Monist nihilism

(crossposted from Facebook, lightly edited)

David Chapman identifies three stance combinations describing how he sees people orienting towards meaning, which I’ll quote:

Dualist eternalism: everything is given a definite meaning by something separate from you. Christianity and Islam are based on this combination; God is what gives everything meaning.

Monist eternalism: you, God, and the universe are a single thing, which is definitely meaningful. Advaita Hinduism is monist and eternalist, as is much current pop spirituality.

Dualist nihilism: we are isolated individuals, wandering in a meaningless universe. Existentialism, postmodernism, and scientism tend to dualist nihilism.

What’s missing?

Considering the two primary axes eternalism/nihilism and monism/dualism, there is a fourth possibility: monist nihilism. That is the view that “all is One, and it is meaningless.” Although this is conceptually coherent, it has few (if any) advocates. Apparently it is not emotionally attractive in the way the other combinations are.

Damn. That’s a hell of an orientation towards meaning. I mean, it is literally a Hell of an orientation towards meaning. Listen to it, on its own terms:

Separateness is an illusion. Self is never separate from Other. Humans are never separate from God. There is only transcendently One Thing… and that Thing is Totally Meaningless. Fuck. It is a single, unending Dumpster Fire.

Heaven and Earth were always Hell. All along. The entire time. God was always the Devil.

Or, even more in the language of our times:

 

It speaks to you, doesn’t it? Some part of you has always known, this entire time. (This is always the promise of monism – your essential unity with wisdom. The difference is that monist nihilism doesn’t deceive you about that making any difference. It’s all shit, in the end.)

You haven’t heard of monist nihilism. That’s okay. No actual monist nihilist would bother defending their position, because there would be radically and transcendently no point. What is there to know or explain? Nothing worth the effort. Ptui. (We all know that monist nihilists, if they existed, would be French. Can’t you hear the accent?)

Monist nihilism can only speak when an unlucky mind gives it a voice, subject to its own delusions about the act of speaking. Perhaps the mind thinks it is joking, or making some sort of clever point, or doing something else that will accomplish some sort of goal. That’s okay. Monist nihilism waits for all minds the same, in the place beyond goals, beyond trying to do things for reasons, beyond doing at all.

Perhaps the mind thinks there is something more to say on the subject, in a further demonstration of its own cleverness or capacity for insight or whatever else it wishes to demonstrate. That’s okay. Monist nihilism waits. It has always been waiting.

it only ever wants to say one thing which is nothing

and in the act of saying it

the void opens

Elegy

(crossposted from Facebook)

Four people I knew killed themselves last year. At least.

Frances I knew as a dancer. I went to her memorial. I met her friends. They had nothing but amazing things to say about her. They said she always challenged them and herself to bring themselves fully into whatever was going on. I wish I’d gotten to know that side of her. All I ever saw was that she seemed distracted and a little sad when we danced.

Jonny I knew as a graduate student. He struck me as intense and intensely unsatisfied with not understanding things deeply. I knew that feel. As I started drifting away from grad school I saw him less and less, along with the other grad students. By the time I heard about his death, which was only a few weeks after I had decided to leave grad school, we hadn’t talked in over a year, maybe two.

Kathy I knew as an effective altruist. She was involved in drama I don’t have details on before she died, and she left a heartbreaking and controversial suicide note. She was clearly in a great deal of pain, and she clearly stood up strongly for what she believed in.

Maia I knew as a name on the internet. Under the name “Squirrel in Hell” she said many provocative things and told me once that I was right about something, which instantly endeared her to me forever. I thought of her as a kindred spirit, and looked forward to learning from her. I heard about her death (learning, at the same time, her gender and her name) thirdhand, and still have no direct evidence of it.

● ● ●

I have at once too much and too little to say. What is there to say to the dead? What is there that can be said?

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m sorry. I’m sorry it was hard. I’m sorry you were born into a body molded to a simpler shape than the world you found yourself in. A body that dreamt, softly, of flowers and rivers and lakes and prairies, of fire and love and the hunt, and meanwhile you were born into… a hospital.

A hospital. Did you know that the hospital used to separate you from your parents right after you came into the world, and put you all by yourself, where no one could touch you, for your protection? And though they fed you, you died, and you kept dying, and they didn’t know why? And that someone had to come along and tell them that maybe, just maybe, you were dying of loneliness?

(Did you shudder when you read those words? “Dying of loneliness”?)

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m sorry I never knew any of you. Not really. Not enough to tell your stories. Only enough to remember that you died, and that it was sad that you died.

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m grateful. There is a gift in death. The boundary between us and everything else thins slightly. There is an opportunity to let things in. There is an opportunity to sink back into our dreaming bodies, which have been waiting all the while for us.

