“Optimistic nihilism” is liberating


Source: Uncrate

I once considered the possibility that Buddhism is a form of nihilism through some explanations of it in a reading. I thought that was a brutally hasty assumption by some but I lacked a good way to argue that realizing that there is no self is in no way intended to be nihilistic. Rather, it goes hand in hand with the Buddhist view of life that often provides people with insights on how to deal with existential dread. I needed to understand it better and needed someone to explain it to me in even more common language. I was confused until this day when I found this video which I thought is the closest explanation of what Buddhism is telling us.

Here’s my example of this idea: I did badly on my first AMTH test today and I let myself drown in a miserable mood for a while, knowing that I made stupid mistakes despite spending so much time studying for it. It was a hit on the head emotionally considering how passionately I’ve set goals for myself in this new year and how confident I was about my plans to reach these goals after careful analysis of my strengths and weaknesses. Ironically, the harder I tried to reflect on how I could have used that studying time better and do better next time, the more pain I felt and less reassurance I have about actually doing better next time. But if only had I realized that nothing will eventually matter, I would have been much less upset, and therefore my emotions wouldn’t have gotten in the way of my reflection. Then I won’t feel miserable and can be objectively sure that I *will* do better.

This is why realizing that there is no self (anything and everything will cease existing at some point) can be a liberating experience. It means to take the first step to overcome existential dread—rather than dwelling in it—and be able to live life meaningfully in a graceful, non-aggressive way.


Side note: I’m constantly blown away by the graphic designs and music by Kurzgesagt. Of course, content is always the main focus in the videos, but oh I just couldn’t help but appreciate how well they put together all the amazing animation and music to render their points…a design for even the numbers! I mean, if all they wanted to do was create educational videos, they could have just lazily typed big letters on the screen and threw a bunch of old photos together.

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