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    Thread: Pointlessness and Value

    1. #1
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      Pointlessness and Value

      I've recently entered a state of mind that I've realised would probably be labeled as some form of Nihilism. I'm going to outline my current way of thinking, as well as an issue I have concerning it. Any comments or reading suggestions are greatly appreciated.

      For a long time I've been aware of the fact that life is objectively pointless, that nothing has inherent value. But I did not grasp the implications of that fact concerning how I should treat life. Although I knew that nothing really mattered, my daily thoughts were not at all affected by this fact. The few times that I did consider that there might be practical implications, I excused it with something along the lines of: "yeah, nothing matters objectively, but it still matters to me, and there's no way to escape that."

      I've found recently, though, as some issues in my life became hardly bearable, that the only way out of the misery was to embrace this philosophical fact, strive to feel as though it is true, and try to place as little value as possible in most of the things that concerned me.

      I'm really not clear on the definitions, as I've only recently started to read up on Nihilism and Existentialism. But, as I understand it, Existentialists believe that life does have meaning if you give it meaning, which is just as valid as if it had objective meaning. Even if I'm misunderstanding the definition, I'll still address people who believe this. In a way, it makes sense. Since it's a fact that what I value does matter to me, I can choose to value anything.

      However, I argue that, in most cases (not all), the choice to value something will eradicate freedom. This is because it is very difficult not to become attached to things that we value. If you choose to value a person, he or she will very likely leave your life eventually, resulting in pain. If you value your own life, the thought of death will bring you misery.

      Furthermore, it is unhealthy to care about achieving any goal, because wanting to achieve that goal implies that you feel a lack in your life now due to having not yet achieved it.

      The exception, as I see it, is placing value in things that you already have and aren't likely to lose. For example, valuing the beauty of nature, life and love, but not particular instances of the latter two (since they are constantly dying and being reformed), only the general concepts. It is even okay to place value in material things that you aren't likely to lose. For example, if you're rich and will likely remain rich for the rest of your life, it is okay to value your money. But if you are poor, or are rich with a spouse who likes to gamble in the stock market, valuing your money is unhealthy. Even striving to attain a goal that you don't yet have might be okay, as long as the process of attaining the goal is enjoyable enough to make up for the feeling of lack at not having yet attained the goal.

      I was at a place a few years ago, in which the members tried to rid themselves of all value, among other things. Something that was often brought up was that it was okay to appreciate things, as long as one does not become attached to them. As long as, if that thing were gone, you would feel no despair. I've been thinking back to this advice, and finding it nearly impossible to follow. If I appreciate something, if it makes me happy in any way, and then I lose it, I will feel sadness.
      Last edited by Dianeva; 01-20-2012 at 10:48 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      However, I argue that, in most cases (not all), the choice to value something will eradicate freedom.
      It sounds like you value freedom above all else. Or like you believe it should be valued above all else. This is a very Buddhist/Eastern belief. But it seems to me in order to achieve something close to this absolute (and rather unrealistic IMO) ideal of pure freedom you';d have to live life like Kwai Chang Kane from the show Kung Fu (probably well before your time.. ) - having nothing - no material possessions, no home, no friends and no lovers. Does this sound like it would make you happy?


      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      This is because it is very difficult not to become attached to things that we value. If you choose to value a person, he or she will very likely leave your life eventually, resulting in pain. If you value your own life, the thought of death will bring you misery.
      This sounds very fear-based. Yes, everything changes, and yes eventually you'll lose everything. This doesn't mean you need to refuse to enjoy things that are there in your life now just because they won't always be there. I do think it's important to take the lessons of Buddhism to heart and learn not go get too attached to material possessions or other people and rely too much on them for happiness... but personally I know I don't have what it takes to live like a monk squatting in the sand dwelling on emptiness for the rest of my life. That sounds like just saying "Well, one day I;ll be dead, so I;ll start practicing now..". I say enjoy what you have whole you have it. but don't be too attached. When it goes feel a moment of grief and then begin to value whatever it is you have left or has come your way since then. Life is ever-changing, and it brings many things you can either enjoy or resist.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Furthermore, it is unhealthy to care about achieving any goal, because wanting to achieve that goal implies that you feel a lack in your life now due to having not yet achieved it.
      Again I feel this is a very austere belief that would only bring misery to most people. Wanting to achieve goals is also known as accepting a challenge, and that energizes a person and fills them with the thrill of life and strife. Though I do think it's important to not get too attached to the results of those challenges. In other words, enjoy the journey for its own merits, don't just focus solely on the results and torture yourself if you fail to achieve exactly what you intended to. Accepting a challenge and racing to achieve it is thrilling and fun, it's an experience, and experience is important. It also changes us, and we might find the experience itself was highly worthwhile and now the original goal is no longer so important.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      The exception, as I see it, is placing value in things that you have and aren't likely to lose. For example, valuing the beauty of nature, life and love, but not particular instances of the latter two (since they are constantly dying and being reformed), only the general concepts. It is even okay to place value in material things that you aren't likely to lose. For example, if you're rich and will likely remain rich for the rest of your life, it is okay to value your money. But if you are poor, or are rich with a spouse who likes to gamble in the stock market, valuing your money is unhealthy. Even striving to attain a goal that you don't yet have might be okay, as long as the process of attaining the goal is enjoyable.
      This also sounds fear-based to me. Yes, nothing is permanent. Life is constant change. Why do values need to be placed only on what is permanent? You aren't permanent! Life isn't permanent! The most beautiful and enjoyable things are those that are the most fleeting... that feeling of love that only lasts for a few weeks or months and then settles into something more prosaic or fades entirely... a flower, a sunset. These things can fill you with unmatchable joy, yet they're gone in a heartbeat. Should you turn away from sunsets because of it? Turn your back on all human contact? Avoid everything that makes you happy?

