If we are with someone who is depressed we might tell them that only they themselves can pull themselves back on track, and the reason for giving this advice is simple – the purposes and grounds that determine and support our lives are individual, personal ones. Perhaps they include a family and they are no doubt embellished with certain other marking factors – stamps of identity, memberships, beliefs and ideologies. In fact, the mesh is so complex that if our friend tells us that he or she is feeling down and lacks the motivation to go on and we ask why? our friend will probably reply that he or she doesn’t know. Perhaps there are clear reasons for the break down, perhaps not, the point is that whether there are or not, when we ask why, they don’t know the answer. They don’t know because the reasons for the purposes and grounds that we stand on are themselves flimsy ones, without any more than a superficial substance based on a measuring of our lives against the lives of others.
This measuring of ourselves is void of any meaningful placement of ourselves within the entirety of things. As soon as we let our thoughts stray toward this entirety we are doomed. Pascal’s nightmare of “the eternal silence of these empty spaces,” terrifies us all, and, like Pascal, we could drop into the religious for comfort, but even so, the day to day flimsiness still whirls around us and even the churches seem full of this flimsiness.
The temples feed us with man-made dogmas that supposedly come from our omnipotent creator only to make us more guilt-ridden than happy with our place in the world. In theory the monotheistic religions should draw us into the universal and allow us to embrace humanity, but they fail to do this because their dogmas are separating ones, buried in a narrative of good versus evil; of accomplishment versus failure; of our message against theirs.
Decentred, an individual needs to be centred again within the ecumenical whole, and the real community for the individual human being must be humanity itself. Only by positing ourselves with humanity itself can we start to find concrete answers to the why question.
Not only is the damage done by the devaluating of the human a psychological or spiritual problem, it has also pushed us to the brink of existential disaster in our persistent ecological damage to the biosphere that maintains us and all life forms on this planet. The lack of humanity as the measure of all human values and internecine promotion of sectarianism and separations will only keep us on a knife-edge over an annihilating abyss.
Nevertheless, this pessimistic condition has an optimistic side. As Nietzsche believed, the devaluing will lead to a revaluing. The nihilism embedded in our anti-humanity civilisation will become clearer and clearer to the individuals who suffer the consequences of that nihilism, a clarity that will create necessary revaluations and new purposes and grounds for existence, based, hopefully on unifying rather than separating elements. A will to be human, or to be Sapiens. But, in order for human power to be liberated we must accept that nihilism reigns in the world and understand that our nihilistic civilisation is working against humanity rather in its favour.
At the moment we stand at a crucial crossroads between a great revaluation of civilisation or a nihilistic slide into nightmarish dystopias or even internecine destruction and annihilation. Fukuyama preached we had reached the end of history[i]. Quite the contrary, we stand at the doorstep of its beginning – what we call the historical process so far has been an anti-human historical process that needs to be shut down in order to allow for a truly human history to take shape.
Both science and philosophy have led us beyond the magical relationship with the suprasensory. Sacrifices are no longer intelligible acts of bonding with the universal. What really binds us is the fact that we all possess rational minds that need to understand and articulate the reality around us. The real purposes and groundwork for our lives lies in our thoughts and imaginations and our capacity to perceive and dream a Universe that finds itself fulfilled. A Universe in which its own Being is authenticated in the representation of itself in our collective minds.
[i] See Francis Fukuyama THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN