The Optimistic Nihilist

“The death rate from life is 100%,” my very wise patient once said.

No matter what, you and I will eventually die. 

Humans, as a species, will also die, I’m convinced.  I’ve said it before:  We are the pathogen.

I believe the current vector of collective human action points squarely toward self-induced extinction.  I’m also convinced we’ll take a good many other species with us before we’re through.  But Earth herself will outlive us, and thrive in our absence.  …Unless we figure out a better balance with nature, within and around us, as individuals and as intersecting collectives, before our spectacular self-destruction.

So assuming and accepting that our taxonomic lifespan is finite, I propose to embrace a beautiful and exhilarating paradox: As individuals at any given time, in any given place or situation, none of what we do may matter at all, and it all matters like life or death. Everything about our survival depends on how we relate—to ourselves, one another, our environment, our times—everything! How can I, myself, bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice? I grab it when it swings my way, and hang on with all my might—in all that I do. I call on my friends to grab on, too. Iterative, incremental change, a fraction of a degree at a time, nudges the vector’s direction toward something better. As I imagine sailors know: a small shift in tack here and now translates to a very different destination over a long enough distance and time. What might it look like? I think it has to be better polar reconciliation–letting go either/or and embracing both/all/and: Purpose and profit, humility and recognition, freedom and responsibility, diversity and inclusion, individual and collective health and well-being.

Every day we live is another day closer to our eventual demise.  And every day we wake, we have so many breaths, encounters, and opportunities with which to shift the vector, to bend that arc.

Until such time as humanity actually succeeds in killing ourselves, and I really think we will, we still have a chance.  We can still work to be our best, most creative, generative, communal, and symbiotic selves.

Onward, friends, ODOMOBaaT!

13 thoughts on “The Optimistic Nihilist

  1. Hi, Cathy, I share your belief that humans are engaged in self-destruction, and your hope that we won’t take the planet—or too many other species—with us. And I endorse the notion of being and becoming our best selves in the face of our demise. I also believe that means active, organized, persistent, and nonviolent opposition to those who would hasten our destruction, profit from it, and further divide or marginalize humanity. We owe that to however many—or few—generations that may still follow us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy new year Cathy! You can add me to your group of people who believe in our evitable doom as human beings. I always somewhat believed it, but reading Daniel Kahneman’s “thinking fast and slow” really cemented it for me. We just fundamentally seem ill-equipped as a species to handle threats that aren’t related to dangerous animals jumping out of bushes, starving, or not getting laid. 😉

    It turns out I’m also an atheist, which I suppose makes me the ultimate downer (and yes, I am still somewhat popular at parties). Ironically, I find this combination of beliefs inspirational. If the future of the human race is doomed, and there’s no afterlife, then all we have is this life. It’s pretty much the ultimate motivation to “seize the day!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mike! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I can think of plenty of theists who are definitely bigger downers than you. 🤪 Oohh we gotta get together again and talk—your short comment is so full of potential roads of thought and discussion!! 😱
      I imagine people have many varied motivations for adopting the carpe diem mindset… but I’m the end I wonder if they all boil down to a common something?? Soooo fascinating!! 😄


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