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I was at a place a few years ago, in which the members tried to rid themselves of all value, among other things. Something that was often brought up was that it was okay to appreciate things, as long as one does not become attached to them. As long as, if that thing were gone, you would feel no despair. I've been thinking back to this advice, and finding it nearly impossible to follow. If I appreciate something, if it makes me happy in any way, and then I lose it, I will feel sadness.
      I'd say it's important to keep in mind that's a very extreme value system, and only monks and yogis were ever able to even come close to achieving it. Take the lessons you can from it and get back to the life of a human being who doesn't want to live in a desert with nothing.

      I believe in "Shoot for the moon and you might hit the roof". Meaning that we usually don't get as far as we might originally expect or want to when we embark on these extreme missions (like studying Eastern religious/spiritual belief systems), but that's ok... they sill pull us some distance toward their rather extreme goals and we learn valuable things along the way. But then we return to regular life, enriched and wiser for the experience.

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      This is just a quick response, I will address this thread with the attention it deserves at a later time. It seems you are trying to not be attached to things you value for fear of loss resulting in sadness. Yet it seems to me that you are valuing a detached mindset of which you seem quite attached. Detaching yourself to avoid the pain of loss is not escaping this cycle. This is the human game. There is no escape from it. Experience sorrow, heartbreak and love, they are beautiful (in my opinion, yes even sorrow). I'm bad at advice, don't listen to my nonsensical ramblings.

      Ah well it seems Darkmatters articulated it better than I was able to.
      Last edited by stormcrow; 01-20-2012 at 10:57 PM.
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      No amount of philosophising, specifically nihilistic philosophising, can ever efface the obvious axiom that things can cause feelings in you that are enjoyable or otherwise.

      So the idea that there is some kind of philosophical imperative to live your life in a detached manner is obviously false, and I'd suggest it's just a defence mechanism. What you should really be doing is taking positive action in your life to counter the negative aspects.

      As to whether the trade off between love and loss is worth it; well, that's your judgement, but virtually everybody agrees that it obviously is. A life full of nothing is to me clearly worse than any life with loving companions, even if you lose them in the end. The negative value of a loss, after all, only exists by virtue of the positive value of the thing in the first place. So for the negative to exceed the positive would be nonsensical.
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      Short advice: Start living, don't hold yourself back , trust yourself.

      You can't fuse the mind with feelings, they work together but theres a link between them , they aren't meant to be one thing.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      However, I argue that, in most cases (not all), the choice to value something will eradicate freedom. This is because it is very difficult not to become attached to things that we value. If you choose to value a person, he or she will very likely leave your life eventually, resulting in pain. If you value your own life, the thought of death will bring you misery.

      If I appreciate something, if it makes me happy in any way, and then I lose it, I will feel sadness.
      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      The negative value of a loss, after all, only exists by virtue of the positive value of the thing in the first place.
      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      This is the human game. There is no escape from it. Experience sorrow, heartbreak and love, they are beautiful.
      You've blatantly exposed our most vulnerable quality, Dianeva, and cast the crux of the human condition against a cool backdrop of objectivity. Our struggle is constant and inherent: we desperately long for stillness despite our clamoring, diverging constitution. However, this is not our deepest misfortune. Our tragedy has sprouted rather remarkably into a lavish blossom of intention: regardless of how we have come to know our doom by reason of a collective effort over thousands of years, we still fall victim to it.

      In unveiling your very weakness, in discovering the frequency at which your heartstrings sing, Dianeva, have not you attained the means to triumph--the means to a higher psychological liberty? You are hardly eradicating freedom, madam. If anything, you've just received a benign precept token from some objective heaven in exchange for your meditation.

    7. #7
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      I do need to think this through a lot more. But I'll respond briefly now to some of the key points, because it might be a while before I find the time to respond more thoroughly.

