Trap of Nihilism
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.
a few pages, I looked to the newspaper for diversion. One headline
caught my eye. It read:
he left behind: A 1,905-page suicide note.
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
The fellow who killed himself emailed hundreds
of copies of his book before ending his life. The newspaper shared
a quote from it:
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
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.