On a recent podcast I did with Rollo Tomassi and Rian Stone, hosted by Anthony Johnson from the 21 Convention, I found myself annoyed at having my perspective called out as being one of nihilism. As I reflected on why this was, I found myself returning to the definition of nihilism, which is the philosophical position that life lacks inherent meaning. Calling someone a nihilist seems to be the insult de jour as of late, I won’t pretend to understand why, but it’s on the surface a very effective rhetorical gambit while engaged in a debate concerning ethics or morality. After all, what someone considers meaningful is often tied to higher aspirations and lofty ideals such as morality, creating a better world or the likes.
However, in general it seems to rear its ugly head when one’s analysis of a prescribed course of action is a negative one. For instance, if one calls an approach mired in idealism as being idealistic given the present climate, one is likely to be called a nihilist due to one’s perceived denigration of aspirational ideas, when in reality if one aspires to something unrealistic, it is a dream not a plan of action.
As people have argued, there are many things that give people meaning in their life, there are men who find meaning through working 80 – 100 hours a week, day in and day out in a specialized area attempting to climb the dominance hierarchy. There are men who reject this pursuit in favor of more time with family, their interests or many other things.
Meaning – A Thought Experiment
Imagine for a moment that we had distilled meaning for men into 5 distinct variables. Physical health, a solid sex-life, an artistic pursuit, financial health and community, wherein some combination of these would result in a synergy, that we can call meaning. Within this paradigm, a man would need to take care of his physical health. After all, we experience reality part through our bodies and part through our minds, thus our experiences are inherently coloured by the state of our physical form.
A man without some form of creative expression is rare, and there is a certain satisfaction that one gains from creating something more out of very little. Whether this is returning old cars to their former glory, using paint and brushes to create art, or many other options. I cannot remember where I first heard it, but the quote “money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does mean that there are fewer things to worry about” is very true. Without resources, one cannot take care of ones health, pursue artistic expression, or do much else. Belonging to a tribe is usually quite a central piece of someone’s identity, and it is by those we impact we are remembered. Thus the man would need to belong to a community in some capacity. He would also need to take care of his sex life as very few men are happy with a non existent romantic life.
The trouble one would immediately have to confront in this world though, is that even if I gave you every single variable you would need to work on in order to live a meaningful life, you still have the entirety of your job ahead of you. You see, not every man would be content with each variable in the same configuration, some men would prefer a larger focus on their community, some a lesser focus. Some men derive immense meaning from winning in the game of wealth accumulation, and continue to collect money until their dying day, despite having had “fuck you” money since their early 30s. Some men are perfectly content and find their meaning from the high school sweetheart they married at 18, just after graduation. Other men, find that they desire more variety and volume in their love lives.
Therefore, even if I could tell you exactly what areas of life to work on in order for you to build meaning in your life, you would have to find the specific configuration of activities that work for you on an individual level. This blog is in some ways dedicated to the picture in aggregate, average OKcupid scores, the big picture strategies of the sexual market place, the macro economics of sex and so on, however this is a case where the aggregate matters very little.
I can tell you what gives my life meaning, but it could be meaningless to you, thus one could argue that based on my subjective view, you are a nihilist. Likewise, you could tell me what gives your life meaning, however if those things are meaningless to me, then I would be a nihilist when pertaining to your definition of meaning.
Curriculum and Self-study
A while ago I wrote an essay entitled “Beyond Red and Blue Pills” the title of this essay was inspired by “Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche, some read this essay as contributing to the at the time on-going debate between the perspectives “We Must Save Western Civilization by Manning Up” and “Enjoy the Decline”. However, more than anything it was a criticism of how easily many of us fall victims to the easy way out by accepting a comforting narrative of the check list we must follow to make our lives matter, rather than the difficult route of careful introspection. This was what I attempted to communicate in my conclusion for that essay:
The trouble is that self-actualization is a subjective concept, what gives meaning to the life of one man can be meaningless for another man. In fact, if a man takes the path of another, he may find himself rapidly descending the hierarchy down the bottom. For instance, a man who follows the prescription to vet a wife, get married and have children at age 25 that some offer, only to find that this does not offer his life meaning, in fact he finds the entire thing to be the antithesis of meaning for him, and then gets divorced, finds himself having made a major life choice that has consequences for the rest of his life based on the perspective of another man, never having asked himself “Is this truly what I desire?”
Both perspectives offer a check-list of sorts for men. If you follow the “We must save western civilization by manning up” checklist it includes using red pill knowledge as a means to an end, which is to realize a lifestyle that conforms to more traditional values, such as family, responsibility, being a pillar of the community, and so on. In short, it is a community oriented lifestyle. If you elect the “enjoy the decline” check-list it tends to include using red pill knowledge to engage in a great deal of self-indulgence in various capacities. In short, it’s an individualistic lifestyle.
