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Being Nothing


(continuation from below)


3. Being Nothing

Yet while it may be said that writing and building something are two different kinds of creation that promise to make a life worth living, there are however other activities which, while not as spiritually enlightening or visibly effective, nevertheless occupy many a heart and a mind until one's demise. To be sure, an examined and written life offers you an understanding of existence, especially of your own, and I find that consolation of philosophy rather attractive because at least, I hope, I have an excuse for being at all. A productive career, also, is always seductive for us mortals who wish to have something remain as testaments and witnesses to our rather, as Hobbes summarized it, "brutal, nasty, and short" lives.

When you look around you, however, you hear only of a few people reading Augustine or Camus in search for answers to such questions as to what one is to look for in one's life and where does one go to find it if one can find it at all. Also, while the proliferation of the channels and media of communication are now more available to any one who has a computer, a camera phone and something, anything, to say or show--what dangerous accessibility!--today, more than ever, do we see how ridiculously unreflective and unthoughtful we are with what we say (tweet, tweet); we hear the same opinions every one else has already said (trending); we get the feeling how anxious everybody is in the face of the demands of happiness (status: "I feel lonely today :("); realize how we are still superficial (wish lists and shopping carts); how we have ultimately become attention-seeking by thinking that the world wants to know about your trip to Cebu or read what you submitted for class (ahem); and how excessively vain and idolatrous most have become (Can you take my picture for my profile photo?).



The same impatience and thoughtlessness can also be seen in the production of our objects and in the methods of our creations. Because cash is king and efficiency will fatten him, the production process should be economical, fast, and cheap. Be it a house or a hulking skyscraper, a drug to save lives or a car to make that life a bit more mobile, we surrender our creations to the laws of supply and demand, to the rules of profits and margins and cost-efficiency, that is, we do not end up creating freely, in the pace we want to create, in the design we ourselves want. We are measured today by what we produce and deliver and add to the treasury: no product, no service rendered, no livelihood as contemporary society understands it. "Walang hanapbuhay," as we say, and this amounts to eventually not finding yourself or claiming a life.

Nietzsche correctly observed that the usual meanings we had lived by have long entered their twilight. After "the death of God" which paved the way for the rebirth of man, something curious happened: instead of humanism, nihilism happened--the meaning of the earth and of one's life became, well, they became and meant nothing:
What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devalue themselves. The aim is lacking. And "Why?" finds no answer. (The Will to Power)
The transvaluation of values that has occurred means that we have been hard-pressed to gather and tie our lives around the old ideals that had once shaped our lives, e.g., moral virtues (the ancients), faith and beliefs (the medievals), or work and industry (the moderns). Today goodness means weakness (hence the new meaning of the earth, says Nietzsche, is the will to power), atheism is the new pink, and work alienates us and has become, as Marx accurately described, something we run away from like the plague. Whence the existential situation we find ourselves in: I was forced into an existence I did not choose (Sartre), and was given that unfair responsibility of finding where to fix and rest it. And that's difficult to accomplish as we have to navigate our lives through a world that has become an arid desert without the old fountains of meaning. With neither a map or old paths to guide us, we have grown restless, have become bored before the eternal recurrence of the same and the parade of the same objects, and experience weariness from doing the same things over and over again--which all lead to our quiet despair and temptation to suicide. Suicide, as Camus realized, was after all nothing other than the realization that a life that meant nothing can be quiet tiring to bear.



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