Introverts, Atheism, and Nihilism

There’s an enemy anyone given to prolonged thought has to face.

Sooner or later the question of purpose and meaning looms like a wall.

If all is wiped away when we die, what is the point?  Is life worth it, or just a cruel joke?

Time and again I’ve heard smart Christians present an unmoved mover, a first cause outside of time, as “proof” of a specifically Christian God.

All this really tells us is this universe had to be started from a cause outside the rules that govern our universe.  If that means God, at best we can assume a Spinozan God that’s more of a force of nature than a human personality directly involved in our lives.  And an afterlife or reincarnation?  I can think of no reason to assume such a thing is true.
It makes the most sense to assume this is our one chance since we do not know otherwise.

It’s easy to fall into the trap that atheism is the “rational” approach while anyone religious is simply deluding themselves.  It seems at first to make sense.

But then you have to live your life by the values you have chosen…

Atheist “humanists” like to point out that lack of religion doesn’t cause them to go out and start randomly being evil.  They often live by a moral code.

The trouble is that strong atheism must reduce to nihilism.  One cannot hold moral values if one explicitly believes in a universe without purpose or meaning.  Nothing can be good or bad in such a universe.  Strangling puppies is no better or worse than winning the lottery.  Life is no better than death.

Here, the supreme irony of moral atheists becomes clear.  Despite professing atheism they mostly continue to stick to Judeo-Christian moral laws.  They don’t practice what they preach…because if they did, it would destroy them.

The interesting thing is one cannot be an atheist…at least not for real.  I was inspired to make this post when a reader named luciferslibrarian asked me this:

So I am curious – you mention that you have used philosophy to arrive at meaning. I am an introvert whose biggest problem has always been that I don’t see meaning in anything. The older I get, the worse it gets. When I was younger, I was far more motivated and creative; driven even. Now I find getting started on the smallest tasks almost insurmountable, because I don’t see the point. Most people I know take solace and find meaning in friends and family, but as an introvert with a less than stellar relationship with my family, the social path is not really for me. I also know that toiling in obscurity for some higher purpose is kind of a pipe dream. Can you shed any light?

I replied:

Yes! The biggest problem we have to face is the challenge presented by the yawning nothing of nihilism.

I approach it something like this:

The adoption of nihilism is pretty much guaranteed to destroy civilizations and hamper the progress of individuals, to trick them into living a directionless cursed half life until they finally die.

Nihilism seems to make sense based on what we know, but if we implement it, it’s unquestionably destructive.
As I see it, living by nihilism is against the observable laws of our universe. It doesn’t work. In this sense it is objectively false.

Also, even nihilists don’t really truly act on nihilism. The logical thing to do if you’re a nihilist is to be unaware of the problem of nihilism. That knowledge only causes pain and dissonance and even if it’s the truth, who cares if it has no meaning anyway. Better to be like an insect in the field playing out its role as a biomachine, never doubting.

You can’t even be a conscious nihilist or atheist and really be consistent!

If nothing has meaning, we might as well kill ourselves, start a party binge to drown out the knowledge of our fundamental irrelevance, or have some of our brain removed to remove the pain inflicted by ennui.
Yet no one does the logical thing…

A self professed strong atheist or nihilist is a liar. They clearly continue to believe in some kind of meaning or higher purpose. They can say what they want, but what they do says it all.

Since meaning is a law of existence for a sentient being, we might as well either completely accept that or self destruct.

Faced with a choice…I chose meaning.

At least I chose to follow meaning.  It’s a battle that never ends for a person of awareness.  That creeping feeling of pointlessness and despair is an adversary that’s always there, waiting for an opening.  It’s the price we must pay to be aware.

It’s a fearful thing to face and those who can avoid it through distractions usually do.

I’ve spent some time just thinking about this post, because I know from experience, there’s few greater threats to an introvert’s life than the triumph of meaninglessness within.

Often isolated, without any sources of fulfillment in the material world, many of us don’t make it.  I am convinced that confronting the problem of nihilism is something that can save lives.  Asking those questions without a doubt played a huge role in saving my life.

Far from a dramatic conversion to orthodox religion, I’ve come to see things in a way that diverges from both atheists and theists.

Consulting both reason and my intuition, I’ve long since come to conceive of “God” as something closer to that Spinozan force of nature.  It doesn’t have a mind or personality exactly nor is it remotely human.

Logically, the best way to understand its nature is to observe nature’s workings.

For the most part, it seems to be an impartial thing, but it does establish certain laws that govern our universe…

For years after having rejected strong atheism I was vexed.

Many having gone through the same process as I did become religious.

But all my life I had marveled how absolute morality legislated by a deity tends to lead to hypocrisy and ambiguity in interpretation.

