Greatness: Existentialism, Nihilism, and You!

Dan and Trish and I watched “I Heart Huckabees” last night (against my wishes!). It’s about an existential detective agency which you hire to spy on you, and figure out your innermost…whatnot.

I don’t like Existentialism because it stikes me as an entirely Constructed method of Deconstruction (in the movie they called it “dismantling,” but the philosophical and literary term “Deconstruction” came out of Existentialism — I believe.)

Existentialism calls for an understanding of and intimacy with the principle that all things are one. It’s got its similarities to Buddhism, with a higher degree of New Age thrown in, and here’s my problem with it: even though the language of Existentialism completely escapes the greatest problems of Buddhism (ego-centricity), the practice of Existentialism achieves the exact same effect. The one-ness is entirely internal. An Existentialist brings everything in the universe into his own consciousness, ties everything to himself, and then reacts to everything in an entirely selfish way (after all, his “self” is now the whole universe, so that’s an unselfish attitude, right?).

The LANGUAGE of Existentialism is focused on others and respect for all things and et and cetera, but the drive of Existentialism, really, is to break everything in existence down until you understand how it relates to you (oneness, right), which is essentially stripping it of its independent existence, its independent reality, and leaving behind only the ghost of it that was your constructed version.

Because, yes, everything in YOUR universe is wholly One, because all of it is the product of your mind. You can attain perfect Oneness within your universe by divorcing yourself from the connections with other Constructing realities, leaving only yours, unchallenged.

Thereby removing yourself from the human drama (as they put it in the movie) and gaining a pure understanding of everything going on in the whole universe (because it’s all the product of your own mind).

Nihilism does a very similar thing, with opposite language. Nihilism recognizes the utter incomprehensibility of Unconstructed reality, and rather than trying to draw Meaning from it (where the incomprehensible is, in my opinion, the only source of Meaning), Nihilism concludes that the whole universe is a dark, chaotic, unfriendly place. Nihilism brings people closer to Real Truth (by focusing on the incomprehensible and ignoring the Constructed), but gives them no hope and no tools to react to Real Truth once they’ve found it.

It boils down to this: Life is not Nihilistic. Life is not Existential. Life is not Christian. Life is not our explanations of Life, it’s the thing they’re explaining. At one point in the movie, Mark E. Mark asks, “Why is it we only ask the big questions when things go terribly wrong? And then, when it gets better, we forget all about it….” That’s an easy one: Life isn’t what you read about in philosophy books. Life is the normal human experience. When it starts to confuse us, though, we begin to look for a rational explanation, and so we begin constructing.

Existentialism CAN describe the human condition (Creators that we are, any philosophy can eventually be built up to describe the human condition). The thing is, it’s not how we live most of our lives. It’s not the consistent thing across human experience, it’s a manufactured and TAUGHT method of understanding that experience. All philosophies are constructed. All religions are constructed. All logical frameworks are constructed.

The thing about Existentialism, though, is that it uses the language of Deconstruction as its method of Construction. That annoys me. Really, deep down, it makes me want to punch a hippy.

Nihilism gets to me, too, because it achieves what I WANT to achieve, but leaves you at the end of your journey with none of the resources necessary to enjoy the destination. I feel sorry for people who go that route, because I can’t even argue that it’s an ineffective method, just that it’s ultimately unrewarding, and I believe better options are available.

(Argh! RELIGIONS, I said! Not God. Not Real Truth. The temporal structure we use to worship God is Constructed. That’s no heresy. The Temple was Constructed (physically, manually), but it was still a viable place to worship God. It’s no more terrible to say the methods themselves are Constructed. That’s all I was getting at.)

P. S. – I’m actually not saying anything for or against the movie here. It was a fun watch, in a delightfully wacky kinda way, it brought up some good conversation. This article is about some of the things they discussed, not what they did with them. I was impressed with the structure of the movie, in spite of its alarming hippiness. Oh, and I hate Jude Law.