Everything in this article is going to build off of itself so strap up for the ride.
The 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “God is dead”. He took what was in the air of the times; the fall of Christianity, and made it official.
Before this period of history, most parts of the world were in order, due to the structure that religion provided. Around Nietzsches’ time, Darwin also emerged, and gave us evolution, leading to the western world forgetting about spirit, as well as the importance of myth.
The great religious traditions, from the western traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and the eastern traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, all give us similar values. Respect, honor, wisdom, cleanliness, family, tradition. Most importantly, they tell us the story of heaven and hell, or reincarnation, which gives our suffering meaning and gives perspective outside of the materialistic reality of our lives.
Today, there are many ways people relate to metaphysics. There are still many religious people out there. There are also materialistic atheists. There’s also the new age movement, preaching all kinds of nonsense.
The modern seeker might stumble on teachings about enlightenment. The big-fucking-capital E. He’ll read the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Then he’ll check out Sam Harris’ Waking up. He’ll start meditating. Then he’ll meditate some more. He’ll check out Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram. Uh oh. He’ll realize the pragmatic nature of meditation, and that this enlightenment shit is real, and it CAN be achieved, and that it just takes consistency of practice. Fun stuff.
And what he’ll realize, experientially, and empirically, like a motherfucking Jedi/ninja/scientist, is that reality is inherently empty. That all the sensations that makeup reality arise out of nothingness. He’ll continue to let go of this sense of grief, arising from the realization of the true nature of reality, and what it means about the meaning of life.
And yet, although reality is empty, we’re also in the illusion. We can’t run from it. And even after enlightenment, we have still to carry water, chop wood. Jack Kornfield describes the painful reality of life, and how we must face it, enlightenment or not.
And so, the truth-seeker realizes that although waking up is possible, showing up is even more necessary.
Naturally, his curiosity leads him to try and understand what the best way to show up is. And thus, it is perhaps, a return to the beginning. The values of the great traditions were trying to teach us this along.
How to show up.
The truth-seeker is not shy to borrow virtue from wherever he can find, so he studies the Ancient Greeks, the Stoics, mythology through Joseph Campbell, the Randian ideal, scientific data on psychology, happiness, characters of the successful, and Maslow’s theory of self-actualization continues to reconsider what it means to truly show up.
For instance, does the gene-centric view of the world that Richard Dawkins shows us mean that the right thing to do is have a sense of nationalistic pride? Micheal Sander, Harvard professor and author of “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to do” would argue yes. Are we morally obligated to show up as family members, community members? Why is it not the right thing to go off to Columbia with your wild Greek friend to chase girls, hit the gym, and make money by posting your adventures on OnlyFans, instead of staying home in order to stay connected to your family, to work on your career, workout, and take care of your dog?
This requires a dissection.
It could be wrong because it’s betraying yourself. By going off to Columbia, you aren’t actualizing your potential, since time and energy that could have been spent cultivating skills, is now being wasted traveling and partying. On the other hand, going off to Columbia might be the exact experience you need to round out your character into being more relatable? But will Columbia’s experience stick? My experiences have shown that self-improvement is a result of the intentional cultivation of time and energy. Persistence and dedication to doing the same thing over and over again are how you get better at anything. Going off to Columbia might seem like a good idea because it knocks down two birds with one stone; both having a good time and getting out of your shell. In reality, though, it’ll look something like drinking too much and spending too much time money, for a semi-decently fun experience.
An extension to betraying yourself is betraying your genes. The more time you waste not actualizing your potential, the less overall potential you will actualize. The less potential you actualize, the less you produce. The less you produce, the less you earn. The less you earn, the lower down the socio-economic ladder you are. The lower done the socio-economic ladder you are, the lower the number of resources and opportunities you can provide your family members (this has been researched and is also quite obvious). The lower the amount of opportunities available, the more likely it is they will not survive or live prosperous lives.
How does all this relate to Nihilism? A good archetype for a nihilist is the character Shikamaru from Naruto. Shikamaru is the lazy dude, that thinks everything is great. He also ends up being the one that grows up and matures the earliest. We all have a little bit of the former Shikamaru in us. It’s the part of us that wants to do nothing and smoke weed all day.
By realizing why we have a moral obligation to show up for ourselves, our family, our community, the world, and ultimately reality itself, we can automize the right way of conducting ourselves as co-creators of our own realities. The sooner we can automize our behaviors, the more peaceful and prosperous our lives will be. Freedom is knowing what you want and doing it. This leads to flow. Flow means being in the present moment. Being in the present moment increases your chance of enlightenment.
“Enlightenment is an accident, and meditation makes you accident-prone” — John D. Yates, author of The Mind Illuminated.