What’s more, “absolute” morals often backfire when “good” people restrain themselves and others happily take advantage of them.

If religious moral law isn’t consistent with observable reality, then atheists with their satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster make an excellent point.  If God’s law turns out to be arbitrary in implementation, the 11th commandment might as well be Thou Shalt Not Tie Thy Shoes.
We’re left with an absurd nothing that reduces to Nihilism!  Orthodox religions need an afterlife to “solve” this problem!

So a key requirement of a life-preserving belief system for a thoughtful person is that it must make sense within observable reality…

At this point, Taoism with its ‘Way’ provided some key inspiration.

There are observable laws of the universe that move us along effortlessly when we follow them and crush us when we fight them.

We see this everywhere in the natural world and in our lives as human beings.

From this perspective, lack of meaning simply violates a timeless law.

If we must either hold to purpose or perish, it is clear what we must do…
Meaning becomes effectively self-evident because we cannot exist without it!

Since finding a way to help nullify the threat of nihilism I’ve since used this basic premise to create the values I live by.  It has served as a genuine map telling me what I ought to do next rather than being a burdensome absolute law that spites the nature of reality in hopes of a better hereafter.

Introvert Survival: Basic Protection From Ostracism

Over the years, I’ve learned most of the social skills I missed out on as a kid, but I’ve grown in my own direction and I can’t ever completely hide that.
Being overtly different from the people you meet puts one in danger of ostracism.
Over time I’ve found a few ways to reduce the likelihood of this outcome.

People are psychologically geared to live in small tribes. Whenever we meet strangers, they are not truly people in our eyes.
Thus, the importance of initial impressions.
This is the time in which you are either grouped into the ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ bin.
Once a person you have met has succeeded in establishing an empathy bond with you, you can begin to gradually relax, but at first, a single misstep can end in ostracism. You have to establish that you’re someone who can be sympathized with.

-Always eat meals with the people you’re living/working with if possible.
Humans instinctually form communal bonds when they eat together.
Eat what they’re eating, even if it tastes horrible, at least for the first few months.
This is the easiest and most effective way not to get ostracized.

-If you are offered some food, a ride, whatever—never refuse, even if you don’t want or need it. Even if the one who offers isn’t your favorite person. To accept is to become a person in their eyes and a member of the community.
Helping others makes people feel good. By extension, they will feel better about you.

When younger, I interpreted what people were saying much more literally. I got in trouble countless times by offending people who were just trying to be nice.

-With members of the opposite sex who are close to your age, never, ever try to ignore them. Both males and females will subconsciously feel rejected, even if there’s no attraction.
Courteous attention and some polite conversation can prevent what could otherwise cause the worst sort of social tensions.
Females especially, are prone to mobilizing all their friends and boyfriends against you if they feel you’ve given them the cold shoulder. And they will nearly always succeed in kicking you out.

This is one of the most common ways I’ve gotten myself ostracized.
Because of the general negative social feedback I got, I didn’t realize until my late teens/early twenties that women found me attractive and were trying to flirt or just trying to feel personally validated by receiving attention from a man they found attractive.

-Keep divergent interests in sci-fi/fantasy, computer games, any unusual hobbies concealed until you’ve known people for a few months. Anything nerdly or out of the ordinary that’s put fragrantly on display right away will cause people to judge you quickly.

-Show familiarity with their favorite brands, TV shows, bands, etc. Go on wikipedia if necessary.
I generally don’t research the group’s belonging tokens online because it’s usually not necessary to achieve the bare minimum of avoiding expulsion. Besides, I don’t want to clutter my mind with that stuff. Worse, one can come across as a douche or a soulless walking encyclopedia if you know the requisite information but clearly aren’t enthusiastic about it.
But wiki-clicking is worth considering if the stakes are particularly high.

If you see public opinion turning against you, control the damage as best you can and make an exit plan.
Once you’ve overstayed your welcome, things will get ugly.
This one took some years to sink into my head. Socially inept, I would always think that things would just proceed normally, willfully ignoring or missing all the little warning signs that people drop.
I eventually stopped lying to myself and formed an axiom: If you are not seen as part of the group, the group will devise a way to eject you sooner or later. On the instinctual level, you are not a person to them. Beware!

The good news here is you mostly just have to handle the introductory first few months reasonably well. Once people feel that you are an ‘ordinary’ human being they usually won’t begrudge unorthodox habits and interests.
You won’t be everyone’s best buddy, but people will tolerate you and let you live in peace.

Extrovert Critic: “Life’s Not Fair!”

“That’s reality!”
“Life’s not fair!”
These same lines were repeated verbatim by different people almost as if orthodox citizens had some script beamed into their head from a collective central computer.

