Saturday, July 07, 2007


Post-nihilism is what I am after. First there is blissful ignorance of nothing, then myopic despair at nothing, and finally, hopefully, recognition that, in the words of André Malraux, "Man can build his greatness on the nothingness that crushes him." Or as King Lear bluntly puts it: "Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again." It is optimism filtered through pessimism, enlightened innocence borne out of the deepest cynicism, the reconstruction after deconstruction. It is the result of the learning-through-experience of "Et in Arcadia Ego" followed by "No Way Out But Forward Go!" It is the conquest-through-absorption of anxiety, doubt, frustration, despair. It is an ongoing process that should involve continual moving, living, reading, experiencing, tasting and overcoming. An imperfect utopia, to be sure, because there can be no other kind. It requires faith that the mirage can be willed into reality, and that prophecies are made true if they are self-fulfilling.

My journey to this understanding is immaterial. The most momentous things that have happened in my life have been invisible. No less real because of it, but invisible nonetheless. They were Shakespeare's sound and fury, signifying nothing, except they made no sound and the fury was internalized. The birth-moment came when I realized it was up to me to draw my own signification, and thus redeem the past as a necessary midwife to a better future. Not the death of regret, but rather it's obsolescence. And as above so below. Lessons learned inside can be applied to the outside. The subjective and the objective co-habit the same sphere - reality - and action and thought exist on the same spectrum. The struggle musn't be for nothing; it has a purpose if given a purpose. Thus from nihilism emerges post-nihilism, given the principle that: If surrounded by darkness, you yourself must become the sun.

It is an ongoing process. Suns dawn and descend. But just because it's a cycle doesn't mean it has to be a circle. The model should be a staircase ascending in ever-higher spirals. There can be progress even in routine. The prisoner at the beginning of his sentence isn't the same as at the end, even if he never leaves his cell. Of course the spiral staircase can lead to oblivion, if nihilism removes the guardrails. Or it can flatten into a circle, embracing the pre-nihilist rhythm-sacralizing rituals of childhood and dogma. The tower of Babel, a spiral ziggurat, is lambasted in such circles for a reason. It represents the self-propelled wheel, the dream of reaching the top of the staircase through one's own exertions, entering Heaven. This is close to post-nihilism, except it misses the revelation that Heaven is not a material place to enter but the immaterial state of working towards it. And that even as a recognized creation of the mind, it remains a holy, wholly mortal creation.

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