THE MEANING OF LIFE

Lady Presenter: Well, that's the end of the film. Now, here's the meaning of life.
[She is handed a gold-wrapped booklet.]

Lady Presenter: Thank you, Brigitte.
[She clears her throat, then unwraps and examines the gilt booklet.]

Lady Presenter: Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, the only way, these days, to get the jaded, video-sated public off their fucking arses and back in the sodding cinema. Family entertainment, bollocks! What they want is filth! People doing things to each other with chainsaws during Tupperware parties. Babysitters being stabbed with knitting needles by gay presidential candidates. Vigilante groups strangling chickens, armed bands of theatre critics exterminating mutant goats… Where's the fun in pictures? Oh, well, there we are. Here's the theme music. Goodnight.

The producers would like to thank all the fish who have taken part in this film. We hope that other fish will follow the example of those who have participated, so that, in future, fish all over the world will live together in harmony and understanding, and put aside their petty differences, cease pursuing and eating each other and live for a brighter, better future for all fish, and those who love them. — Monty Python

On Nihilism

If annihilation refers to destruction, is nihilism about creation? "For the believer in nothing, does nothing exist?" Many have wrongly attributed this as the implication of 'nihilism': "I believe in nothing", or "I do not believe". The statements "Nothing exists" and "Causality is unjustified" more properly refer to 'skepticism': "Truth cannot be known" or "Knowledge can not exceed approximation". Nihilism is also often confused with annihilation: "Nothing exists" is replaced by "Destroy everything". On the contrary, nihilism suggests the antithesis to proceeding from ideology, and therefore might even be considered a prelude to creativity - not being hamstrung by a set of rigid beliefs - rather than to destruction. There is much value in this approach if change is desired.

What we already have throughout the world is annihilation - 'without nihilation'. Nihilism is the annihilation of annihilation: the annihilation of despair, the annihilation of scarcity, the annihilation of exploitation and alienation. If these features are seen to characterize the totality of the modern world, then it is appropriate to suggest that nihilist anarchy promotes total destruction. But there is a danger in this position. Nihilism reverts to Annihilism, which is the philosophy of the rulers - the "powers that be". It sets up the equation - "nihilism equals dynamite".

What needs annihilated is the logic of exploitation and oppression and despair and the behaviors this logic gives rise to. If a revolution is not about changing the ways we think and behave, then it is nothing.

As I said before, "Nihilism suggests the antithesis to proceeding from ideology, and therefore might even be considered a prelude to creativity." Thus, the annihilation of conquest (anti-war, anti-imperialism, etc.) becomes "the conquest of nothing", and gives "nothing" life - "life" becomes "something".

A Mathematical Proof on the General Equivalence of Art, Science and Religion Through the Application of Imagination:  Mathematics is the dispassionate language of science which informs us of the precise equivalence of the greatest number below zero (nil, nothing) and the smallest number above zero. While the numbers themselves are negative in the first case and positive in the second, the actual space they take up between zero and the next smallest (or largest) point on a line is not only identical in value or measure, but the value of that measure (the total number of points contained within each interval) is equal to the sum total of the all the points on that line ... and more. This is so reasonable to the mathematician that it needs no further explanation. We call this number "Infinity", representing both the smallest and largest of quantities. Epicurus gave us the proof of this concept with the question, "If one came to the end of everything, bored a hole through the edge, and stuck his arm through the hole, to where then would the fist be?"

There are, however, some mathematical formulations which have perplexed even the greatest minds in the intellectual history of mathematics. Given the assumption that mathematics, the purest form of reason, will provide an answer for any question, a solution to any problem if only properly formulated, the question was posed "What is the solution to the square root of negative 1?" Since no human or natural law has been discovered which could support such an abomination of nature and logic, the only solution was the creation of an imaginery number denoted by the symbol i. Some might think "this is funny!" Humor is usually derived from the juxtaposition of disparate elements processed by the imagination. Einstein suggested that when all is said and done, "the only sense left is a sense of humor". Hence, the sense of mathhematics ultimately fails when performed dispassionately and can only be defended by H. L. Menkin's famous reply in a letter to a critic:

Dear Sir (or Madame),

You may be right.

