Life is beautiful, isn’t it? You wake up in the morning, go to school, have fun with friends and return home to your parents to tell them all the stories that happened during the day while you were in school. You are at the prime time of your life, enjoying the “Flower of youth” and yes, sometimes things happen around you with your friends or perhaps a quarrel between your family and you might seem upsetting but what’s there to fear? We only have one life, right? So why not experience it? Getting hurt to learn something new along the way isn’t so bad either. Thus, I present to you the thoughts of a naïve child entering his teenage years.
Now let’s ask that child to answer some of the most debated, thought of and mysterious questions humanity has yet to answer. “What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?”, that simple child may not be able to comprehend the depth of such a question but what if even the most straight forward answers may only lead to a deeper part of the question?
There are multiple perspectives, philosophies and thoughts on this topic since it decides whether our life is actually worth it or not? However, since there are various ways to look at it, how about we start from something that signifies the opposite of what normal accept as their “meaning of life”. We arrive at “Nihilism”
What is Nihilism?
Nihilism is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy that goes against generally accepted aspects of life and other entities. It negates the widely accepted ideas by creating a base where no beliefs are given significance to.
“What does Nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking “why?” finds no answer.” - Friedrich Nietzsche (Nihilism) 1887.
There are four types of Nihilism
Moral Nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is right or wrong. – Sinnot Armstrong Walter “Moral Skepticism” 2019
Epistemological Nihilism is a form of philosophical skepticism according to which knowledge does not exist, or, if it does exist, it is unattainable for human beings. – Crosby, Donald A. (1998). "Nihilism". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor and Francis.
The insignificance of humanity can only be realized after
looking at the reality that surrounds us. We might love to
think and justify our lives as meaningful for self-satisfaction
but is it truly what we believe it to be?
Cosmic Nihilism is the position that reality or the cosmos is either wholly or significantly incomprehensible and that it provides no foundation for human aims and principles. Veit Walter (2018) “Existential Nihilism The only really serious philosophical problem”.
Existential Nihilism negates the meaning of life. – Crosby, Donald A. (1998)
That being said, let me ask you the same question that earlier was asked to the naïve child. What would you say? Indeed a positive side or perhaps a rather unsettling one? We all have different perspectives on what life’s true meaning is since different people will only live with a different purpose. Our human brains won’t simply accept that life has no meaning because for millions of years humanity believed they were special. We thought that we were the center of the solar system but soon realized that we weren’t, we looked up to the night sky and thought the stars were watching over us, but it’s not. Humanity slowly realized the unsettling side of reality only recently and therefore, those millions of years believing that we were special have only grown deeper inside us. We search for meaning in every course of action we make. But there are rare people who believe that their lives are meaningless. In the same way, that naïve child we talked about earlier can’t destroy his perfectly peaceful view of life since it satisfies him. But despite everything, for the sake of the topic let’s look at life from a different angle
The universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old; our solar system is 4.57 billion years old; our earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old and our ancestors came only around 6 million years while life on earth itself began 3.5 billion years ago. So, may I ask what percentage of time do you assume humanity has spent comparing to these gigantic figures? And it should also be noted humanity only developed technology 2 million years ago which are stone tools (electricity has only been available since 1882). We haven’t spent a mere fraction of the time compared to such figures and even though we have a rough estimate of our history it can be said that it passed at an impressive pace.
Our universe is massive, it consists of super clusters which consists of clusters which consists of local groups which consists of galaxies and amongst it we live orbiting a medium sized star made of gas. You can try to comprehend the estimation of the size of the universe but I assure you, it might not turn out the way you want it to. The time we have spent is nothing in comparison to such humongous figures and the biology that makes you alive will only last so long. If you’re lucky to be alive for 100 years it still won’t be significant enough to make any difference. Any success you may achieve in this life will be forgotten in a few short generations; there will always be someone else to take the spot lights to your success after your biology stops functioning. The dynamic system that makes you will stop creating processes to continue functioning, leading to the beginning of the end of your existence.
We humans can’t certainly make any difference and even if we were given time, we would never achieve the ability to create anything significant enough to change space itself, will we? Or perhaps we might but the point is, we will never know it.
The insignificance of humanity can only be realized after looking at the reality that surrounds us. We might love to think and justify our lives as meaningful for self-satisfaction but is it truly what we believe it to be? However, no one can truly judge if life is meaningful or not since the definition of life itself is different for every individual and that itself makes life interesting, to be able to witness a different angle from which you can view life every day from a different individual.
Nihilism can be said to be a rather depressing way to view life even though it is quite true in the sense of logic. However, every perspective is based on a valid reason and in contrast to that it can be said that there are countless perspectives of life, like paintings from artists all around the world and I dare say, each of them is a masterpiece in their own way.
As a parting question, I would like to ask is the simplicity behind the answer of the naïve child is more potent than that of the claimed truth of Nihilism?
The answer to this question might just decide how you view your own life as well.
Anindo Ibrahim is an eighth-grader at BAF Shaheen English Medium School and College