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On nihilism

I’ve never tried to dissemble my real personality in my writings, and I don’t think I will start soon: I’ve been engaged in a war against my urge to collect vintage video games via eBay for nearly a year now. While I can’t say that I lost the war, I also can’t say I have won: there are some times when I’m able to rein in these desires and not purchase anything for months, but there are also times when my resolve was just too easily broken (these were certainly at low points in my life).


I can easily say that I won this week’s battle, however. Instead of purchasing another impractical collectible, I instead channeled my spare time into reading novels and used some of my excess funds to purchase a pristine copy of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. I have already somewhat triumphed on the wastrel in me, as in the previous weeks I’ve settled for one dollar items and nothing else. While I don’t know when this current self-control of mine will terminate, I do know that I’m trying to restrain this said impracticality by channeling my time into books. It has been decently successful: I think Devils is the first novel I have completed in four months.

Devils is one of the major novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. As he is universally recognized to be among the best writers of all time, even his minor works are better than most of other authors’ major novels. Devils, like his other major novels, was a great novel. Unlike his other novels, however, this was primarily a novel of ideas. Nihilism was a budding idea among the youth at the time of the novel’s writing, and Dostoevsky wanted to offer his own opinion with regard to it: it is all the more impressive in retrospect because Dostoevsky was able to predict what would happen to his beloved Russia years from the novel’s publication. In addition, Dostoevsky differentiates the true nihilist (Stavrogin) from the politically-leaning ‘nihilist’ (Verkhovensky), alongside many other things. It’s a brilliant political tract, although it most definitely can’t be read without focus or lightly, like all of Dostoevsky’s major works. I have written about it to some extent in the past, but it was only this week where I re-read the novel and finally finished it, too.

As an idea, nihilism is extremely unsustainable (without going to its denotation), because it’s essentially a belief in nothing. It’s not anarchy, for example, which is the upheaval of the current social structures and burning that to the ground. That’s not a belief in nothing. When one truly believes in nothing, one shouldn’t care if no one else has faith in that belief: after all, he believes in nothing, not even himself.

Even at a cataclysmic event will not be enough to trigger a widespread belief in the beauty of nihilism. Nihilism is essentially a one-man show, something that even post-apocalyptic series and anime do not show within its characters. Man must believe in something for him to continue existing. Whether it is in God or in himself, he attempts to find meaning in the chaos that surrounds his world. This has been the case in a lot of anime series dealing with disaster, from Bokurano to even Neon Genesis Evangelion: even Shinji ultimately just wants to be accepted; Rei wants to be loved and so does Asuka.

Can you really believe in nothing?