“God is dead! He remains dead! And we have killed him.” ~Nietzsche
There are no gods. We are abandoned to freedom. We are, each of us, cast adrift on an existential ocean captaining a ship of one, trying vainly to make sense of a universe that seems determined to remain senseless.
Isolated. Marooned. Cut off from ever being able to know what it’s all about. Doomed to a Truth Quest that will never reveal “the Truth.” Moored to a lay line of either making the journey the thing or floundering in naïve expectations. We either subsume absurdism and laugh at the absurdity of it all or it consumes us, and we die slowly or, even worse, we live inauthentically.
Existence doesn’t make any sense. And it never will make sense. We’re stuck with that, like an existential thorn in our side. All we have is our curiosity to keep us ahead of it. All we have is the mighty question mark lest we fall victim to the sinister period point. All we have is our sense of humor to outmaneuver the senselessness of it all. And that’s okay.
Because it isn’t senselessness that hurts. What hurts is our naïve expectation that things should make sense. What hurts is our clingy attachment to “everything happens for a reason.” What hurts is that our cultural conditioning (to include especially religious/political indoctrination) has been weighed, measured, and found wanting.
Likewise, God dying doesn’t really hurt. It doesn’t even hurt that it was we who “killed Him.” What really hurts is our immature spiritual ejaculation, our need to force feed nothingness into somethingness, our clingy codependence on “needing” a higher authority in the first place, and our prideful pigeonholing of the incomprehensible into the comprehensible. What hurts is our whiney placation.
We created God to alleviate our death anxiety, to square the circle of infinity, and to pinpoint the improbability of probability. We were a stubbornly vain species, and so we could not help but create “technologies of ecstasy” to help us transcend death. And so, intolerant of reality and the mortality it imposed upon us, we created God, the ultimate technology. The absolute Somethingness that we ushered in to trump the absolute Nothingness of our own impermanence.
God was the ultimate distraction, the primordial red herring, the unqualified qualifier. He too was weighed, measured, and found wanting. And so, we killed him. Gutted and flayed on the table of Nihilism.
What is reality? What is infinity? What does it all mean? Nobody really knows. It’s a Great Mystery. It’s a giant question mark that feels like a giant exclamation point. But at least it’s open ended. At least it leaves room for error. At least there’s room to grow spiritually, ontologically, existentially. At least we have our curiosity and a good sense of humor to get through the insanity of it all.
Having ditched the red herring (the distraction from the real problem) of God and embraced absurdism, we give ourselves room for improvement, improvisation, and adaptation regarding the ever-moving target of Truth. We give ourselves room to dance, to play, to laugh.
As Mark Twain said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Indeed. The delayed perfection of God must be cooked into the continuous improvement of truth, lest we starve at the table of delusion.
But having killed God, we also inadvertently burned our existential security blanket. We left ourselves naked and vulnerable under the weight of a monstrously uncertain cosmos that presses down on us with unprecedented pressure. We found ourselves floundering in nihilism. It suffocates us with its utterly insurmountable infinity.
Forced to gaze into this infinity, we can be sure of only one thing: Absurdity rules. Certainty is folly. Security is an illusion. Rescue isn’t coming. No God is coming to save us from our sins. No so-called authority is coming to bail us out. No hero will be swooping in to liberate us from our ultimate responsibility to our own freedom. Unless…
Unless that hero is us, absurdly living a courage-based lifestyle despite a fear-based culture. Unless that authority is us, absurdly questioning all things. Unless that God is us, absurdly hellbent on destroying the hell that surrounds us with a Humor of the Most High.
Nihilism is needlessly suffering with a “why?” Absurdism is living on purpose with a “why not?”
Ultimate freedom is a revolt against hell. It’s a revolt against meaninglessness, senselessness, and pointlessness. It’s a revolt against anything seeking to force itself down anyone’s throat. It’s the spirit of revolution, the heart of insouciance, the soul of audacity. It’s an ecstatic celebration in the face of impending doom.
As Nicolas Berdyaev said, “The ‘good’ do not condemn the ‘wicked’ to hell and enjoy their own triumph but descend with Christ into hell in order to free them.”
There’s only one thing to do with such terrible freedom: We honor it! We rebel against despair and nihilism. We dance into the paradox. We mix it up with the mystery. We revolt against the harshness and strangeness of it all. We not only gaze into the abyss, we make uncomfortable eye contact with it. We taunt it, we laugh into it, we toss all our fucks into it and then move on with an impudent hop in our step.
As Jonny Thomson said, “Put away the safe and healthy prescriptions of an anodyne age and go on a thirsty rampage. In the drunken swirl of the carnival trance, the terrifying gravity of life is made lighter.”
Indeed! In the boozy haze of trickster jazz, the existential darkness is transformed into lightheartedness. In the grip of playfulness absurdity loses its grip and we free ourselves to laugh and be laughable. We free ourselves to live on purpose with purpose. We free ourselves to love agape-style, no-holds-barred, amorous with amor fati.
We put our tongue in our cheek and sidestep the landmines of nihilism and existential despair. We enjoy a sunset. We enjoy a breath. We kiss a lover. We pet a dog. We marvel at the absolute miracle of it all. We call it “God” if we feel like it, or we call it The Great Mystery, the Blooming Haha, the Dancing Nothing, or The Infinite Zero. But then we also laugh at our silly labels and culturally conditioned kneejerk reactions.
At the end of meaning, Meaning reveals itself: it’s our responsibility alone to create our own meaning. It’s our responsibility alone to appreciate the terrible freedom we’ve been given. We’re free to do anything. We’re free to destroy. We’re free to heal. We’re free to give. We’re free to steal. There are no rules.
But there are consequences. We’ve just confused the consequences for divine justice for so long that we believe Karma is a thing. When really, the consequences are merely a matter of living in healthy accord with reality, or not. If we choose to live in accordance with reality, we will be healthy. If we choose to live at odds with reality, we will be unhealthy. It really is that simple.
As Herman Hesse said, “The unwritten law defeated the written one.”
Embracing absurdism over nihilism is allowing the unwritten law (universal laws) to defeat the written one (human laws). It pulls the curtain back and reveals that the wizard was always us tricking ourselves into believing we needed assurance, security, and a point to it all. We didn’t and we don’t. All we ever needed was courage and a good sense of humor. The courage to overcome nihilism and the humor to embrace the absurdity of it all. The courage to challenge orthodoxy and the humor to dance unorthodoxly. Health then becomes paramount, balance becomes foremost, and the search for truth becomes primary, despite the fact that none of it makes any sense and the truth will always be unattainable.
If, as Lao Tzu said, “highly evolved people have their own conscience as pure law,” then it stands to reason that we invest in developing more highly evolved people capable of honoring valid laws, rather than wasting our time and energy bludgeoning people with invalid laws that violate the golden rule, the nonaggression principle, and the universal dictates of health.
Embracing absurdism over nihilism is a way to realign the written laws with the unwritten. It’s a way of developing more highly evolved people who have their own conscience as pure law in sacred alignment with universal laws.
Because only highly evolved people with their own conscience as pure law will have the courage and humor needed to dance on the tightrope over the abyss and laugh at the impending fall. Only highly evolved people with their own conscience as pure law will have the capacity to paint the universe red with their insouciant curiosity, to mock the sinister self-seriousness that outflanks them, and to party like a rockstar at the end of meaning.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Party Like a Rockstar at The End of Meaning) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.