“How to be a happy nihilist”

Wendy Syfret writes for Psyche on the positive nihilist perspective:

Key points – How to be a happy nihilist

The rise of meaningless meaning. The search for meaning used to be a noble pursuit, but it’s become commercialised and now inspires more angst than awe.

Nihilism as a solution. This is the philosophy that says life is meaningless. Handled with care, it can be liberating.

The cleansing power of sunny nihilism. This is a kind of optimistic nihilism that highlights the delicate beauty of existence, the absurdity of life, and the exciting chaos of the everyday.

Understand the difference between passive and active forms of nihilism. Passive nihilists scramble to fill the void with anything to hand; active nihilists are undaunted, and fill the space with their own values.

Stay alert to meaningless meaning. To avoid passive or toxic nihilism, it pays to be vigilant of, and guard against, the ways the world is trying to convince you that you’re partaking in a sacred act.

Recognise the happy side of nihilism. When you stop focusing on a greater point, you’ll find you can ask simpler but more rewarding questions, such as: what does happiness look like right now?

Nihilism doesn’t have to spiral into selfishness. When you stare into the abyss, it reframes your attention to things you hope will last for a little longer than yourself.

Try a light meditation on death. I can report that this is a terrifying exercise. But when you imagine each breath to be your last, each breath becomes a gift on arrival.

Remember pointless pleasures. From the smell of fresh basil to an excellent joke, start a ‘nice things’ list. Meaningless, sure. Precious, absolutely.

Click here to listen to a radio interview with the author.

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