I think I’m hooked on a new television series. It’s HBO’s “True Detective” featuring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConahay. My son introduced it to me over the Thanksgiving holiday. In what seemed like an offhand comment my son said to me, “If you want to know my philosophy of life it’s found in this series.” Naturally, when your son offers you a window into his life—you pay attention.
Given the state of affairs this country is in, and the fact that my son is a young man, I must admit the philosophy of this series didn’t surprise me. Long ago, Frederick Nietzsche expressed many of the sentiments found in the Rust Chole character. Simply put, life is meaningless and nothing we do as humans really matters. “True Detective” goes one further with an “anti-natalism” philosophy which says that given the suffering we humans inflict upon each other it is better that our race should go extinct. David Benatar, the South African philosopher who writes eloquently about anti-natalism in his book “Better to Have Never Been,” argues that children are always harmed by being brought into existence and that we have an ethical responsibility to end the pointless suffering.
My son’s philosophy of life is right on schedule. In my opinion, nihilism is the first great awakening in the maturing process of adulthood. Coming to this belief demonstrates a willingness to put away childish beliefs that good guys always win, that someone will always save us, and the egoic notion that we are the center of the universe. It challenges the concept of a benevolent God in the face of ever-present human suffering. But I believe there are other awakenings beyond nihilism.
Beyond the obvious suffering is a challenge that we either adapt to a pointless existence or forge ahead in a quest to discover relevance, meaning, and order in all of this chaos. Just as the first stage in the development of human reasoning is to critically analyze ideas—the next stage is to problem solve and find workable solutions.
As a philosophy nihilism—though realistic—is too easy. All it requires is a cynical attitude about the meaning of life in the face of human suffering and a willingness to either throw up one’s hands in disgust or a willingness to live an existence dedicated to the satisfaction of self and egoism. In my view, this is little more than lazy thinking and, if adopted as a philosophy, robs one of an opportunity to discover a deeper meaning and purpose for human existence.
I like the series “True Detective.” It is an eloquent defense of anti-natalism—and it plays this view to the hilt. But behind all of those senseless crimes and criminals, is another view—where life holds great mystery and meaning and what we do matters a great deal.