To the (un)Happy Nihilist

Dearest unhappy nihilist,

You do not know me, but I write to you as a brother. (Excuse me if I have mistaken your gender. Remember, I do not know you.) I know that, in your current place, the brotherhood relationship can have no value, but I invoke the relationship as a way to tell you this: We are from the same philosophical family, which is just to say that you and I have lived under the same roof with that bastard of a father, Nihilism.

You and I have suffered together the presence of His absence. He abandoned us because that is his character. That is how he shows himself. If we were wiser, we would have expected nothing more, or shall I say nothing less? We have suffered his present-absence on those quiet nights when we have looked up at the cold and uncaring sky, when we have contemplated the vastness of the earth and our next-to-thing-ness among it all, when we have come to that same breathtaking truth Solomon discovered many years ago: Everything is nothing. All is vanity, a chasing after the wind.

I am sorry, dear brother, to stab you again with those words. The wound I inflict here, however, is necessary. “Necessary for what?”, you ask. You are both angry and suspicious with your question. Angry, because you have been mildly successful at forgetting the present-absentness of our father. (Be not excessively angry, dear Brother, for you and I know that forgetfulness of this kind can be rekindled as easily as it is disturbed.) You are suspicious because the phrase “Necessary for” hints at some goal for one’s actions, and if we really are brothers, then neither of us can have such goals. Your suspicion is correct, and this is the purpose of my letter to you.

Indeed, brother, it turns out that the declaration of our brotherhood might only be half-true. I write to you now from the home of a different philosophical family. Yes, your suspicion is confirmed with clarity: I have disowned our father, Nihilism. I am writing to invite you to do the same. Be not unchangeably incredulous at the possibility of this suggestion, dear brother. I know that you have attempted a thousand times to disown our father before, but I want to suggest to you a new way.

This new way came to me as I was conversing with another brother of ours. It came as we were wallowing in that shit hole that is our father’s house. I will present this new way as it occurred to me, in dialogue with a brother.

Brother19385736: The problem is contingency!

Brother492001: Ah, yes! Contingency! That is what is wrong with this house! It always changes. There is no stability. There is no guarantee that it will not be swept away.

Brother19385736: And to make matters worse, we live in a tumultuous town.

Brother492001: You are right.

Brother19385736: I know I am.

Brother492001: Why do we talk about these things?

Brother19385736: AH! How many times must I tell you that you must not ask questions of that kind.

Brother492001: I’m sorry. I can’t help it. But now the question has been raised, and so we must proceed as usual.

Brother19385736: Yes we must. But can we make this the last time that we do this? I’m tired of this same process. We ask. We answer that there is no answer. We experience despair. Then dignity…and then despair again. Then we must try to forget that we asked such questions. We must forget the “why’s” and ask only “what’s.”

Brother492001: You don’t think I’m tired of that too? I think that’s why I have to keep asking the question.

Brother19385736: Ha! What hope is there in asking the question a 19385737th time? Do you suspect your reason will finally come to aid you? Both Reason and our father left. They were brothers. Don’t you remember?! Have you not felt forsaken?

Brother492001: Of course I remember. It is not the aid of reason I seek here. I know that it has left us. I am simply hoping that we will get lucky this time.

Brother19385736: My young brother, I will entertain your wasted hope.

Brother492001: Sometimes I wonder, brother, if it is really strange to hope for such luck. After all, were we not just discussing contingency? Were we not just remarking upon the possibility of an unlucky occurrence? Why then do we suppose that we cannot get lucky this time?

Brother19385736: AH! You asked it again! Twice the shame. Twice the pain.

Brother492001: My apologies, brother. Back to original “why.” Shall we?

Brother19385736: I suppose we shall.

At this point, brother, I could bore you with all of the details of our conversation, but these details were nothing but the conversation that all of us brothers have had. We weighed the evidence for and against the existence of God or Meaning or Value etc. We thought, in other words, about the possibility of us having a different father than Nihilism. And as usual, we concluded that the truth was that we were stuck with Nihilism even though he was a most terrible father.