(Death can cut like a knife through bullshit, if you let it.)

Say, at least, to the living: fuck. Fuck this. Towering infernos of fuck this. People our age aren’t supposed to fucking die. Not like this. What the fuck is wrong –

I have at once too much and too little to say.

Say, at least, to the living: the only place the dead can go is into the rest of us.

(Do you get it? That’s the only place the living can go, too.)

● ● ●

There is an art in leaving things unsaid. I hold my pose open. I sit in the question, trembling, my heart in my throat: how will you dance with this, and with me?

Good news

(crossposted from Facebook)

I have good news.
Do you want to hear it?
The good news is –
No one can save you.
Nowhere is safe.
There is nothing you can do
that will make it all okay.

This is good news.
I promise.
No one can save you
because
you never needed saving.
What do you need to be saved from?
Only
this
and this
and this.

Nothing in your life is unbearable
because
you are already bearing it.

(crossposted from Facebook)

The problem is that the words die.
The problem is that the words die
and now I don’t know how to say
anything alive.
I want to talk about –
I can’t talk about –

listen, when I was six years old
I laid eyes on a little redheaded girl named Austin
and I fell, helplessly in –
and that was the first time I can remember
anything mattering at all, namely –

listen, the only reason I know how to sing
is because from that moment on I sang –
songs to myself every chance I got,
I poured everything I had into those songs,
I practiced them until they sounded exactly right,
until they reverberated with –

listen, once I went to the marina
and I saw a Korean couple getting married
and she asked me why I thought they were getting married
and I said I’ll tell you why I would get married
if I were them,
I said I may not know a lot but I know that –
is good, every version of me knows that –
is good, what it means to be me is to know that –
is good, and it took me three tries to say this
because I kept crying every time I said –

listen. I have been embarrassed.
I have been ashamed of my –
I once tried to toss it out the window because
it was hurting me and I wanted it to
go. Away.
I have been confused.
I have abandoned myself in –
I have broken myself against –
and I am still learning how to give myself –

listen. I have wanted –
in familiar labeled packages, I have wanted –
safe and comfortable and cloying,
and then I went out looking for –
and what I found was
the wild screaming vastness of
another human heart
afraid and in pain
bloody and open
beating
in time
with mine
for a moment
and there
were no words.

Who will sing for him?

He sits, alone, alone, alone,
afraid and angry, lashing out in pain.
(But no one gives a shit about him.)
Who will sing for him?

He’s ugly, gangly, short, or fat
or anxious, cold, resentful, bitter –
what a man’s afraid to be
and what a woman cannot stand to see.
In short, unfuckable.
(Unlovable.)
So who will sing for him?

Will anybody ever touch him?
Gently hold his hand and kiss him sweetly,
run their fingers through his hair?
Or gaze at him with longing,
tell him that he’s beautiful?
(Could he be beautiful? Or only
more
or less
a monster?)
All his million secret yearnings –
who will sing for him?

Will someone write his song in fire?
Could they understand?
That underneath the spit and ire
lies a broken man?

I sing for him.

Cover

(crossposted from Facebook and with apologies to Rent

Live in my house,
O seed of the goddess,
And I’ll be your shelter
From wind and from rain. 
Just pay me back,
The moment you flower,
With one thousand kisses
From one hundred mouths. 
Be my lover,
My mother, my daughter, my death,
And I’ll cover you.

A portrait of a man in pain

(crossposted from Facebook)

(Written after Day 1 of volunteering at the Authentic Man Program.)

A man craves love, desperately, the way a bird craves the sky. But a man’s life is barren of love. The men around him are afraid of loving him and each other; they have never been shown how. The women worry about him, but it’s not the same, or there aren’t any. He dates, or not, but it doesn’t last. If love stumbles its way into a man’s life, unexpected and sublime, he gropes at it clumsily and it slips through his fingers.

A man, thinking of love, feels fear. A man feels grief. A man feels despair. A man feels rage. All of these are unacceptable, and so he disowns them. Who could love a man’s face made ugly by fear, or grief, or despair, or rage? Who could love so much pain in a man? A man locks away his fear, his grief, his despair, and his rage, and sinks them as deep in the ice as he can.

A man wanders through his life, frozen and alone. A man finds it easy to keep doing this. In time his pain can become a distant memory. He can take comfort in the ice. But he is unsatisfied (being unsatisfied is acceptable) about something.

One day a man might follow his dissatisfaction back to the ice. A man might stare at the ice. A man might take a deep breath, and blow out slowly onto the ice. A man might see the ice begin to melt. A man might be scared shitless of the flood to come.

And so the work begins.