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.

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Introvert Strengths: Acting From Principle

Many a person who has prided themselves on “social skills” and “empathy” has totally misinterpreted my moods and motives.

And when they can’t make sense of me tend to assume there is no logic to my actions.

They are confused because I make decisions on principle.

We can get rich, be liked by everyone, have lots of great sex but it all counts for nothing in a few short years.

There’s a question in my head every day: “What’s going to matter?”
It’s a clean razor that slices away the big mound of stuff every “well adjusted” person is supposed care about in one swift swipe.

The terror of social rejection that governs most people’s lives from their earliest memories to the grave suddenly seems like just an inconvenience.

The best thing about living life on principle: it’s far easier.

Let’s say you want to get rich.  The trouble is everyone would like to be rich.  You can predict every plan to get rich has been thought of and tried endlessly. Society just keeps building its defenses until there’s calluses about a mile thick.

To go out and get rich you’re leading a desperate charge up a hill against an implacable fortress.  All the forces in the universe are arrayed in an attempt to stop you from succeeding.
And should you succeed against all the odds, you’ll become the new keeper of the great fortress in charge of keeping your wealth from everyone who wants to take it…

Since I was teen I’ve had a personal saying:  “Most valuable is gold that only glitters for you.”

When you are an introvert outsider who can see the world as if soaring above, it’s easier to think like a strategist and avoid spending all one’s energy attacking where the enemy is strong.

Where I have striven for objectives I arrived at through philosophy, I have seized them with surprisingly little resistance.

Society is not designed to stop people motivated by principle from achieving their goals!
This alone tells me how few are out there on the same path.

Where the status climber is forever fighting against a tight-packed crowd, I, to my delight, find myself unopposed across a vast plains stretching beyond sight.

I cannot say more in public, but I have succeeded better than I could have possibly imagined and live every day knowing certain affairs are in order that will continue even should I die today.  To me, this is infinitely more valuable than sleeping with a supermodel or winning the lottery.

Though I have often been poor, I will not be surprised if eventually I came to control significant wealth.
I seek wealth, just like all the rest, but my motives and methods differ.

I yearn after wealth to provide the minimum I need for a reasonably comfortable independence and every penny beyond that to bend reality to my will.

The immune system of the Collective Tyrant is very strong against Loud climbers who want fancy cars and mansions.
But will it be able to stop someone who acts from purpose?

For someone who acts on principle, all wealth is just a budget to help achieve certain things and the very concepts of ‘rich’ or ‘poor’ mean little.
There is only ‘enough’ or ‘not enough.’

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: “You’ll Never Get Laid If You ____”

How many times has any male introvert nerd been told “If you like (DandD, klingons, magic cards, x…) you’ll never get any girls”?
The aim of this criticism is to point out the superiority of the accepted orthodoxy over the divergent path. The argument is that “You will not be rewarded with social approval for your actions, therefore you are foolish, wrong, and irrational.”
After a lifetime of receiving such criticism and mockery, it becomes easy to start accepting such views as truth. However, the way people and societies work is considerably more complex than extrovert critics care to realize:

Girls aren’t usually interested in dungeons and dragons but neither do they tend to be terribly interested in the intricacies of professional sports, fighting wars, or entering blazing buildings. A pro athlete, soldier, or firefighter tends to attract women not because women share their interests but because of their:
-high social status
-high level of congruency with the orthodoxy.

Many women in the West see sci fi/fantasy fandom as a negative trait because such interests are associated with low social standing and low levels of congruency with the larger society. The general perception is that Nerddom is a zone for beta males who can’t compete in the ‘real’ society.

Thus, if D and D repels the typical cheerleader or sorority girl, it is not because of any inherent property of the game itself. It is about the social meaning attached to the game by any given society. There is no inherent reason, as extrovert critics love to assert, that nerd games ought to be unappealing to women.
The extrovert critic represents the limited perspective of but one of the world’s many societies:

South Korea is a country that treats real time strategy as a professional sport, the players enjoy a great deal of prestige and have no problems with opposite sex. One top protoss player named Bisu is renowned for his good looks and has countless adoring female fans. The players get supplied with pretty ‘booth girls’ who serve them drinks or take care of their needs during the course of a match. The studio audiences at these starcraft matches are composed of people of all ages and contain a high percentage of women.

Thus, if Dungeons and Dragons were on national television and the football team was an underground movement of social outcasts, the roles would be effectively reversed. It is simply a matter of social values.

Thus, if outcasts formed a cohesive new order with their own values installed as the orthodoxy, one need not worry about girls. There would be plenty of prestige and social congruency attached to previously derided and undesirable activities.
Yet another aspect of absolution!