      To Darkmatters, I wasn't proposing that we should live without valuing anything. Only those things that we're likely to lose.

      To Xei, I agree and am not sure what I was thinking. Happiness should be maximised, and if the process of valuing something is better than the eventual loss of that thing, it should be worth it.

      To Stormcrow, for the reason you've stated it might be impossible to value nothing. Might, although perhaps there is a way to place no value even in the capability not to value anything. Even if you're right, I wasn't proposing that we should value nothing, only things we're likely to lose.

      It definitely was a mechanism to rid myself of pain. During particularly rough moments I began to think about death, the fact that none of this has any real value, only what I give it, that nothing actually matters if I don't want it to. Once I did this, I felt extreme freedom and was able to stop caring about things that demobilised me for the first time in a long time. Even after I'd let go of the conscious thought, and went back to my life, even though I continued to care about things, there remained a conscious part of me overlooking it all and realising that whatever I was caring about didn't really matter, and that was very nice. I found I was able to appreciate beauty in everything more than ever, not just in happy things, but in everything. So, I thought, perhaps this mindset would help others too and is what we should all strive for.

      So, it wasn't even "stop living and stop caring about anything," it was "keep living but make sure you know on some level that none of it really matters." The mindset helps to better control what you choose to think about. When confronted with a distressful issue, I can bring the realisation that nothing matters to my conscious attention concerning that issue, and rid myself of it, so that my attention can focus to other, more positive things that I have no problem valuing.

      I find that over the last week or so my mind has been striving to come up with some mechanism for dealing with misery, one that makes sense, is rational, and makes life livable. It's been switching from one to another almost daily. Right now, I'm choosing to condition my mind and body to simply not be miserable by eating more healthily, ceasing to drink, not listening to sad music, studying things that interest me, etc. Along with some toned down version of what I described above to rid myself of negative thoughts that will inevitably come.
      Last edited by Dianeva; 01-22-2012 at 06:55 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      I've recently entered a state of mind that I've realised would probably be labeled as some form of Nihilism. I'm going to outline my current way of thinking, as well as an issue I have concerning it. Any comments or reading suggestions are greatly appreciated.

      For a long time I've been aware of the fact that life is objectively pointless, that nothing has inherent value. But I did not grasp the implications of that fact concerning how I should treat life. Although I knew that nothing really mattered, my daily thoughts were not at all affected by this fact. The few times that I did consider that there might be practical implications, I excused it with something along the lines of: "yeah, nothing matters objectively, but it still matters to me, and there's no way to escape that."

      I've found recently, though, as some issues in my life became hardly bearable, that the only way out of the misery was to embrace this philosophical fact, strive to feel as though it is true, and try to place as little value as possible in most of the things that concerned me.

      I'm really not clear on the definitions, as I've only recently started to read up on Nihilism and Existentialism. But, as I understand it, Existentialists believe that life does have meaning if you give it meaning, which is just as valid as if it had objective meaning. Even if I'm misunderstanding the definition, I'll still address people who believe this. In a way, it makes sense. Since it's a fact that what I value does matter to me, I can choose to value anything.

      However, I argue that, in most cases (not all), the choice to value something will eradicate freedom. This is because it is very difficult not to become attached to things that we value. If you choose to value a person, he or she will very likely leave your life eventually, resulting in pain. If you value your own life, the thought of death will bring you misery.

      Furthermore, it is unhealthy to care about achieving any goal, because wanting to achieve that goal implies that you feel a lack in your life now due to having not yet achieved it.

      The exception, as I see it, is placing value in things that you already have and aren't likely to lose. For example, valuing the beauty of nature, life and love, but not particular instances of the latter two (since they are constantly dying and being reformed), only the general concepts. It is even okay to place value in material things that you aren't likely to lose. For example, if you're rich and will likely remain rich for the rest of your life, it is okay to value your money. But if you are poor, or are rich with a spouse who likes to gamble in the stock market, valuing your money is unhealthy. Even striving to attain a goal that you don't yet have might be okay, as long as the process of attaining the goal is enjoyable enough to make up for the feeling of lack at not having yet attained the goal.

      I was at a place a few years ago, in which the members tried to rid themselves of all value, among other things. Something that was often brought up was that it was okay to appreciate things, as long as one does not become attached to them. As long as, if that thing were gone, you would feel no despair. I've been thinking back to this advice, and finding it nearly impossible to follow. If I appreciate something, if it makes me happy in any way, and then I lose it, I will feel sadness.
      Alot of what you say is true. But what do you really want in life? what do you enjoy? what makes you happy? It seems you put so much focus and concern for things that bring you trouble and pain. Things come and go. And you may miss them or not. But it will always turn out ok. Life goes on. You should have faith and belief you are going where you need to go. even in times of uncertainty and confusion. Even when all seems hopeless. Life is meaningless but when you stand on the edge of death you will look back thinking of all things you loved and all things you wish you would have done, and you will know in your heart its not time to leave. uuummm you dig? I might of gone off subject a bit
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      It sounds to me as though you are result oriented.

