person/people you are helping in that moment.  In the end…you think it really does? 

When it all comes down to it, if I am right, and there is nothing, will the number of good or bad things you have done really matter?


YOU do things because you WANT to, good or bad, regardless of meaning.  You do them because YOU want to. 

Hardline According to Ren.


  1. well my point if it is all meaningless and nothign awautsm the highest meaning is the meaning one imposes on the worlds as an act of will. Even that in the end may have no real value, but it has to matter, at least to yourself for a little bit right?
    I’m a big beleiver in there is a right and there is a wrong regardless of no absolute value being imposed by a higher power (though I will admit my right and my wrong are way different from the majority).
    There’s something to me to be said for looking at the northingness and worthlessness of it all and refusing to accept it.

    • Dead_Vladimir says:

      corrected my horrendous typing:
      Well my point is if it is all meaningless and nothing at all awaits us, then the highest meaning is the meaning one imposes on the world as an act of will. Even that in the end may have no real value, but it has to matter, at least to yourself for a little bit right?
      I’m a big believer in there is a right and there is a wrong regardless of no absolute value being imposed by a higher power (though I will admit my right and my wrong are way different from the majority).
      There’s something to me to be said for looking at the nothingness and worthlessness of it all and refusing to accept it.

      • rootietoot says:

        “There’s something to me to be said for looking at the nothingness and worthlessness of it all and refusing to accept it.”

        which is interpreted in a myriad of ways. I refuse to accept it because I choose to believe there *is* a higher power who imposes a value on us. I also believe through free will that higher power allows us to make the judgement call, and the choice to believe.

  2. or to quote someone else ///”we do them because we are compelled”

    god you were right…

  3. rootietoot says:

    It’s one of those things that I believe will be all sorted out when we die. If it’s all dirt-naps, then so be it. If there’s a heaven and hell, then that will be clarified as well. the truth is, everyone does what they believe is right for them, like what Vladimir said (sort of). I could bust out the scientific evidence that everyone goes through the same pattern of (seemingly) mental (spiritual?) phenomena as the brain dies, and that would point to dirt-naps and not a concrete heaven-hell concept, but I won’t. 🙂

    AS I’ve thought about what-all you’ve said recently, the more I appreciate your honesty. And for you not…y’know…ripping me a new one (oh that would be sexist and rape-terminolgy…you wouldn’t do that…)

    • Dead_Vladimir says:

      Well while everyone may do what is “right” for them, I dont accept that a personal right is actually right.I am a bit of an absolutist, and I think it is all the more important int he face of oblivion to stand for somethig nthat is really right, not relatively right or conveinantly right.

      • rootietoot says:

        I’m pretty much an absolutist too, with this modification: I don’t hold the world to my standard. There are certain things that are absolutely wrong: killing someone for the fun of it, hogging all the food and preventing people who need it from getting it, that sort of thing. And there are certain ‘absolutes’ which aren’t as absolute as many people would like you to believe. Homosexuality (it is what it is, a biological thing, not a choice, by my estimation) comes to mind, as does sex drive (why I don’t condemn Ren to hellfire and eternal damnation). But because I don’t participate in either of those things doesn’t mean I think they’re absolutely wrong, even if many of my kind think they are.

        Determining what’s absolutely right or wrong is a value judgement, a necessary thing in order for society to function…so who decides if a suicide bomber, who is doing what he believes is absolutely right, is wrong? Why is the Christian fundamentalist, who believes what they’re teaching their children to be God’s absolute truth, also wrong? Because it offends someone?

        I think I need to go walk the dog and try to clarify this in my own mind…that didn’t make as much sense as I thought it would when I started…

        • Dead_Vladimir says:

          aaah but you see i believe some things are always clear. Murder, causing needless suffering, assuming one person has more intrinisc value than other without cause, these thigns are wrong regardless of culture etc.
          I don’t bother with petty social judgements (homosexuality, promiscuity) because those thigns don’t matter. Only the big things can be viewed as absolutes.
          And I sure as hell hold the world to my standard, it holds me to it’s, so fair is fair.
          People for the most part suck, and not because they don’t meet high standards but because they lie about it. I have mroe respect for a person who admits what they are doing is loathsome and selfish rathar than try to hide it behind clever semantics, concepts like the “greater good”, “morals” or “family values”.
          Let’s face it we all know to actually hurt someone (and I mean truly hurt) is wrong. To diminish someone is wrogn. To cause suffering for no end is wrong. To kill (except perhpas to persever the life of another) is wrong.