Imagination provides the mathematical support for the refusal to admit defeat. Yet the great mathematicians have all turned to metaphysics rather than comedy, for mathematics carried far enough always leads to grand epistemical and ontological questions and in fact, to the ultimate question itself on life, the universe and everything. While Epicurus might have stated that "your guess is as good as mine", modern minds simply create solutions through revelation (like imaginery numbers, quantum particles or even black holes) which suffice to quiet our wondering minds if enough grant money can be allocated to place them in the text books.

Pascal, 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, considered one of the great minds in Western intellectual history, deduced that "revelation can be comprehended only by faith, which in turn is justified by revelation. Pascal's writings urging acceptance of the Christian life contain frequent applications of the calculations of probability; he reasoned that the value of eternal happiness is infinite and that although the probability of gaining such happiness by religion may be small it is infinitely greater than by any other course of human conduct or belief". - J. Lennart Berggren

Much the same has been said by various scholars for both Art and Science giving us the historical period called "Enlightenment". My question is three-fold:

  1. "Can infinite/eternal happiness be derived without quantification of finite/immediate probability in living?" and
  2. "Are happiness and living mathematically (reasoned), empirically (observed) or phenomenologically (felt) related?" and
  3. "In the equation, how is finite happiness quantified?"

The Situationists have informed us of another possible answer to this dilemma:

In the consumer's manipulated view of things -the view of conditioning - the lack of life appears as insufficient consumption of power and insufficient self-consumption in the service of power. As a palliative to the absence of real life we are offered death on an instalment plan. A world that condemns us to a bloodless death is naturally obliged to propagate the taste for blood. Where survival sickness reigns, the desire to live lays hold spontaneously of the weapons of death: senseless murder and sadism flourish. For passion destroyed is reborn in the passion for destruction. If these conditions persist, no one will survive the era of survival. Already the despair is so great that many people would go along with Antonin Artaud who said: "l bear the stigma of an insistent death that strips real death of all terror for me." - Vaniegem
The secret of the misery of daily life is the real State secret...The Spectacle is nothing but the private property of the means of publicity, the state monopoly of appearances. With it, only the circulation of commodities remains public. The Spectacle is nothing but the circulation of commodities absorbing all available means of publicity, thus condemning misery to invisibility. The spectacle is the secret form of public misery, where value operates implacably while the deceived gaze only meets things & their use. — Jean Pierre Voyer

What then is nihilism?

Rational Nihilist Empiricism: "I Do not believe. But I do believe in nothing. Since everything reduces to nothing ('it is nothing to me'), I believe in everything, but not necessarily in just anything. Nothing is void and space but cannot be perceived except from the perspective of a 'not-void', or 'something'. Therefore I believe everything which exists does exist, whether I myself do or do not. Hence, I believe in you. I demand, therefore, that something may or may not exist."

Nihilist totalitarianism (mysticism): "Without space (no thing) between somethings, every thing would be onething and neither something nor nothing nor even I therefore would exist. That only leaves god, whom I reject since his existence would preclude my own - I become annihilated, which also annihilates onething since I am now nothing and god himself disappears. From this I can conclude that I am not René Descartes, since he also is god because he alone thinks and thus is - the one acknowledged creator of worlds."

We can now posit a nihilist absurdism, which properly states that pure logic (rationality) consequences in absurdist superficiality if carried out to conclusion. "I therefore most confidently affirm that all affirmations are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, true and false and meaningless in some sense." - Sri Syadasti

Nihilist epistemology, on the other hand, suggests we should distinguish what we believe from what we know, and only proceed from the latter. It does not, therefore, diverge from the science of cause and consequence. Skeptical epistemology suggests that since we cannot actually know anything and that beliefs are pointless, we should therefore proceed only with our hands firmly held to our ass. Some Eastern mystics proclaim that we should not even proceed.

From the standpoint of nihilist relativity, that "there are no absolutes" and "this is absolutely certain" do not present contradiction. Relativity annihilates Kant's categorical imperative. Neither does the statement "We now know that nothing is known" cause a problem - contradictions are acceptable precisely because differing relative standpoints are expected. In the realm of linguistics, meaning is always context sensitive - dictionaries are only tourist guides. Life itself cannot be extracted from its context. Relativity can be summed up by John Muir's statement, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." Relativity both destroys and rescues logic. If logic is itself subject to relativity and therefore multiplicity, then we may also speak of the logic of passion, and even that grand opposition between reason and passion breaks down without a whimper. The distinction between being and nothingness likewise withers away by the same logic which destroys the chicken-or-egg paradox: "The universe is 'nothsome', or constitutes a matrix of 'somenothingness'".