My attraction to red pill theory is the very fact that for the most part, it attempts to explain “what is” without making many concrete prescriptions about what you should do about about it. This is also why there are so many different approaches within the same sphere of knowledge, because each man adapts the same fundamental principles to suit his own personality, world-view, morality, and goals. In a sense, the movement up the red pill dominance hierarchy of sorts, is the same journey we take as we progress through the educational system. From kindergarten to high school, we are largely indoctrinated with a curriculum that others have devised, based on their world view and analysis of the information. As we enter university we are permitted to take a bit more control over the material, until one reaches a doctoral level where one transitions from being a consumer of information to a producer of information.
This mirrors the classical journey of the AFC (average frustrated chump) to Pick-up artist. At first he utilizes techniques, lines and approaches that others have created, then as he gains experience he starts to innovate on the material others have created, then finally when he reaches mastery, he creates material for himself. A common criticism of certain schools of Pick-up is that they create “social robots”, in practice this manifests as men who have learned a script, but do not understand why it works, how it works, or how to adapt it to their circumstances.
Summary and Conclusions
I’ve tried many ways to find meaning in my life, some of my mentors gain a great deal of meaning from their careers, so for a while I put everything into my career in order to attempt to find the same type of satisfaction on that path that they did. While it did greatly improve my career, my financial standing and my position on the pro-social dominance hierarchy, I also spent 70 – 90 hours a week at work and my life still lacked a sense of meaning. Perhaps the reason why I take such affront to being accused of nihilism, is that as defined nihilism is the rejection of meaning in everything, while my own research on the subject has convinced me that there is meaning in everything.
I found myself thinking about the story of the fall of man, in short God creates heaven and earth, he creates Adam as the first man, and seeing that Adam is missing a mate, he creates Eve, the first female. As the story goes, Adam and Eve were free to enjoy each other and the fruits of the garden, with the exception of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Eating the fruit of this tree was prohibited. Eve is convinced by the snake to eat the fruit and she persuades Adam to share it with her. Upon eating the fruit, they realize that they are naked, and quickly cover themselves up.
There are more interpretations of this story than possibly any other story in history, and I concede that in the days of the MMPI, Neuroscience, and MRIs, the knowledge of Freud in psychology is perhaps somewhat outdated. However, from my perspective, Adam and Eve begin the story as pure ID, they eat, they sleep, and they fornicate, all base instincts of any animal. The voice of God, represents the super-ego, our inner “rule-giver”. Upon eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve gains the ego, also known as the self. Thus, they are able to see the borders between themselves and others. In effect, they are able to see themselves as simultaneously part of the world and separate from the world.
This has been the underlying theme of my past two essays “Office Supplies and Dominance Hierarchies” and “Of Lobsters and Serial Murder“. The individual as an individual and as part of a group. This is always going to be a negotiation, because nobody can fully embrace who they are as an individual within the group, because in order for a group to function compromises between individual drives, desires and outcomes will always have a degree of mutual exclusivity. Yet no group can completely suppress the individuals of which it is composed because this would require a hive mind similar to ants or The Borg. In essence a society without ego. The role of the super-ego is to give us those rules that permit us to co-exist with other humans in a group. The role of the ID is to keep us aware of our own needs as individuals, and the role of the ego is to negotiate a compromise between these two positions.
So, what I reject is not meaning, but the idea that anyone else can tell you what is meaningful to you. There are many patterns, for instance many men find meaning in their job, but many do not. Many men find meaning in their families, but many don’t. Thus, in the same way that a medical doctor would perhaps suggest diet and exercise prior to a gastric bypass, I tend to suggest attempting to find meaning in those things that can be more easily undone prior to seeking meaning in those things that you cannot get out of without damaging your ability to try other things afterwards.
The Red Pill metaphor comes from the Matrix, in the movie the choice given to Neo by Morpheus is:
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.
Thus, the choice is between seeing reality, as opposed to the myriad of illusions, delusions and rationalizations that we create for ourselves, and that others create for us, knowingly or unknowingly in order to further various ends. In the podcast I referenced the fact that the blue pill to me represents all those variables that turn men into beasts of burden on behalf of their social group. While some men derive great meaning from such sacrifice, from my perspective in order to respect an individuals right to self-determination, it must be a result of an informed knowledgeable choice, not a result of programming from childhood.
Sacrificing yourself because that is something you elect to do, fully aware of the consequences and fully aware of your options, can often be noble. Sacrificing yourself because that is what you have been trained and indoctrinated to do since childhood is just finishing the script that someone else wrote for you to act out.