Nihilists are Cowards
Ever since HBO’s True Detective first graced the commoner’s television screen, thoughts and beliefs, only previously known by lovers of Fredrich Neitzche and obscure philosophy, became mainstream.
Suddenly, there was an explanation for your depression. A reason for why your job sucks, your relationships never last, or your dog died earlier than it’s projected expiry date. You had an answer. Hooray? NO, but more on that later.
What is a Nihilist?
Someone who practices Nihilism.
What is Nihilism?
A viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
A History Lesson
There is this great drug. It has been around for thousands of years, functions an awful lot like a Quaalude, and has caused the loss of life, several million times over. You may have heard of it. It’s called religion.
Now, I’m not trying to fight a pixelated war over ideologies, so please, don’t start one. I bring up religion merely because nihilism’s inception was largely to counter it.
Enter Friedrich Nietzsche. Most likely a familiar name to even the dimmest of the dim and is probably the one you heard when that unsavory dilettante in drama class tried to explain why he was so annoyingly deep, all the time.
Surprisingly, however, Nietzsche did not come up with Nihilism, he merely dissected and molded it. Believing that to be truly nihilistic was enlightenment. It was like a right of passage, in which any man or women could not come back from. Once nihilism was excepted, that was it. You took the Red Pill. Ate the strange mushroom. Dropped acid. The difference being that the only thing at the end of this rabbit hole is stagnant thought and self loathing.
Many different philosophers left their specific mark on Nihilism, weaving their own beliefs and ideals into its’ fabric, but it is all mainly one sided. The only people who genuinely discuss Nihilism are Nihilists. Therefor, the subject matter is shrouded in pessimism and party killing anecdotes that would make you beg for the disjointed ramblings of uncle Ralph who always seemed to look at you strangely.
Film and literature
Besides the philosophers themselves, a large number of poets and authors felt they should hate themselves just a little bit more and tackle subjects such as these. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus and Chuck Palahniuk come to mind. We could get into the drawn out story structure of the Russians or speak of absurdities and innuendo all day long, but out of the three, Chuck Palahniuk’s modern take on the ideas bring us ever so closer to my point.
Enter Tyler Durden, the personification of modern nihilism. He’s a fictional character so I can say that. Chuck Palahniuk brings us the rebel, the bad boy, the one who breaks all the rules.
Tyler Durden embodies the idea that we are only truly free when we let go of all things. Things are pointless, according to Durden, who lives in a dilapidated house, uses women’s body fat as soap, and beats himself up. Life is short, painful, and constricted. Why weigh yourself down with responsibility, relationships, or a career?
Tyler is the Destructive Nihilist. He compensates for the depressing side effects of his beliefs by destroying either himself or society around him. Enjoying it all the while. Whether this stems out of mental illness or some sort of childhood trauma, he represents a side of Nihilism in which realizations of a pointless existence create an environment for tearing down every structural entity possible. In other words, a five year old with a tendency for temper tantrums.
Enter, Rust Cohle, the tortured pessimist. Nic Pizzolato, the brilliant bartender and sole writer of True Detective, brings us a fictional character who leads this discussion for one obnoxious reason: He acts like a real person.
Whether it’s Tyler Durden or the Joker, they both personify an aspect of psychology. Real people can’t do that. To try would create nothing more than a mess of mental illness and a personality disorder.
Rust Cohle, though a fictional character, gives us the best glimpse into what depression, nihilism, tragedy, and Jameson would make in a blender. A self proclaimed party-ruin-er, all levels of pessimistic psychology are evident as he navigates, throughout the entire season of True Detective, a dark world. He comes into contact with monsters in the form of men who leave distinct impressions of their own tortured psych on his own. Men who warship God, following the good book to a tee, while molesting children and killing women on the side. These thoughts and experiences, coupled with past tragedies; his dead child, two failed marriages, and memories of a survivalist father. There isn’t much room for optimism.
Some go as far as to say that Rust is an anti-natalist for his voiced opinions that his young daughter’s death was somewhat a good thing. That she was spared existing in a futile land that would only corrupt her. She was given the gift of dying quickly with her innocence completely in tact. I however, think those anti-natalistic thoughts are strictly formed out of his tragedies as a coping mechanism. But what do I know.
Regardless, as a man who has crossed Nietzsche’s one-way threshold, suffered insurmountable trauma, and given up on proper social interaction, it would be deliciously easy to succumb to a life of drinking and nothing else. Like slipping into a warm bath. He could await the end solemnly, trying to make it arrive faster, but Rust does no such thing.
Well, he does the drinking part but he doesn’t waste his life doing nothing.
He devotes his life to helping the innocent.
Rust understands that he has passed the one-way threshold. He understands that he can bring meaning to a meaningless existence through selflessness.
So he devotes the majority of his life to bringing justice to the victims of a cult in Louisiana. A cult so ingrained in the highest thresholds of its society that no help is sought for the victims. Through bribery, fear, and selfishness, no one attempts to find these monsters. No one but Rust Cohle, a nihilist, who cannot succumb to bribery, fear death, or even think to benefit himself.
Like any five-point film vomited out by the drones of Hollywood, we arrive at the beginning with your shitty job, your failed relationships, and your dead dog.
While all of that is horrible and would make melting away into nothingness somewhere far away from all your problems seem wonderful, to do so would be cowardly.
That’s right, cowardly.
It would be easy to let go like Tyler Durden, running from responsibility, destroying yourself and the things around you. To think only for yourself and ride out the rest of your life selfishly.
Rust Cohle comes close, for such a tragic man to devote his life to helping others, but his drinking, self degradation and his separation from society is in its self cowardly.
You know what’s difficult? You know what takes courage? Telling Nietzsche to go fuck himself because you’ve crossed the threshold, taken the pill, eaten the mushroom, and you’re still gonna live a life. Running into every situation with enthusiasm knowing full well that in the infinite layers of space, every action is meaningless. Trying to change your ways, your personality, your psychological hang ups, in order benefit those around you.
Only cowards try and opt out of the deal we were all handed. Don’t be a coward. Don’t run away from your problems, run towards them.
That, takes courage.
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