          • Dead_Vladimir says:

            most people don’t like that, because well let’s face it most of us can be pretty crappy and selfish we just don’t like to admit it.
            A lot of the people opposed with goodness whether religous fundamentalists or ultra liberal humanists are actually all full of it. What they really want is a justification to keep doing things their way and not have to admit they are causing harm to others.

            • rootietoot says:

              “What they really want is a justification to keep doing things their way and not have to admit they are causing harm to others.”

              Well sure! But how do you define that, who says what harm is? Who gets to choose the hard-and-fast morality? Skinheads? Muslims? Christians? How about the radfems who say Ren’s the oinson of the world? I say let the Sikhs choose.

              • Dead_Vladimir says:

                Morality is hard, but not fast.
                As for who decides, why me of course.

                Honestly I do beleive that we all have the same a priori knowledge of right and wrong. It is why I don’t quibble on the little things, but I guess we will have to disagree because i beleive that to all people outside of psychotics (and amybe even they know) some truths are self evident even if we don;t admit them. And for the record there are not a lot of these truths, but I tihnk they are there.

                The problem with all these creeds/belief systems etc is they get into the minutae of things. That’s how you know when you are being sold a bill of goods. Or when there’s exceptions to every rule.

  4. Dead_Vladimir says:

    I guess my point is, that in the end the world always wins, it always beats you down and time reduces you to dust and eternity to nothingness. But there’s something to standing up to that awful truth, and saying it doesn’t matter, for one moment my will, my self will stand against the weight of oblivion, and even if I fail, for a moment I will struggle against the whole weight of the universe, I will bear it like Atlas, even if it crushes me.
    It is pure ultimate ego to match yourself against the unchanging truth of exsistence. Maybe we can;t ever win, maybe in the long run it means nothing, but all we ahve anyway is the now the universe begins when we gain conciousness, and ends when we die for all pratical purposes anyway, so doesn’t how we mold it matter? We’ll never know anything else anyway.

    • rootietoot says:

      I suppose that’s where our world views differ. I see everything, good, bad, and indifferent, as working toward a great good that we, as humans, are incapable of comprehending. I don’t understand how electricity works, but I accept that it does and enjoy the benefits. I don’t understand how Big Bads like war and famine can contribute to an ultimate good, but I know that they do (perhaps through people who fight to eradicate them? i don’t know) Call it foolish optimism, but other people have been called God’s fool (St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind) before me, and I’m not afraid of being called that. By believing it all works together for an ultimate good, I can deal with the fears and frustrations of not being able to see the big picture.

      • Dead_Vladimir says:

        that’s naive I would think. And what if you are wrong? If rather than contributing to a greater good it’ not, or worse it is harming a greater good. I think it is important for us to strive to do what is right, no matter how hard, and if we don’t be honest with ourselves that we are engaging in selfish actions. I think to beleive without proof that all our actions are contributing to a greater good regardless of whether they are good is wrong, almost bordering on criminal.

        I don’t accept things blindy or beyond my understanding. I work only then for the things I can see and feel. I work to make things right and better in the here and now, because that is real and that is what matters, that i can control, that I can see and touch and taste.

        • rootietoot says:

          I readily admit my naivete, but if refused to accept things beyond my understanding, then no one would have knit sweaters, because for the life of me I can’t learn to knit. I,too, work to make things right and better in the here and now, because I can. Our purposes differ, but the methods are similar.

          • Dead_Vladimir says:

            heh,,,in regards to the knitting , you still understand why people like knit sweaters. just because you can’t execute something doesn’t mean you can’t understand it.
            (god knows I can;t type but I understand it)

    • Eli says:

      My point of view on that is along the lines of the distinction between “self” and “world” being just an arbitrary convention, an artifact of thought (the abortion and euthanasia debates are testament to the arbitrariness of identifying a separate “I”).

      Saying that it’s little me against the big bad not-me world, and the not-me is going to win… well, it’s one of the games we can play. It’s a point of view. A point of view isn’t right or wrong. It’s just what things look like from a certain angle.

      I think much energy is spent trying to justify that one perspective is the only right one and all others are wrong. And one of the things that nihilism ought to tell people is that there is no Absolute perspective.

      Not that it’s all the same thing; the direction you choose to face usually is the one you’ll be heading. So for me, the question is less “is this how the world really is?” and more “do *I* want to go this way?” That’s just my point of view, of course 😉

      • rootietoot says:

        How about the ‘little me is a part of the whole big me’ world? that’s really kind of how I see it, tho I do like playing the Devil’s (Not Me) advocate.

        Now as for the Absolute perspective.. then there’s no Absolute? just perspective?

