Tuesday 30 November 2010

Everything matters or nothing matters: Original sin versus nihilism


There are two basic human possibilities, in confronting existence - either everything matters, or nothing matters.

Both are unbearable.


If everything is significant then nothing is forgotten, we are never alone, souls are eternal, reality is endless, awareness is total. 

If everything matters then either everything which is, is good (despite appearances); or everything which is, is evil - tainted with evil: by sin, by original sin.


If everything which is is good, then we must (merely!) recognize the fact that life as it is, has been and will become, is perfect (or the best possible) - including ourselves. All change is illusory.

(But then why am I so miserable, so appalled? - says human judgment. In practice, the inference is that everything which is, is good - except human judgment, which must - for some unimaginable reason - be deluded.)


If, on the other hand, everything which is, is evil; all is (at least) tainted by sin; then if even just one person, one being, somewhere in the world is suffering (now, or will suffer in the future) then life is invalidated, poisoned.

If we do not recognize the fact, this is because we are tainted with evil ourselves.

We are (at least partly) evil creatures, trying to live in an evil-tainted world - forever without end.

The weight of sin is vast and unbearable.


Either way, good or evil, there is no escape.

We must live with this awareness forever.

And this is hell - or more precisely Hades/ Sheol - the afterworld of eternally witless, gibbering, semi-demented ghosts.

Little wonder that modern humanity tries to escape into the opposite.


Humanity tries to escape from the infinite weight of eternal and universal significance... into nihilism.

Whatever happens is temporary, all evaluations are contingent, life is neither good nor evil overall because these have no real meaning. We live for a while (apparently - but in reality who knows?) - then life is following by... nothing.

For the nihilist: No matter how bad things may seem, at least we can, we will, escape them by death.


Yet nihilism does not stop at that.

Nihilism does not allow us to escape a bad life by death, nor does it wrench us from a good life by death. 

Because if nothing ultimately matters; then actually nothing matters.

Everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen is insignificant despite appearances, despite the evaluations of human judgment (delusion, merely). 

As an instance of awareness, each of us is utterly alone - we know of no other reality: neither things nor people.

Even if there are, or were, or might be, things or people: then nothing lasts.

Even if anything lasted for a while, all moments are (almost instantly) lost in time and space.


Moments may (momentarily) seem eternal and of infinite significance (the world in a grain of sand) but of course in a world where nothing matters we know always that this (or any other positive statement) is nonsense - it means nothing. And we strive not to know this, but always fail: brought down by the relentless weight of accumulating knowledge of insignificance.


The human condition is simple (necessarily so), and there are few alternatives, and all were articulated and recorded by the early literate civilizations - especially by the Greeks and Jews.

We have not moved-on from this - indeed we have moved backwards such that modern man has lost awareness of the human condition.

Affecting to disdain the simplicity of the human condition, modern man pretends that incoherence is complexity!


How come? How is it that our civilization is so very backward and unintelligent compared with all previous civilizations on record?

The reason is that we are not a pagan society, nor are we a primary monotheistic society: we are a post-Christian society.

As post-Christians (in rejecting Christianity including the assumptions by which we used to know Christianity), moderns  perceive, moderns know, less than nothing about the human condition.

Moderns recognize none of the great simplicities, we think we know things which we do not know, and that which modernity thinks it knows (anyway) makes no sense.


Why are moderns so dumb: so very, very - so incorrigibly dumb?

Yet moderns think they are sooo smart?

In a word: frag-men-tation.

Ultra-specialization (reality reduced to meaninglessly- disconnected fragments) plus distraction (short attention span: really short).

And by a group utterly annihilated (reduced to nothingness by) fragmentation, I mean the intellectual elite.

I mean those people (managers, politicians, media people, 'religious leaders', propagandists of all stripe: teachers) who invented, made-universal and live-by the sound-bite.


Result? Moderns are nihilists whose cognition is so fragmented and dispersed that they cannot even recognize their own nihilism!



Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed something, being a dumb modern and all, but why is "some things matter" not an option?

Also, speaking from experience, it's quite possible to be an atheist and still believe that everything is eternal. The doctrine of eternal recurrence, as popularized by Nietzsche, lends itself naturally to this way of thinking, as does the Einsteinian idea of "block time."

Bruce Charlton said...

Some things matter is, of course, what most people think they believe. But it collapses one way or the other.

Who decides what matters? If it is the individual human, then actually nothing matters. If it is God, then everything matters.

Christianity says everything matters, which would be unbearable - but God will wipe away the sin (on certain conditions) so that only good remains.

Eternal recurrence is just a version of nothing matters. Indeed, it is perhaps close to natural spontaneous belief - since animistic hunter gatherers believe (loosely) that life energies are continually recycyling, reincarnating with variation etc.

But the specific exact recurrence doctrine propounded by Nietzsche was just made up by him as a philosophical argument: he did not believe it and probably nobody ever has. Clearly, nothing matters in such a vision.

I'm not sure what you mean by block time, but Einsteinian physics, on its own and treated as if it included a metaphysics and was a religion, is obviously a nothing matters thing (since like all modern science it excludes anything which might matter from its discourse, a priori).

Of course an atheist can believe that everything is eternal, in the sense that stuff is eternal (like the steady state theory of cosmology). And most pagans also believe this - that the universe always has been always will be.

But in that world view nothing matters.

For anything to matter, the 'mattering' has to be done by something omniscient, eternal etc.

Anonymous said...

I tend to find myself believing and living in a current reality where everything matters, because it does. I have found this reality to be true. I get angry when I have a conversation and/or argument with someone and they say the classic line(s): What does it matter then? or It doesn't matter, k?. That's the part where I feel that I shouldn't have to teach someone why everything matters. Usually, to their simplistic views which I tolerate because I am empathetic, I do not want to explain to them how I have proved that everything matters, pretty long, or be a preacher. It's just basically simple now.

It's like a 0% to 100% slider on a computer, either nothing matters 0%, somethings matter, or everything matters 100%. It's just that in conversations when a person wants to question, What does it matter, or claims it doesn't matter, the obvious is that to just them. That is the point, to them at that moment it doesn't matter, but maybe to you it does matter.

It's just that to them in their Superiority Complexed mind, they want to live in the world where they are the "Judge" they are the one who get's to adjust the slider, on what does and doesn't matter. Which is rude, and ignorant, in a blatant attempt to end an argument in their "Who had the last word or statement" that to them resolves the situation.

I choose to live in a current reality and moment where everything matters because I will take the time to UNDERSTAND you, and what you are saying, by talking time and listening, with compassion to what you are saying and hope that you with listen and understand what I am trying to say.

If you thing nothing matters, you will find yourself realizing eventually that at least 1 thing matters then another thing and then another. It's just that you can't be super-human and realize that everything does matter to at least someone or something...

Unknown said...

Everything matters is what I hope, and what makes it bearable to me is the idea that there can be a slow forgetting over time. A dropping off of one thing or another. Eternal transition, an impermanence to permanence itself.