As a teenager, I took these criticisms quite seriously and personally.
Surely I was perhaps deluding myself. Because if I had deluded myself successfully, I by definition wouldn’t be aware of having done so, right?
And the evidence of my failure in life, a dearth of connections and social status was staring me in the face.
There was a pragmatic defeatist in me that told me “They’re right. You have to change yourself or perish.”
But some indignant stubborn streak or passive aggressive laziness, however one wishes to interpret it halted any efforts I might have undertaken to whip myself into shape and embrace their wonderful unjust world.

Now, years later I look back and hardly find my critics inspirational.
I wonder now exactly what they were trying to accomplish with these shame-based criticisms!

We can sort of see it as a Pascal’s gamble.

I’ve skillfully deluded myself that I’m not a miserable failure. I must accept their world view, dutifully settle into my ‘place’ at the bottom of the totem pole, and stoically take all the beatings and injustices that life typically rains down on social inferiors while trying desperately to ‘better’ myself at the expense of someone else.
The only relief comes from “putting in the work” to “get my shit together” and “pull myself up by my bootstraps.”
My only hope to succeed lies in renouncing everything I value in myself so that maybe one day I can be a mediocrity living comfortably above the societal basement crammed with outright rejects.

I’m a majority of one and I am in the right to renounce my oppressive, backwards, dying birth culture and create one of my own that values and affirms my natural virtues.
There is certainly plenty of injustice in the world but I will never use this ‘unfairness’ as an excuse for subjecting myself to social debasement and degradation. No amount of compliance or appeasement on my part will beget any appreciation from the unjust. There is no respect for those who have no self-respect.

In retrospect I realized:
No possible good outcome could result from accepting my critics’world view! It did not make sense on any level to renounce a hopeful and optimistic world view in favor of a dismal hell of a society with no meaningful purpose or values. A society that had already decided I was an undesirable!

Because I knew I was not an objective observer, I knew I could never be sure if I was deluded or not…
But in a way, the very idea of renouncing myself in favor of my birth society eliminated itself.
How was any life in their world worth living?

Looking back and examining their admonitions now, their presumption and condescension is astounding.
They nobly took it on themselves to offer me a position living in the sewers while they lived on some higher plane and they honestly expected me to take it! Their opinion of me was that low. No wonder some part of me always raged whenever I heard their words of false concern!

The Ritual of Unity

The outsider has a special place in the cosmology of the Accepted.

Within any community, there are always tensions, a friction of association that threatens to tear apart the social order.

Of all social rituals among the most important are those that deal with defusing these tensions.

In this respect, an outsider is an important part of the community by not being a part of it. Simply being ‘outside’ implicitly puts others ‘inside.’
The simple existence of an outsider puts the whole social world in perspective.

The shunning and persecution of the outsider, the other is the most powerful of all Rituals of Unity.
To carry out this ritual is to place in that one person all of those amassed woes of society.
And once this living effigy is constructed to symbolically burn it upon the altar of unity.

But it can’t just be any source of otherness, it has to be something sufficiently foreign, hate-able, and threatening. One has to earn it and be worthy of it.

After all, what has become of the United States without a Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia to inspire fear, drive everyone together, and resolve internal disputes for the good of all? The substitute sacrifices that have been offered up since then have been rejected by the Gods.
Without a fitting sacrifice for the Ritual, the society cannot be properly purified of its ills. The people must drift apart and squabble.

If you have often been that one person who just can’t seem to fit in, it behooves you to understand just who you are.
You are a demon, Ahriman, Satan, St. George’s dragon, that snarling little dwarf permanently lodged beneath Shiva’s foot, Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein… the embodiment of everything that tempts people away from their proper social roles and undermines the Correct order.

It is in part for this reason that I identify all Subtle things with shadow, darkness, the night, the moon, the underworld, chaos…

Once you understand your place, just who you are in their universe, there is a certain delicious delight to be taken in it.
And many things in our lives that seemed mysterious stand suddenly explained.

Introverts and the Military

The mentality of the military can be summed up by “One size fits all.”

What size will the one size be?

The size that fits most people.

If you are introverted, you already are not most people. If you are Subtle, you are among a few.

For people who would live beneath the bright Surface world, the military is among the worst of places to be.

The military favors loud people. Loud people make decisions. They might not be good decisions, but they can make a decision, even if someone is shooting at them.
That’s mainly what matters in the military.

The military is a place of order and obedience.
It does not matter why order is kept or who is deserving of obedience.
The cause does not matter. Nor does it matter if there is a cause.

If you are someone who likes to think, the military is your nemesis.
If you aspire to be a human being before a statistic, the military is not for you.
If you do not consider yourself one of the collective, it is inappropriate to volunteer your life for the sake of the collective.

Even if you are broke and starving it is best to avoid the military.
Even a gain in personal security is not worth the loss in time and personal freedom.
What good is security if one must atrophy?