        • Eli says:

          Yes, sort of. Or like a wave with respect to the sea; the wave is “part of” the sea, but it also “is” the sea, and the sea sort of “is” the wave. Next, consider a cup of seawater…

          It’s not really possible to convey in words. If you say “part of” that may sound like the sea is “made” by putting waves together. And a wave is also a wave and a sea is a sea. I think my view is close to what is called “non-duality” – it’s not quite “all is one” but more like “separateness or oneness are both inadequate mind-constructs”, if that makes any sense at all. ^_^;;

          I don’t want to go too much into lack of Absolute perspective; if you believe in God then I suppose you could say God’s perspective is the Absolute perspective. That never quite worked for me: if the meaning of my life derives from God then where does God’s meaning derive from, Euthyphro’s dilemma, etc. But if it works for you, great. I was mostly trying to explain that to me, lack of an Absolute doesn’t seem a sufficient excuse for despair and futility…

  5. Erik says:

    Here in the West, most find the thought of an afterlife comforting, whereas its absence raises anxiety and questions of meaninglessness. In Asian soteriologies, organized around karma, it is the afterlife that terrifies. The thought that life ends here and now, per Ren, would be anxiety-relieving: a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card.

    Karma may be mistaken for a mystical vagary, but it is actually anything but. The essential idea is that all actions have consequences, and that those consequences eventually affect the actors, since everything and everyone are connected by causal chains which implicate us lifetime after lifetime.

    The Asian imagination conceives of terrible retributions for malefaction. The sutras describe in great detail boiling hells, freezing hells, slicing hells, screaming hells, stinging hells, scratching hells ad infinitum. You can see them visually depicted in the Taiwanese Hell Scrolls, which make the Saw movies look like Mary Poppins.

    • rootietoot says:

      Guess it’s a good thing I’m Western, then…we do also see terrible retribution for malefaction. However, there’s that Christian get-out-of-jail-free card that many people find so problematic. The one where “if you believe you gt to go to heaven no matter what you did in this life” it doesn’t appeal to most folks sense of justice, even many Christians. I have to use the Christian example because it’s what I know, i don’t know Asian concepts well at all.

      • Erik says:

        Belief universal salvation has a long history in Christianity, dating back to the early church fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa. It never really has been a majority belief. Augustine ‘s critique did great damage, from which it never fully recovered. One could argue that the belief resurfaced in a corrupt and partial way in medieval Christianity via the practice of indulgences. You could purchase from the Church not salvation per se but obviation or lessening of purgatorial punishment for venial sins. Luther and Calvin put a stop to that arrangement, and Protestantism has largely rejected universal salvation. I rue the removal of purgatory from our cosmology: if we think of the universe as a building, we have lost the middle story. And a place where West might meet East. This is of limited or strictly academic interest to those who firmly disbelieve in the afterlife, but it is more compelling for those of us who propose that energy never disappears but rather takes new form — and that consciousness or spirit or soul may be implicated in the process.

        • rootietoot says:

          My belief is this: I’ll figure it out when I get there. Part of me says I’m RIGHT because I’m RIGHT, another part says…but what about the zillions of people elsewhere who believe something else and think they’re right? I’ll figure it out when I get there.

          • Erik says:

            Our Buddhist friends might say that you are there already: you eternally possess Buddha nature. Which has been translated into our bumper-sticker culture as “wherever you go, there you are.” In other words, it is not about going somewhere: it is about developing awareness here. I think Jesus could be heard saying something similar.

    • @Erik: Have you ever read the story of Mulian rescuing his mother from Hell? There were all those very vivid hell scenarios you mentioned.

      • Erik says:

        I know that “Mulian Rescues His Mother” is a very famous story but must admit I have never read it. I think the setting is Avici Hell — a particularly bad one because one keeps getting reborn into it. Love the good son/bad mother theme! Very appealing to the bratty 2 year-old boy in me.

  6. Roy Kay says:

    >YOU do things because you WANT to, good or bad, regardless of meaning. You do them because YOU want to.

    Want to or are conditioned to. (Yuck. That sounded a little RadFemmy.) One good reason to seize and hold agency is to go more with personal wants than to bounce off other people’s bumpers. That, at least make you more ALIVE.

    Me? I want meaning. So I give meaning to things and try to make that method coherent. But yeah. It only reflects me and those who choose to ally with me.

    • Eli says:

      Yeah, regarding conditioning: can you want yourself to want something you don’t want? Can you refrain from thinking about a blue monkey? Who is the agent that wants, really, when I want to go raid the fridge? ::ponders::

  7. sybil disobedience says:

    Conversely, you don’t think anything matters because you choose to..

