Nihilism – not waving, drowning.


Gentile or Jew,
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

T.S.Elliot, ‘The Waste Land’, IV.

I’ve been trying so hard to make all this suffering mean something. But it’s been me deciding what has been meaningful, and kicking myself into making that happen. Parallel to that is knowledge, on an emotional level, about how everything is quite meaningless, leading to a teen nihilism (It’s not a phase, Mother!). On the other side is having deep understanding that the universe is mind-bogglingly huge, and there is no point insisting that anything a human does matters beyond their own imagining. The central beam, however contains the pivot, where I put my Self at the centre to contain all meaning.

Arguing with one’s psychiatrist about meaninglessness is my particular version of hell. Not Christian hell, nothing so…. Gitmo. More like poetic late Hellenic Tartarus. My particular version is like a cross between the punishment of the Danaïdes, and that scene in Consider Phlebas where Horza’s (thankfully failed) execution is by being drowned in the gradually rising sewerage of the city of his captors. The phrase that goes through his mind while this is happening is:

The Jinmoti of Bozlen Two kill the hereditary ritual assassins of the new Yearking’s immediate family by drowning them in the tears of the Continental Empathaur in its Sadness Season.

See, that makes it sound important, doesn’t it? But really I’m just drowning in shit thinking that I will be ritually purified, like the Danaïdes. Therapy is stupid. The real problem of truly understanding that meaning is impossible, is that the pain involved in recognising my insignificance means that true nihilism remains out of reach. So absurdity is the only refuge, as my nose fills with successive flushes of excrement without doing me the kindness of actually drowning me.


Phlebas, the drowned Phoenician pirate, as described by Banks from The Wasteland


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