They say hindsight is 20-20. I realized it is true when I went back and read a couple of my posts from the past couple of years. More specifically, my long-ass roundup post about nihilism and my (now defunct) multi-part series about the philosophy of death.
Reading those posts now is like reading the words of a complete stranger. Not one bit of what was written resonates strongly with me now, and I can see now just how out of touch I was, just how hard I was trying to seem ‘enlightened’ and ‘wise’ and into philosophy. This makes it yet another instance where my own actions have come back to bite me in the ass.
It is often said that nihilism and Nietzsche are spouted by wannabe, edgy, and angsty teens and who really do not grasp what nihilism is. Rightfully so, since what I wrote seems to scream “I am so wise and deep and think about the world and life and the human condition a lot” like nothing else. Frankly it’s a miracle I didn’t end up on r/IAmVerySmart.
The lack of meaning in life and existence, which is obvious to anyone who has had one too many drinks and sat down to seriously think about life, was the only point of nihilism that I really knew. And it misses the point of that whole school of thought. I still have no clue what ‘nihilism’ is, but I do know that it isn’t what I thought it was.
There was a time in mid-2017 when I was so enamored by this concept of ‘philosophy’ and how it affects our lives that I devoted an unhealthy amount of time to it. I burned through Crash Course’s Philosophy playlist in a single sitting, watched dozens of TED-Ed videos, had WiseCrack on repeat, and binged on Philosophize This! like it was my job.
The unhealthy obsession would have been enough in and of itself, but I went a step further and started writing about it. This is where things went haywire. I created a multi-part series where I would explore the different perspectives on death by different schools of philosophy. I published two pieces and had two more set for publishing before I decided it was better not to.
At this moment, I know for a fact that even if you read every work by every philosopher and read up on every school of philosophy, you will still not know how to live life. My anxiety about my eventual death and decay hasn’t vanished since I wrote about what Socrates and Epicurus had to say about it. Binging on half a dozen YouTube playlists hasn’t resulted in anything tangible from me. And it probably never will, which I’m okay with.
At its heart, I think, it all boils down to being seen as ‘informed’ about this topic that is reserved for ‘intellectuals’. A wish to be seen as ‘different’ from everyone else, because while everyone was chasing money and material gains, I was thinking hard about the really tough questions and the answers that have eluded us. A wish to be seen as a deep, wise man.
What I mean to say is, if you spend your whole life trying to learn how to live, you’ll never live your life. You’ll just have spent it listening to what dead philosophers thought about it. And let’s get honest for a second, most of what these philosophers thought and taught doesn’t work in real life or in today’s world.
So while it is not possible to live without at least some sort of personal philosophy, it is possible to live without binging on philosophy videos. And that’s a change I’m happy to have made.