    The big picture does it matter is a question no one has an absolute answer to. No empirical evidence either way, no falsifiable evidence to test…nada. So claiming anything matters, everything matters or nothing matters is a matter of opinion. Which is a choice.

  8. sybil disobedience says:

    Science is my awesomesauce. *L*

  9. There was a really good line in “Angel”, but I don’t wanna fuck it up with my incorrect paraphrasing but it was in the same vein of what you said.

    Regarding an afterlife….I really don’t know. But in the end, it doesn’t matter really what I think or feel about it. It’s done. Of course thinking that one can change any post-death outcome is an exercise in futility. Let it go. Enjoy now.

  10. Stone Fox says:

    i find myself asking this question: if death is final, and we are nothing but worm food once we kick it, where did we come from?

    i believe fully in reincarnation; it is the most natural progression after death. everything on the earth is cyclical, why would man’s physical and spiritual forms be any different? in a roundabout way, the death of one is the birth of another (sort of).

    so where do we come from? where did the very first spark of life originate?

    • Ren says:

      i don’t know.

      • Stone Fox says:

        isn’t that kind of a large hole to have in one’s system of beliefs?

        • Dw3t-Hthr says:

          It doesn’t really have all that much relevance, I think.

          The ancient Celts had no creation myth we know of; the closest we have is the Book of Invasions from Ireland, which is basically, “There was a land here, and some people invaded it, and some other people invaded it, and some other people invaded it, and we invaded it, and that’s where we come from.”

          What is matters more than the contingencies of where it once was. To the extent that the once-was is relevant, it’ll be because it’s writ large on what is.

          • Stone Fox says:

            the once-was may not be as relevant as the what-is, but that does not make the once-was irrelevant.

            because i had never heard of the Book of Invasions, i wiki’d it. the article states that the first book, Genesis, is a “re-telling of the Judeo-Christian story of the creation of man.” not accurate?

            i am struggling to see this perspective: knowing the origin of man – as much as one can ‘know’ – is simply unimportant.

            it is too big of a missing piece for me.

            • Dw3t-Hthr says:

              Heh – I’d forgotten, if I knew, that the Book of Invasions had Christian content, though I suppose pretty much all surviving Irish myth went through that filter. I mean the previous stuff that the collators tacked Genesis on to.

              My religion doesn’t have an origin-of-man myth either, for what it’s worth. And I suspect in that case it’s pretty much a “what, you think you’re a special case? we don’t have an origin story for giraffes either”. Or lemurs. Lemurs are funnier to say than giraffes, I think.

              I just … honestly, I have a hard time grasping the potential relevance of ‘origin of man’ stuff. I mean, there’s the scientific abiogenesis perspective, which has relevance to a narrow subfield of theoretical science, but theoretical science has a spectacular lack of relevance to most of life, which is why it wasn’t invented until comparatively recently. (Don’t tell my dad the theoretical physicist I said that.)

              I mean, I can natter on about emergent properties (if I’m babbling in sciencemode) or 0=2 (if I’m babbling in theoretical magical mysticism) or talk about the nature of difference and diversity (if I’m babbling theology) or a couple of other things, all of which are basically saying the same thing anyway, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that it’s just wanking off my inner nerd in that “this conversation is so deep at three in the morning” kind of way.

              (Speaking of which, I got Little Foot to sleep, so I should stop wanking off my inner nerd and go to sleep already.)

              • Stone Fox says:


                i don’t know what you said after your religion doesn’t have an origin of man story. your inner nerd has sufficiently kicked my inner nerd’s ass what with all the $0.50 words. 😉

                i like the theory of evolution myself.

            • rootietoot says:

              I think where we were is incredibly relevent to who we are. The creation story, the fall of humanity to sin through Adam and Eve are explantions in the simplest terms of *why* we are the way we are and *why* a relationship with our creator and redeemder are so very necessary. Mind you, I don’t believe in the absolute literal version of creation and a single Adam and Eve, but I think the stories were passed on through oral and then written history so simple minded folk like me could get a grasp on human nature. Knowing *why* and *how* enables us in the present to affect a change in ourselves, thus affecting the present and the future, since we can’t change the past.

        • Ren says:

          it would be if I thought it mattered, but I don’t. I don’t say that to be mean or snarky…but that i what I think.

          I belleive in god…who probably started it, but I do not think he is here anymore.

  11. Rachel S. says:

    I agree with you that the only reason anyone ever does anything is because they want to. It’s a pretty solid principle of winning friends and influencing people.

