I had to try and interpret what I meant by today’s prompt, which was listed as ‘why not be a nihilist?’. I can clarify a little bit. Probably very similar to most other people who are getting older I’ve realized that I am not the center of the universe. One of seven (or eight now?) billion people. Even if I were to achieve my wildest dreams, fame, fortune, professional success, I am confident nobody would miss a beat half a day after I’m gone. This is evidenced by the constant stream of En Memoriams you see on Awards shows, the nightly news, etc. People who have accomplished far more than I could ever dream of get 30 seconds of life highlights and then they’re done. Gone from public consciousness, maybe remembered again on a few months later, then filled away. Of course the family and friends of the deceased will be affected for longer, and carry on the legacy of the deceased in certain cases, but even for them life will go on. So maybe what I’m trying to say is that we talk about legacy as something that’s worthy, but it’s value might be a little overblown. You see every street in any given downtown named after someone, but you probably never think twice about what that person did to warrant the honor. Same with buildings, parks, etc. Nobody is going to remember you.
I fell into the trap of thinking that since I shouldn’t concern myself with legacy, I shouldn’t worry about what I do or don’t do. Nothing matters that much, when you’re gone it’s over and the world is going to keep turning. This would alternate between being really reassuring – why worry? – and at other times pretty depressing – what’s the point of anything? But now even writing this down I see how silly the argument is. You shouldn’t use the fact that you are not going to be etched into history or have a statue built in your honor as excuses to avoid responsibility and not contribute to society in a positive way. And I had to be careful there not to write in a meaningful way, but in a positive way. Even if your positive impact is minuscule, that’s still a good and perfectly acceptable contribution. I don’t want to worry as much about how big or small the impact of what I do has on the world, whatever happens, happens! And it’s not going to matter much when I’m gone anyway, at least from my perspective. But you want to stay in the positive column at a minimum.
Not to belabor it, but it’s helping me to understand some of the flaws in my own thinking by writing it out so I’ll keep going. I used not having a big impact as a reason not to try, it was my crutch for inaction. Why bother, it’s only going to be seen by x people. Or this isn’t going to move the needle to use a tired business cliche. Too small, not worth my effort. I am in the process of convincing myself that if I know why I’m doing something, and it’s for the right reasons, and if it can help even one person, then it’s worth the effort. We all know about the butterfly effect, right! But I’m not fully there yet, and don’t live out that value system. I’m embarrassed to write that, but sadly it’s the truth.
A less noble, but still passable approach would be to do no harm at least. Be neutral. I think this is called the Hippocratic oath in medicine? Through your interactions with others, your interactions with the environment and the world at large, and also through your professional pursuits. Interactions and environmentally, I think I’m at a minimum neutral. Some individuals would give me a negative review definitely, but on balance I think I’m on the right side of the ledger. Professionally, I am not sure. I’ve worked in entertainment, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it art. And I’m not sure the types of products I’ve worked on should be classified as positive. The stuff I’ve supported helps give people enjoyment, but it also causes them to invest a lot of time that could be used in far greater pursuits if I’m being honest. They compete for attention after all, so that alone gives me a little pause.
I might be rationalizing here, but the lack of certainty on my side as to whether my professional pursuits in entertainment are positive or at worst neutral has prevented me from rejoining the games or gambling industries. I might be making a false connection there though. I know my pride and ego is also factoring in, at least on the gaming side. I was close to going back into gaming at several points and managed to get past high morale stance there. So maybe this part is BS.
I need to recap because I feel this essay in particular is really all over the place. A true rough draft amongst rough drafts. I’ll try to summarize everything in a paragraph. A single individual is very small in the context of the world. Knowing this can make the person feel free or worthless. Either one of those reactions can allow a person to rationalize not caring about what they do with their life, and their contribution to society. And they might be right to not care since more than likely what they do or don’t do won’t matter in the grand scheme of things! But taking that position, which I would refer to as being a nihilist, needs to be challenged and rejected. For a couple reasons. One, if you focus on being positive, and inspiring you are going to be in a better mental space compared to someone who is constantly calling out the futility of trying. And then there is the butterfly effect, you don’t know the effect of actions. Small things can lead to big changes, so it’s not a zero percent chance of affecting things in a large way. At a minimum, your actions can be inspirational on a micro level, and inspire individuals or a community even.
So to summarize my summary. What you do or don’t do isn’t going to change the world, so don’t take yourself or your legacy too seriously. That statement is going to be inaccurate for about one in every one million people, but for our purposes I’m going to assume none of those people are reading this. I am not one of those people which I know may surprise some of you. Knowledge of your relative size in the universe shouldn’t be used as a reason not to care. It benefits you, yourself and the world around you if you try to be as positive as you can. Do it for your own mental health selfishly if that’s what it’s going to take to get you on track. And don’t pervert the idea by taking it to the other extreme either – nothing matters so do whatever you want. Be unethical, selfish since it doesn’t cost you anything at the end. No downside! That’s wrong. You are damaging yourself and setting a horrible example which can have effects well beyond yourself as well in acting this way.
I think what I am describing may be what Romans referred to as being a good citizen? I know I have lots of time so I am going to take a brief detour and see if I can find a definition. A privileged political and legal status offered to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance (wikipedia). Maybe not – I was thinking about it more from the perspective of the responsibilities of being a citizen. Let me try that. Striking out with this search, sorry, have to abate this section.
To conclude, although it is tempting to be a nihilist, or to use the “nothing matters anyway” defense to rationalize things to yourself, try not to do it! If you have to use selfishness to get over the hump that’s ok. You will be benefiting yourself by doing something that you know is leaving a positive mark. One thing on that, what if you can trick yourself into believing what you’re doing is positive, even when its’ grey or maybe even obviously not? I don’t want to start with that right now. Just care, and try your best! Sorry for today, I am not thrilled with how this one came out. I can do better, and I will keep trying! 48 Minutes. 1495 Words.