It is to our detriment when we think there is. My roommate recently said to me in the kitchen, "I struggled with nihilism for a long time, and I finally got over it." The philosopher within my psyche laughs, the philosopher within me whose greatest philosopher-friend is Nietzsche who, in turn, made "the overcoming of nihilism" his "straight line, his path, his goal." Even when Nietzsche himself said that he was the first to have recognized nihilism for what it is and to have traveled through and beyond it, it must ring at least a trifle false, if we take him for the rest of his word of what nihilism is, its extent, and precisely the problem it poses for us.
My roommate is in his early forties, a fit and lean gay man with a knack for the spiritual. This is mentioned solely because when he claimed to have overcome nihilism, it had every appearance of meaning that he had successfully overcome a midlife crisis. And there is a nihilism of sorts in the midlife crisis. That turning point of aging in a man or a woman, when the powers of the heart-and-mind are acknowledged as contingent and finite powers, when all the old projects lose their color and their flare, can be meaninglessness par excellence for the human being experiencing it. But nihilism is not a midlife crisis. Nihilism is not fully captured by the phenomenon of the developmental realization that your place in the world is no longer what you reckoned it to be. A retreat, or the daily practice of meditation, or a beautiful routine and ritual you grow to own and affirm are not answers to nihilism, are not going to "cure" or rid you of nihilism.
Nihilism is in the first orgasm you shared with your beloved, the taste of a perfectly golden pineapple, the sight of the ants helping one another along in their long march, the voting rights won back by the oppressed community, the end of the war, the wedding, the festivals, the dances. Nihilism is at the base, the ground, of all things as the absence of ground, as a meaningless ground, an un-ground. Inescapable meaninglessness. Nihility as the woof and warp even of our meanings.
Ten thousand things and one can save you from your midlife crisis, or from your childhood or adolecent crisis or crisis in old age. Go on the retreat. Gather with friends and share a meal, along with hearty and honest conversation. Explore the depths, meditate upon them. Change your diet, and your other habits, and the perspective you take on what is to come, for you and for the world. Return home from your adventure to teach the home-bound what you learned out there. They will probably work, these techniques of overcoming crises. We find ourselves ready for crises of nearly every sort and find a ready made technique for nearly every one. Techniques like bandages for our critical wounds.
But from some crises only a god can save us, as Heiddeger said in his Der Spiegel interview concerning this crisis of ours. Nihilism calls for, requires grace, "a god," for there to be anything like saving in its realm. Our own schemings, our own demands and wishes, have nothing to do with where nihilism is heading and whether or not it will be overcome. To see even the (k)not of nihilism and say, "This should not be, it shall not be," and rushing headlong into wrestling with it and trying to wrestle ourselves from it, is getting us nowhere, or is getting us everywhere but there nowhere where we belong.
Some wounds cannot be covered over, and it is at our peril when we scramble to do so. Nihilism is such a wound, and at the same time a wound we would most like, are most desperate, to cover over and ignore. But some wounds you cannot ignore. Some wounds demand you have to stare at them a long time to see the wonder in the wound, to behold the god in the wound.
A human being-question chasing after both God and nothingness. The internet is a disaster, but our starlessness might teach us something. I welcome our constant experimenting with ourselves with open arms, for ultimately they are attempts of life at living and growing in life. My dwelling is in Key West, while the dwellings of my loves are Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts and Arizona. These spaces are nothing. Love abides and love embraces.
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