    But, I have a question for you. You’ve mentioned several times that you are Jewish (or of Russian Jewish descent — IIRC), and there’s a particular Rabbinic view of the afterlife that has it sectioned off in a weird way and seems to involve zombies in the middle somewhere. See, (for those who don’t know), the Rabbis from the Talmud put together a view of life and death that occurred thusly:
    1. birth
    2. life
    3. death
    4. temporary after-life where your “soul” leaves and goes off to play Bingo or something in limbo, and your body goes into the ground; this separation continues until the Messiah comes and then
    5. zombies – Messianic times are supposed to be pretty nasty, and all the souls and bodies of everyone who ever died are reunited so they can be judged
    6. ???

    So, my question to you, Ren, could you endorse a vision of an afterlife that involves temporary oblivion, followed by zombies who are judged by g*d, followed by permanent oblivion?

  12. Dw3t-Hthr says:

    Me, I’m of the opinion that an afterlife fundamentally doesn’t matter, so despite being a religious nutjob I pretty much align with you on this one.

    Now is what counts here. Which means extracting the living one can and generating the benefit one can for real people here and now, not in the hopes of scoring a better Afterlife Cookie.

  13. sybil disobedience says:

    The Zombie Apocalypse! I have a ZA plan. So fair warning to anyone who comes back a zombie, you will be headless soon. Because I plan on shooting some zombies. Ok, a lot of zombies. Ok, every single zombie that gets within shotgun range. And possibly some I have to chase down.

  14. rootietoot says:

    Target *does* have camping supplies, coleman fuel and vaseline, so you *could* make napalm.

  15. sybil disobedience says:

    I’d raid walmarts and targets on my way to the middle of nowhere. Those places are just zombie traps. Find a farmhouse, maybe around Amish communities. Place is already set up to survive with no electricity and they have good irrigation from fresh water sources. Stock up on dried goods and hunt local cattle and chickens for protein. Board up all windows and doors, except 2 doors for escape hatches (lightly barricaded so you can get out quick) plus they have cellars, so you can store food and cooking items there too, in case you need to hole up in one. It’s far enough away from people that you have fewer to worry about (both alive and undead) and flat land so you can see anyone coming and pick em off as needed.

    • Any large supermarket would be a zombie trap. Don’t forget to hit up a gas station or two (though I would have to hit up a car dealership first, or maybe snap up one o’ those snazzy CTA buses). Good call on getting a farmhouse though the land would hopefully be flat, I still worry about SO much land around and having to run all that way in case I get overwhelmed by the zombies.

      And how did you, me and Rootie get on the subject of ZA planning? It’s hilarious how many plans I DO have in place without really realizing it.

  16. sybil disobedience says:

    Oh, once you have time you can armor the shit out of an RV. And after pilfering solar panels and tweaking the bus you won’t need gas. Also, horses are easy transportation. Clydesdales can be armored too. And taught to stomp the fuck out of anything attacking. War horses….yessss….precioussss.

  17. sybil disobedience says:

    Most conversations I’m in end with the ZA.

  18. sybil disobedience says:

    BTW- This is all contingent on them being slow moving Romero-esque Zombies. For any rage zombie or fast zombie, an armoured RV would be the long term living situation. Roam town to town, pillaging when needed. Again, you can eliminate the need for gas and outfit it to remove obstacles on the road. Hopefully you can find others and convoy.

  19. rootietoot says:

    HOw about a Walmart distribution center? There’s one about 2 miles from here, and the doors are all roll-down metal reenforced jobs with multiple locks, not to mention the 18 wheelers and nearly limitless gas supply. And guns and vaseline 🙂 I still vote for walmart, all that food and bedding and guns and vaseline. It’s also way closer than Pennsylvania or Indiana/.

    Then there’s the whole Steven King “The Stand” scenario where the good guys just carry waht they need and stock up from town to town. That’s probably what I’d do, with a dog to keep guard.

    My parents were survivalists, thus the gas/vas knowhow.

  20. sybil disobedience says:

    If the ZA hits when it’s closed, how would you get in? What about people in there who already had that idea and beat you to it? Or constantly having to defend it from looters or decide if people can join? Scared people with guns. Nope. I don’t trust strangers, it will all have to be close family and friends. No more than 8, otherwise it’s too hard to control. So holing up in a business that everyone and their dog will think of first isn’t in my plan. I’m holing up away from people. There are enough ranches out and about down here that I wouldn’t have to head to Amish country, but that would be the ideal goal since everything is already set up to be self sufficient.

  21. sybil disobedience says:

    I want long term, self sufficiency.

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