The Optimism in Nihilism
While you’re walking towards your destination (whether it be a dream, success, money, love, happiness, or something else), you might encounter existential questions to the likes of “What makes a human being significant?” or “What gives significance to a human being’s life?” or even the age-old question “What is the meaning of life?”. Well, I’ve got news for you. The answers are respectively “nothing, nothing, and nothing”. As you might have guessed, this does indeed make me a nihilist. However, there are several misconceptions about nihilism, including “It’s a depressing philosophy” or “Nihilists cannot be activists since they believe nothing matters anyway, so they don’t believe any cause is worth fighting for”.
To debunk the first misconception, nihilism isn’t depressing at all. At least, optimistic nihilism isn’t. Optimistic nihilism is a sub-branch of nihilism that focuses on, as the same suggests, the optimism nihilism brings. If you are familiar with nihilism, this may sound like an oxymoron to you. However, this is the reason why optimistic nihilists find nihilism to be the most optimistic and realistic philosophy in existence: It is the only philosophy that truly seeks to free the mind from any and all lies society tries to tell us in order to make us feel better. As Karl Marx once said, religion is the opium of the people, and although most atheists will agree with this, us optimistic nihilists will bring this a step further and find satisfaction in knowing that we do not fall for attempts at giving meaning to things that have no meaning. Since science has led us to believe that probably nothing happens after we die, and eventually humanity will become extinct and the universe will probably eventually freeze over once the last star burns out, we must live up to our full potential. We must not let existential dread prevent us from making something out of ourselves, but we must not try to “solve” it with existentialism, a cousin of nihilism that many nihilists turn to for answers… answers to questions optimistic nihilists believe have no answers. Kurzgesagt’s youtube video “Optimistic Nihilism” explains the core of this philosophy as so: “If our life is the only thing we get to experience, then it’s the only thing that matters.” Aka: YOLO. According to Optimistic Nihilism, you only live once, so you have to appreciate it and make the best out of it.
This leads me to debunking the second misconception, about how “nihilists cannot be activists”. Well, I just explained how we believe the meaninglessness of life isn’t an excuse to not get things done – it’s just the brutal truth. You cannot give meaning to your life because your life is much too important to be restrained to one simple meaning. A human being’s life is insignificant, which is why it doesn’t matter if we make mistakes or if we fail, because when we die, no one is going to remember our mistakes and failures. We only live once, so wasting our life not doing anything to contribute to our society would be an astronomical waste of human life. Optimistic Nihilists make the best activists because they literally have nothing to lose! We don’t care if we fail the first, second or fifth time. We will persevere until we have reached our goal so that when we die, we are satisfied with the life we have lived. Because an Optimistic Nihilist’s greatest fear is to waste the limited amount of time we have on Earth doing nothing.
The point of this article was not to convert you to Optimistic Nihilism, far from it. Optimistic Nihilists do not claim to know if there really is nothing after death or if our philosophy is the correct one. We simply do not care, for we believe the most important thing to remember in life, is that Socrates was right: we know nothing. We cannot know if our outlook on life is accurate in the slightest, but we can use it as a tool to remind ourselves that we are just a microscopic living being on a relatively small planet among countless others, rotating around a relatively dim star, and we are ever drifting in space inside the Milky Way…. and that’s okay, because none of it matters. All that matters is what you decide to do with your life.
By Sophie Dufresne