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The Trap of Nihilism

The development of Chivalry-Now remains a strong focus of my personal quest. I continually study a variety of authors and philosophies while contemplating the richness of Western culture. For now and the foreseeable future, this is my mission in life.
   I recently picked up a small book entitled The Antichrist, written by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. It was to serve as a counterweight from reading The Grail Legend, by Emma Jung. I find that reading different material at the same time can be very helpful. Stimulating different thoughts at the same time often produced a wealth of creative ideas.
   I knew that Nietzsche was not Chivalry-Now material, even though many respectable philosophers and theologians draw stimulus from the extremism of his critiques. As I started to read, his bold ranting, like that of a devil's advocate, quickly had me shaking my head. No doubt the likes of Hitler and Stalin appreciated his statements about power that should lack the restraint of moral dictates.
   
After a few pages, I looked to the newspaper for diversion. One headline caught my eye. It read:

What he left behind: A 1,905-page suicide note.

The article told about a 35 year old man who dramatically walked up to the top step of a Church in Massachusetts, dressed in a white tuxedo, and shot himself in the head before hundreds of people.
   It described this young man as someone who was pleasant, good looking, educated, well-liked and seemingly had everything to live for. Neither his family nor closest friends had any idea what he was going to do. The only thing that anyone could reference was how his father died while he was only 12 years old. At that time, his life quietly veered into dark introspection.
   He spent years searching for meaning in life, something that I can strongly identify with. Both of us set about to writing down our discoveries. His book was certainly a lot longer than mine, a total of 1,905 pages, with 1,433 footnotes and a 20 page bibliography. Quite an impressive accomplishment.
   What really caught my eye in the article was how his book contained 200 references to Nietzsche, whose writing, no doubt, contributed to his fatal decision. I glanced over to Nietzsche's The Antichrist, which laid on the table, its cover already curling from the humidity. I wondered how much pain and confusion that writing had propagated over the decades, how many people ended up feeling that life was empty and worthless. I remember hearing how Nietzsche himself ended his life in madness. How strange that his work remains so influential.
   The fellow who killed himself emailed hundreds of copies of his book before ending his life. The newspaper shared a quote from it:

"If life is truly meaningless and there is no rational basis for choosing among fundamental alternatives, then all choices are equal and there is no fundamental ground for choosing life over death."

The words broke my heart. His search for truth had led to nihilism, convincing him that life had no transcendent meaning at all. That my own search had led to quite a different conclusion made me wonder why he saw things so differently.
   He explained it all in his manuscript, which the article considered the ultimate suicide note. He decided to share it with others.
To what effect? I wondered. To convince others of his logic so that they would follow in his footsteps? I could not believe that. I believe that he was challenging us, begging perhaps, to refute him for the sake of others. His dramatic death was meant to emphasize the seriousness of his challenge. And serious it is.
   I believe that each of us has the capability to contribute meaning for us all. Yes, we all die sooner or later, but our legacy, if we choose to build one, goes on. On a grand scale, Socrates, Plato, Charlemagne, Francis Bacon, Voltaire, John Locke and a host of others positively live on in who we are as a people. This is true, less noticeably perhaps, for all our ancestors, who live posthumously through us. We, in turn, will survive in our children and those whom we influence.
   There is meaning in this.
   Chivalry-Now tells us that meaning is found in living our lives bravely in support of truth and justice, in alleviating pain in others, in treating people with courtesy, and loving unselfishly. Meaning is found when we put ego aside and awaken to the potential of humility.
Nietzsche would have disagreed with all this. Hi ego was too inflated to think otherwise. He was mad and gave no quarter to matters he considered weak, such as equality and compassion. He too left a legacy of meaning.
   My response to Nietzsche's legacy is simple: How could equality and compassion have no meaning? We experience that meaning all the time. What of beauty? What of love? What of improving the lives of generations to come? Is there no value to that compared with accumulating power for power's sake?
   Is experiencing pain equivalent to feeling good? Of course not. Humanity constantly generates meaning which is rich and plentiful, despite all the distractions that come with it. And when meaning fails, as it sometimes does, another inspired voice rises to correct it. Meaning is everywhere. It is found in the challenges of life, in rising bravely to meet them, in struggling for what we perceive is good.
I deeply mourn the demise of this hurting young man, the brother that we never knew in life, who was deceived by Nietzsche's legacy and sacrificed on the altar of nihilism. He is our loss. Like so many others, we will mourn him by the empty seat at our table.
   His demise reminds us that the quest is serious business. Those diverted from its path by the likes of Nietzsche and other distractions never find the Holy Grail of meaning that we enjoy.
   If any of you ever feel so distracted, please seek help. The challenges of life are many, and we find true meaning in helping one another.
   Let our concern for each of us be the legacy for this tragic event.

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