      Let's look at an example. Let's say you want a job, but not getting a job will cause you to suffer, or getting one will eventually cause you to suffer as the job will end. Therefore, you would choose not to be attached to the idea of getting a job. Some time later you realize you are in the same position you would have been if you were attached to getting a job but failed at it because you still don't have one, you didn't have enough attachment to pursue opportunities and the only thing you saved yourself from was the pain of disappointment. You don't try to climb upward because you are afraid of the inevitable feeling of falling back down.

      But life is a process. And the fact is, your suffering does not stem from an attachment to working, but an attachment to "having a job." This possessive, past/future oriented line of thought causes this attachment which makes you feel that fall as a negative and painful experience. So let go of the actualization. Let go of the accumulation. To a person belongs only their actions and never the fruit of them. Pursue right action, not right result. Find happiness in the process.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Furthermore, it is unhealthy to care about achieving any goal, because wanting to achieve that goal implies that you feel a lack in your life now due to having not yet achieved it.
      Not necessarily. We can have goals without being attached to the outcome; likewise for goals themselves. We can do things for their own sake and remain strong and non-attached to the result. Even so, without goals we would not have evolved, or continue to do so, in more ways than one. That poses the question for the above: Are you not simply rewording your goals?

      The exception, as I see it, is placing value in things that you already have and aren't likely to lose. For example, valuing the beauty of nature, life and love, but not particular instances of the latter two (since they are constantly dying and being reformed), only the general concepts. It is even okay to place value in material things that you aren't likely to lose. For example, if you're rich and will likely remain rich for the rest of your life, it is okay to value your money. But if you are poor, or are rich with a spouse who likes to gamble in the stock market, valuing your money is unhealthy. Even striving to attain a goal that you don't yet have might be okay, as long as the process of attaining the goal is enjoyable enough to make up for the feeling of lack at not having yet attained the goal.
      This is almost great wisdom, because you are looking for what lasts. But for what you "aren't likely to lose"...a transitory thing is still a transitory thing. There is really nothing better than valuing what is true and present, valuing the unconditional. As a human being you can appreciate and value conditions for their convenience, but don't become attached to them, and no need to push them away either.

      I was at a place a few years ago, in which the members tried to rid themselves of all value, among other things. Something that was often brought up was that it was okay to appreciate things, as long as one does not become attached to them. As long as, if that thing were gone, you would feel no despair. I've been thinking back to this advice, and finding it nearly impossible to follow. If I appreciate something, if it makes me happy in any way, and then I lose it, I will feel sadness.
      It sounds like you're planning ahead. You will understand it properly in time, when you learn to appreciate and be grateful without attachment. It is all learning and meditation; not simply deciding a different action, but growing to be more restful.

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      I can't really reply right now, but I'll just say that I personally find it impossible not to be attached in some way to something. Yes, I've heard plenty of people say that it is possible for them. It is for me too but only for minor things. Anything major that brings me extreme happiness, if I lose, I will be distraught.

      I don't know why I'm typing anything in this or made this thread in the first place. I don't think anyone really understand what I'm trying to get at, and there is no point.

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      A little pain is just a part of life. If you have 30 years of happiness, then you lose someone, the degree of happiness is going to far outweigh the momentary pain, even if that pain lasts months or years.

      I think its okay and even healthy to become attached to people and things, as long as you have an understanding that nothing lasts forever.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      However, I argue that, in most cases (not all), the choice to value something will eradicate freedom. This is because it is very difficult not to become attached to things that we value. If you choose to value a person, he or she will very likely leave your life eventually, resulting in pain. If you value your own life, the thought of death will bring you misery.

      Furthermore, it is unhealthy to care about achieving any goal, because wanting to achieve that goal implies that you feel a lack in your life now due to having not yet achieved it.
      Since you asked for reading suggestions, you might try The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Freedom is a theme in it (the character Sabina), that it is better to be involved with people than to have freedom. Freedom can make you miserable, too, that's the "unbearable lightness" of the title.

      About goals, I've had some similar thoughts but I really think a non-consequentialist attitude is really helpful. Set and persue goals, but don't base them on an outcome... rather base them on what they'll put you through. Life is a journey not a destination... wisest cliche I know.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 01-26-2012 at 11:05 PM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      ..distraught...I don't know why I'm typing anything in this or made this thread in the first place. I don't think anyone really understand what I'm trying to get at, and there is no point.
      i read you loud and clear, snookums


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      My experience tells me not to watch that video.

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      it's sticks in your head, you've been warned =]

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