I became surprisingly angry at this conclusion. I did not know that I had that passion left in me still. I was angry at our father. I was frustrated that luck did not pull us through. I began punching the walls around us and destroying furniture in our father’s house.

Brother19385736: What are you doing?

Brother492001: That bastard! He left us!

I threw down the bookshelf that was leaning against the wall. The works of Nietzsche, Goethe, Hesse, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky were strewn across the floor. They were staring up at me now.

Brother19385736: He left us, but he’s here too at the same time. Don’t you see? This will not help. Remember, this is our lot. This is our dignity. We’ve worked hard to build this house. This is all we have, and all that we can have. Do not destroy it.

Brother492001: But Why!

Brother19385736:AHHHHHHHHH!

We sat in silence. And then, a new question was formed in my mind. This question was the luckiest thing that has ever occurred. I was excited to ask it. I knew not where it would take me, but because it was a new question, I thought there might be a new answer.

Brother492001: Why don’t we leave him.

Brother19385736: We can’t do that.

We both realized that he had just done something that we did not think was possible. We gave an answer to the “why” question. How could we give such an answer? We are children of the man who taught us not to ask “why.” We are children of the man who showed us that to ask “why” is pointless because there is no meaning to anything at all. There is no justification for this place that we found ourselves in, and thus, there is no justification for the questions that we ask in this absurd place.

Brother492001: But why can’t we?

We were silent.

Brother19385736: Because the truth is that he is our father.

And as soon as the words left his lips, he made the same realization as I did. He had the same questions.

Brother492001: What is truth to us, brother? Why should we care that Nihilism truly is our father? Has he not taught us that truth is nothing but perspective? Has he not taught us that truth is not worth a rat’s ass? Has he not made himself equal among the imaginary fathers that we might run away to?

Silence.

Brother19385736: To delude ourselves is…it is beneath us.

Brother492001: Is it not what we try to do anyway?! Look at us. We rush to and fro around this house. Cooking. Eating. Drinking. Sexing. Cleaning. When we finally sit down after it all, we sit and answer the “what” questions and refuse to ask the “why’s.” Why not a more radical deception?

Brother19385736: It is impossible.

Brother492001: Oh is it? Contingency! It is not the problem, brother. It is the solution. We make a mockery of the frailty and mutability of human existence. We lament our broken reason. We poke fun at our limited cognitive capacities. We sulk about the amazing ability of humanity to deceive ourselves. These are precisely the things we can use to leave our father. They are our supplies. They are our food and water, our tent and pillow, our map and our compass.

Brother19385736: No they are not!

Brother492001: We can embark on that journey into the desert of delusion! We can leave this place that is both forsaken and infested by Nihilism, our father! And when we have walked a thousand miles, when we have forgotten our name and where we live, when we feel that we are barely alive, we will see a mirage. Yes, a mirage! And it will be the house of our new father! I do not know his name, but he will welcome us because He will be everything we ever hoped for! Come, brother, let us leave now!

Brother19385736: We cannot.

Brother492001: But why?

Brother19385736 screamed more than I had ever heard before. He tore his clothes. He dug his fingernails into his face. He beat his breast. He threw himself on the floor and writhed. He wept. He utter profanities. He sprinted around the room a hundred times. He tripped and fell…And laying there with a bloodied face and a bruised breast, he spoke as the most honest man who ever lived.

Brother19385736: I like it here.

But I did not, dear brother. I was tired of that place. And I write to you because you too might also be tired. There is a chance that you are like my older brother. You may enjoy living with our father, the bastard. Insofar as we are brothers, we both see that the choice is absolutely yours whether you stay or leave.

But if you leave, leave completely! Read not another word of one of our brothers! Make this the last contact you have with your brethren. Truly strike out into the desert. Listen intently to the delusions of others. You may find, like I did, that those delusions start to sound and look like Truth.

And now because I’ve said that word, you might say that we not brothers at all. And maybe you’re right. But I am now in a place where our relationship means something. It has value, and thus, I felt the urge to write to you. It is my deepest hope either that I will see you soon or that you may find what you are looking for in your current house. Either way, I want you to be well. If you decide to make the journey, my prayers and best wishes will be with you.

Your former-eternal-brother,

Matthew

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