Optimistic Nihilism

It’s past midnight, you can’t sleep and all you can think about is how large the universe is or wondering if you’ll ever make it and have a stable life with a family and a job and all that.

You feel rather overwhelmed and sometimes even demotivated or you feel that nothing is worth working for and that your existence is meaningless.

What a lot of people think is that it really doesn’t matter. That’s what they call Nihilism.

Nihilism by definition from Wikipedia is:

“The philosophical viewpoint that suggests the denial or lack of belief towards the reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.”

While that may work for some people, it didn’t work for me as it still made me feel purposeless. It doesn’t answer the question “What should I do” or “What’s worth doing?”.

Here’s why our existence actually matters and why you shouldn’t be nihilistic.

All Progress is Accumulative

Throughout all of history, all of the progress that humans have ever made has been based in one way or another on some sort of knowledge/technologies/ideas that those who came before them had left for the future generations.

Scientists like Tesla, Einstein, and many others picked up on the work of the scientists who came before them. None of the progress would’ve happened if all of them just sat throughout their lives and said “Meh, our existence is meaningless anyway.”.

Philosophers, writers, artists, musicians, chefs, great generals, and basically anyone who has contributed with even 0.001% of their life to the world, has helped make the progress we’ve made by today somehow. Even destructive people like Hitler and Stalin, they left us valuable lessons that we’ve learned from, thus taking precautions to make sure the things they did never happen again.

That’s why I live by 4 major rules:

  • Learn something new everyday.
  • Lessen the suffering of others. (Or just don’t be inconsiderate)
  • Teach people what you know, and share your knowledge.
  • Enjoy the little things you can enjoy.

Your contribution doesn’t have to be towards science, it could be towards anything: music, art, cooking, philosophy, sports, pretty much anything you want. Teach people what you know or help those who are less fortunate, contribute to anything you can contribute to and help humanity make more progress.

That made me conclude that it doesn’t matter “Why” we’re here. We’re here and we can’t change that, so we might as well enjoy it while it lasts and make things easier for ourselves and those coming after us. That’s what really matters.

But wait, isn’t the universe going to vanish someday and we are all going to die? What’s the point in any of this?

Well, first of all: we don’t really know if that will surely happen, and we definitely don’t know when. Second of all: even if it will, why would we make our short existence harder for ourselves and the future generations by just doing nothing and not making any progress? It doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a quote from a Reddit AmA by one of the people I really respect.

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

You may be going through an existential crisis right now, which is totally fine. That means you’re curious enough to question things people don’t usually like to question.

Just know that you matter. Your existence may be very small compared to the rest of the universe, but you still exist and you can be effective. You can leave behind something very simple that could make someone else’s life easier later on.

I hope that this post gave you a new perspective that made you feel better somehow.

As always, thanks for reading!