Philosophical Musings #1

1. Long Live Death!

Why is everyone so afraid of death?

Granted, it is directly opposed to our instinct of self-preservation; but in reality, our intellect should recognize it as the road to the ultimate freedom – a world free of boxes, restrictions, the prison of existence itself.

As the Japanese saying goes, “while duty is heavier than a mountain, death is lighter than a feather”.

Life is a constant barrage of insults, injuries and injustices, punctuated by brief moneys of success and happiness; yet their very fleeting nature, by holding out an illusory hope of sustained bliss, just further reinforces life’s burdens. As Milan Kundera wrote:

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Yet death is complete dissipation into thin air, nirvana. Sublime ∅blivion.

Its just that the road to death is hard and painful, ending in a cliff. Yet did we fear or hate our existence before birth? Of course not. We couldn’t. We were free of the shackles of reality binding us to life – and the fear of the primeval darkness of the thereafter.

Rationalism is death; Claws of Cthulhu. Hence the fundamental irrationality of the human aversion to, and fear of, the eternal peace of the benign Void.

2. Totalitarian Aesthetics

Totalitarianism is a form of unity, and as such suicide. It co-opts everything and concentrates all power in the hands of One Leader. The urge to fall into a single body or mass, the feeling of vertigo, the abyss of sublime oblivion.

Such is the totalitarian aesthetic – monumental, militaristic, millenarian. The final triumph of the will over reason; for all reason leads to this suicide. A challenge to the Gods themselves.

…..The future of the West is not a limitless tending upwards and onwards for all time towards our presents ideals, but a single phenomenon of history, strictly limited and defined as to form and duration, which covers a few centuries and can be viewed and, in essentials, calculated from available precedents. With this enters the age of gigantic conflicts, in which we find ourselves today. It is the transition from Napoleonism to Caesarism, a general phase of evolution, which occupies at least two centuries and can be shown to exist in all Cultures…..

…..The last century [the 19th] was the winter of the West, the victory of materialism and scepticism, of socialism, parliamentarianism, and money. But in this century blood and instinct will regain their rights against the power of money and intellect. The era of individualism, liberalism and democracy, of humanitarianism and freedom, is nearing its end. The masses will accept with resignation the victory of the Caesars, the strong men, and will obey them…..

…..Life will descend to a level of general uniformity, a new kind of primitivism, and the world will be better for it…..

(O. Spengler, 1918)

3. The Power of the Text

[No picture. For a text is worth a thousand pictures.]

All the great epics have already been written. Fantasy and sci-fi can only reference the all-encompassing monomyth. Art has long sunk into abstract oblivion, or the wry regurgitation of old forms (sarcasm is the lowest form of wit). God is dead. The Romantic struggle to return to belief only produces pale imitations of the original, a meaningless reaction superseded by the (third) nihilism of transparency.

The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don’t think so – all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.

…The system is itself also nihilistic, in the sense that it has the power to pour everything, including what denies it, into indifference.

There is no more hope for meaning. And without a doubt this is a good thing: meaning is mortal. But that on which it has imposed its ephemeral reign, what it hoped to liquidate in order to impose the reign of the Enlightenment, that is, appearances, they, are immortal, invulnerable to the nihilism of meaning or of non-meaning itself.

This is where seduction begins.

Baudrillard, On Nihilism.

We live in a world of poshlost.

Corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature—these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know.

– Nabokov (1973)

The tyranny of the System. Those who write the texts rule. References upon citations upon references, binding us into an iron cage, a paper prison. Impossible to break out of the mesh. A matrix so fine we don’t even see it. Realizing its existence is enlightenment. And madness.

Against this hegemony of the system, one can exalt the ruses of desire, practice revolutionary micrology of the quotidian, exalt the molecular drift or even defend cooking. This does not resolve the imperious necessity of checking the system in broad daylight.

This, only terrorism can do.

It is the trait of reversion that effaces the remainder, just as a single ironic smile effaces a whole discourse, just as a single flash of denial in a slave effaces all the power and pleasure of the master.

The more hegemonic the system, the more the imagination is struck by the smallest of its reversals. The challenge, even infinitesimal, is the image of a chain failure. Only this reversibility without a counterpart is an event today, on the nihilistic and disaffected stage of the political. Only it mobilizes the imaginary.

– Baudrillard, On Nihilism.

Now all that’s left to the prophet of the postmodern testament is either the reproduction of the old forms, or their destruction. No new ideas, only citation, revision, – and annihilation.


  1. But a reproduction that yields order cannot be all bad. Better to annihilate nihilism itself from the conscious awareness of people. Man cannot survive long under a reign of nihilism.

    Nietzsche’s abyss is profound, his effort to transcend it, in the end, I believe failed. Those who inherit his insight would do well to understand his limits and his failure. He was right to desire the conquest of nihilism, yet his aesthetic methodology for accomplishing this failed because it was ultimately inhuman.

    While man may wish to transcend himself, and may one day if we reach the so-called singularity, however, until then, his transcendence can and must be ethereal. Should the singularity not be reached, that ethereal transcendence will, by necessity, be eternal. Indeed, that may be the only place where the truly sublime resides.

  2. I think it makes sense to be scared of death for at least two reasons:

    1. Dying is often very painful and protracted. It is entirely natural to be afraid of pain.

    2. People we love will (hopefully!) be very sad when we die and they survive us. It is entirely natural to want our loved ones to avoid protracted sadness. If extreme sadness is also a form of pain, then we are afraid of our loved ones being in protracted pain as a result of our death.

    Apart from the above, I don’t really know any other reasons for fearing our death that is not somehow bound up in our own egotism at not existing any longer.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts here.

  3. I’ve recently seen both my parents die. Neither seemed terribly afraid at the very end, although that could be an individual quirk rather than a universal attribute. But I feel moderately unmoved by the thought of death myself these days, so I expect I have may have inherited that indifference. When I was younger I was much more afraid, which is probably part of the reason I have survived into my late fifties reasonably unmarked and unscarred.

    Fear of death is instinctive, but the old, having done most of the business of life and now living on into functional uselessness, can safely leave instinct behind.

    I would therefore expect the fear of death, at least partly, to be more marked in a society with a younger demographic.

  4. Your thoughts on death reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Shakespeare, from Measure for Measure:

    Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
    To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
    This sensible warm motion to become
    A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
    To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
    In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
    To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
    And blown with restless violence round about
    The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
    Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
    Imagine howling: ’tis too horrible!
    The weariest and most loathed worldly life
    That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
    Can lay on nature is a paradise
    To what we fear of death.

    Of course, if I am interpreting it correctly, that passage assumes that there is an afterlife, and therefore something concrete to fear. Perhaps one would not have such fears if one were convinced that there is no afterlife, that death is simply nothingness? Even then, that is a scary thought to me.

  5. А будет продолжение?

  6. Thank you all – Greg, Brett, Lloyd, Natalie – for your insightful and meaningful comments.

    Yes, there’ll be a continuation. As soon as I get another three Facebook Notes of a similar nature.

  7. Then why not suicide? Camus posed the question but never arrived at anything like a remotely relevant answer.