If space-time is a blanket, the fabric is nothing, woven of big, tiny explosions of creativity cross-hatched with their own destruction. There is infinite space between the threads, which is to say, almost none whatsoever and quite a lot, depending on your perspective. Time is merely the relationship between creation and destruction, where creation is a coalescing product, or rather a synonym of our individuality (self or ego) and destruction is its return to nothingness (disintegration - 'death' or 'birth'). [With his atomic metaphor, Epicurus implied that from the level of the molecule, its death (disintegration) is freedom for its formerly constrained, and therefore ordered 'atoms', who go on to collide with others and give birth to new molecules.] The texture of this blanket is that of multiformed tornadoes in constant undulating movement and its color is variegated, bright and twinkling. On occassion these tornadoes invert and become volcanoes. It's kind of a thick, fuzzy blanket, replicating itself in each twinkle. Time is, of course, a perceptual illusion and varies according to size - a day in the life of a mosquitoe is presicely equivalent to three score and ten for the modern hominid. What is perceived as a spark to the latter is a prolonged luminescent tornado to the former (unless, as Einstein suggested, it is travelling very, very fast). There is a spark correlated with each subject-object (somenothing: the 'area' on which creation and destruction intersect), and we call that life. "Life twinkles, then ya die!", or to be more in keeping with the metaphor of the tornado, "Life sucks (and sometimes spews), then ya die!". - Catilina 'Sneaky' Fromb

To the well trained ear, this all wreaks of nonsense, yet the alternative we are expected to buy into, an either/or, black-and-white world of absolute oppositions endlessly struggling for preeminence or annihilation - dialectics, competition and dialectical materialism, or truth being the reductive synthesis of mutually exclusive ideas, wherein which this immanent stress causes all movement - is perfectly acceptable. But, not only is nothing certain, this is the only certainty, and nothing can not be experienced outside of the context of something. Of course, the reverse is also true, which makes context (or gestalt, if you will) not only the primary, but the only order of existence - somethings, nothings, and what has been called "the analytic third", the relationships therein. The study of this is known in some contexts as "ecology" (the study of 'the relationships in the house', or in the absence thereof, 'under a blanket'), and in other contexts, "magic".

There are some ancient schools of thought, for example, as espoused by Parmenides 2500 years ago, which postulate that nothing itself (the "void") can not, by definition exist. Even Aristotle's "law of non-contradiction" can not refute this, although Epicurus, with his atomic theory, put up a pretty good argument at least for "empty space". Aether seemed the only way out of the paradox. The problem is semantic: space should not be equated with "nothingness". Very probably, the whole idea of nothingness did not arrive until mathematicians produced a zero - originally the starting point in a metanarative which did not account for the possibility of infinitely small or infinitely 'early' despite elaborate concepts of immortality. Without a void, there can be no beginning or end.

The most effective nihilist is the nihilist anarchist who proceeds not from the above ideological isms, but from the first principle of first principles: "I will, therefore I can", for there is only one useful will and that is the will to live. Having disposed of efforts to define and refine nihilism, skepticism, empiricism, rationalism, mysticism and even anarchism and all their consequences, only one question remains: "Enough sophistry already, what does it mean to live?" The answer? "It don't mean shit! Life is and then it gets interesting", and as the great poet of the twentieth century proclaimed, "Too much of nothin' just makes a fella mean".

Life is an interconnected web of beings. This is existence, this is life. Without that web we are all nothing. - Kevin Tucker

Suppose time, the illusion that is, were a table-cloth which we could grab at the edge with both hands and yank out from under all existence and discard it over our shoulder into the oblivion of nothingness. We would witness the simultaneity of all being. Yet synchronicity surprises us! We could also experience reciprocity as the only timeless social relation, for the distinction between immediate return and delayed gratification would likewise disappear. Without pondering the great questions of the purpose and reason for life and the pay-off at its end, we might just begin to enjoy it. The goal of the child at play is to continue playing - life contains its own purpose, and that is demonstrated in the "will to live".

 


HOME