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Seeking the meaning of life

My friend says “it just doesn’t matter.”

Our elder offers advice on how to help a nihilist teen find a more positive perspective.

Dear EWC:

I am not quite sure how to open this letter, so I will just get right into my problem.

One of my close friends (we are both seventeen) strictly adheres to a nihilistic perspective and simply refuses that there is any meaning in life or existence. I have tried to urge him to see things from another perspective, but it is impossible to make an argument against nihilism. He is very intelligent, far too intelligent for his own good. Any argument I make against his point of view is rebutted with, ‘it just doesn’t matter.’ I just want him to be able to see that there can be a meaning to life and that it is worth it to persist through his struggles.

I’m not sure if this is the place to come to for an issue like this, but even another person’s perspective (someone who has actually LIVED) will help 🙂

tl;dr: Seventeen year old is trying to help her nihilistic friend find some meaning in life.

Treefrog replies:

Unfortunately, there are people who struggle to find anything positive in life and for them the ol’ glass is always “half empty”. I think it’s a bit unusual for this sort of perspective to occur at such a young age but, then again, today’s culture seems to promote that kind of thinking, maybe more so than in the past. Perhaps it is because of social media and the fact that bad news travels pretty fast and those who fall into nihilism can Twitter or Facebook it all over the place.

I personally think that nihilism is a cop out. It’s much easier to just take the road of denial than face the daily challenge of finding meaning in life on a personal level. A novelist by the name of Yann Martel once wrote: “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

If you search Wikipedia and type in “nihilism” you will read that, as a philosophy of life, it is a paradox. For example, the person who contends that there is no meaning in life has actually put forth that the meaning of life is that there is no meaning. So the nihilist actually gives life meaning! Hard to think about, eh?

I personally don’t think I’m capable of giving the whole universe “meaning”. That’s beyond me to understand it other than it exists. I know this through my senses which I cannot deny. Does the universe have meaning beyond what I know from my senses? I don’t know, however, I cannot deny it. However, a great philosopher once said, “I think, therefore I am”. I know I exist and in my knowledge I have this desire to know “who” I am and “why” I am. I look at the universe around me and, because I have an intellect, I want a place in it. That only occurs with seeking “purpose”. Life is given meaning when “purpose” is introduced. This goes for everything from simple flowers producing seed to beget more flowers right on up to mankind seeking its sense of purpose. The only difference is flowers follow natural law while we have to use our intellect.

I think the nihilist treads a dangerous path. If there is no meaning to life, why live? Not good! Yet one of the strongest urges in a person’s life is “self preservation”. Seems to be a contradiction there? I sincerely hope that your friend’s perspective on life isn’t the result of depression. It may be possible. If it is then it would be good for him to talk to a professional counselor.

You are a good person to care so much about your friend and I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. Good luck with your conversations with your friend! Feel free to write back anytime! Take Care!

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