Saturday, February 8, 2014

narrative is mortal, nihilism is denial

Human experience is narrative, it's popular and accurate to point out, and humans created narrative. (Not agents. Humans.) To analyze narrative is to find its humanness. Having evolved in humans, in a manner they don't understand, via principles inaccessible to them over the course of millions of years, narrative cowers before its own mortality.

Descartes, one of the most brilliant humans of all time, committed himself to constructing an analysis-proof (immortal) narrative. He couldn't come up with a single narrative fragment that remains intact today. Science faces the same problem.

Nihilism may seem to be about the death of narrative, but it's not that, simply. It's the death of a certain kind of narrative, one that evolved on punishment-reward (by authority) principles. Meaning and purpose are given from outside. Meet the goals and be rewarded. Fail and be punished. Powerful chemicals, those. That the death of a particular kind of narrative leads to feelings we describe with words like "pain" and "loss" and "emptiness" and sends our brain wheels spinning to recover is evidence enough that narrative doesn't die along with grand-purposive-transcendent-adult-in-the-sky-rewarding-me-with-approval-and-thereby-sweet-brain-chemicals narrative.

Humans are narrative creating machines and the problem is finding one that can deliver the right chemicals. Never getting addicted in the first place is probably the best answer, and that's a matter of childrearing. Using philosophy narrative to recover is likely futile at best. Nietzsche was as good as there has ever been and died miserable (please see Alice Miller's account). If you're trying to defeat narrative with anti-narrative (itself narrative), like Nietzsche was, you've probably already lost. Instead, get some exercise. Stop philosophizing. Hug a kid, a friend, a dog. (These are notes to self, as well.)

(This post is a supplement to this one.)

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