“The longing you seek is not behind you, it is in front of you” – Maz Kanata
In philosophy we ponder existence and the meaning of creation. We ask questions like does life have meaning or is it a futile exercise of survival? Are we here to know our divine selves, to discover God or do we exist only to fulfill an evolutionary function through the law of gene preservation? Does life mean everything or nothing at all? I often ask myself these questions. Sometimes the questions are rhetorical as philosophy provides a response and Faith reassures me. Other times, especially when depression or apathy settles in the answers are less sure and doubt sets in.
In choosing recovery I made a decision to turn my life around. Sometimes I wonder if becoming sober and taking a spiritual view is not some sort of Jedi Mind trick on my self. That I’m not fooling myself. After all everything happens at the level of the mind. We can choose to believe whatever we want. The question of existential meaning in our lives can throw a spanner in the works. What is the meaning of life?
Psychology tells us the being able to modify our belief system from one perspective to another will in time change our outlook, our habits, character and ultimately our brain. The brain I had as a practicing alcoholic is not the brain I have now. Through nueroplasticity it has changed. Mediation and mindfulness are practices which have helped modify my cognitive and behavioral patterns. Indeed both are suggested by psychologists for that reason. Removing alcohol and working the steps also changes the brain. With a fresh set of eyes I see a world which is utterly different than what it was before.
“Even a thought, even a possibility, can shatter and transform us” – Friedreich Nietzsche
Red Pill, Blue Pill
In reality the world has not changed that much since I got sober only my perception of it has. Like a pilgrim on the road to Damascus I march along heading to a destination. Then on that road something happens. I stop look around me and ask the question that sometimes changes everything; “what’s the point“? Is there any point to any of this? Is life not just a futile exercise that ultimately means nothing and leads no where?
Nihilists premise that there is no existential meaning and all is for nothing. This idea suits many people but I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me embraces the idea that there is absolutely nothing I have to do or be. This means I can be whatever I want and not have to care.
I can take the blue pill and become a Nihilist. Hard reality crashes in. Virtue becomes entirely subjective; there is no right and wrong or good and bad about anything. Life is simply a choice between personal preferred and non preferred indifference. We can basically say “F&#k It” to anything, anyone and everything and sleep soundly at night.
On the other hand it is also bitter pill to swallow. Embracing a nihilist, albeit futile nature of existence view of the world throws the baby out with the bath water. It can leave us naked in a cold and barren world. The absence of philosophical and ethical tethers may feel good but apathy and depression doesn’t. Take the red pill and we jump in to the rabbit hole of endless possibility that could all be an illusion.
“Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” – Sartre
On a Mission
As a 12 Step Jedi I am supposed to champion virtues and uphold principles. There is supposed to be a point to everything. I know what’s right and wrong, good and bad. A philosophy based on both virtues and principles is to be practiced daily and lived. The Fictional Jedi took an oath to the code and dedicated their selves to that code no matter what the consequences. They lived by the code. A mission or cause could seem futile, even doomed to fail however the Jedi did their duty accepting whatever the outcomes.
Not all Jedi took that view. There were Jedi who chose to walk away and adopt a life that was more nihilistic in philosophy. These were the Gray Jedi. They had taken the proverbial blue pill.
The Gray Jedi
The “Gray Jedi” were not an order, there was no structure or organization behind them. These were Jedi who walked a solitary path free of any code but their own individual one. From a historical perspective they resembled the Ronin of feudal Japan. Unlike Ronin who were master-less Samurai and often mercenaries, the Gray Jedi were Jedi who had lost their Faith and had distanced themselves from the Jedi Order and Path.
Gray Jedi did not embrace the Dark Side, to do so would have made them Sith. Rather they walked a middle path between light and dark without embracing either. They were beholden neither to the Jedi or the Sith and were indifferent to both.
Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn was considered a Gray Jedi for his unorthodox ideas but was in fact a dedicated Jedi. In the old Republic there were true Gray Jedi like Jolee Bindo. Groups of Force users also arose that were essentially Gray Jedi. Quinlan Vos and Ahsoka Tano were never called Gray Jedi but both had lost faith with the Jedi. They survived as maverick rebels after the purge of the Jedi Order and destruction of the temple under Order 66. They saw the futility in their cause but with nothing else to do they carried on.
Losing my Religion
Luke Skywalker apparently suffers a loss of faith and becomes a Gray Jedi in the “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi”. Has he really become a Gray Jedi? Many seem to think that Luke has succumbed to an existential crisis. Luke is old and alone on Ahch-To. A self imposed exile with a lot of history. Despite his past he has never fallen to the anger and fear that swayed Anakin to the Dark Side. The futility of the struggle and a faith lost has made him a type of Nihilist. He finally said “F#%k It”. Sometimes I feel like Luke Skywalker, maybe it’s an age thing.
These days there is a real temptation to be a Gray Jedi. I’ve thought about it. I could also be apathetic and sober. I’m not sure how that would work though. Its not in my nature and apathy tends to go hand in hand with booze. Nihilism and apathy don’t always go hand in hand though but the latter is worth a mention because it figures prominently in the new type of nihilism emerging in society.
There is a growing trend for younger people to embrace a philosophy that claims a futility of existence and the absence of meaning. A type of hedonistic nihilism that dictates everything is going to hell so have the maximum amount of fun now with total disregard for the future. Mindless consumption is one of the symptoms, so is mindless sex and violence.
Society has become numb and dysfunctional. Religion is dying and spirituality is seen as less relevant. Nihilism, not even the true type as penned by Nietzsche, becomes the easier option to an apathetic and disenfranchised generation. The result is a general apathy and resignation that if nothing has any meaning so why should one pretend to care.
Social media posts, comments, likes and hastags have become the symbols of an uncomfortable apathy. We want to do something about all the wrongs we see on the internet, we feel anger, rage, inertia and finally apathy. A cognitive dissonance is continuously felt by people who feel they would do something if they could but won’t because it’s too hard. It’s in our face all the time. Saturation media and social isolation reinforces apathy and a sense of futility follows.
We are entering a post modern era. Truth and reality is now defined by the individual based on their own cultural, social and personal history as well as trending views that shift and polarize. The world is becoming over populated, culturally uniform, highly mobile, technologically connected and yet so very lonely and disconnected on a human level. Society has shifted from optimism based on scientific certainty and technology to one of pessimism based on uncertainty and anxiety. We are literally being conditioned not to care.
“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Sartre
Snap out of it
Nihilism gets a bit of a bad rap for being the philosophy of Apathy, it isn’t. Nihilism simply states that nothing has any meaning, there is neither good nor bad. For many people this can be liberating. However we can depress ourselves when we ponder existentialism and start to question the meaning in our lives.
Right now I’m telling myself to snap out of my own sense of apathy. I need to get back on the road to Damascus and walk the Jedi Path again. I need to keep trudging the 12 Steps. Wallowing in self doubt and apathy won’t help. Perhaps a bit of media fasting will help. I can sit for five minutes and write a gratitude list. Try to keep busy and find a way to get outside of myself. There are a lot of things we can do when we start to question the very meaning of our lives.
Perhaps Nihilism provides a solution in part. Why be sad, apathetic or depressed about something that has no meaning?
But I still have to decide, do I take the red pill or do I take the blue?