I was watching The Big Lebowski this afternoon. It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time. Though I would choose the Meat Puppets version of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” over the original, I find a great deal of consubstantiality with the dude. Aside from having the same first name, and the same taste in drinks, and a shared hatred of the Eagles, I often find myself in opposition with the nihilists. As Walter says,

You can say what you want about National Socialism, but at least it’s an ethos.

Though I hate to agree with Kenneth Burke, I do think that the primary aim of discourse is consubstantiality. This issue came up in the lecture on argumentation last night; the resolution of conflict is aimed not just in assent to propositions, but to an interpenetration of world views. We don’t just aim to make people agree with us, we aim to make people think like us.

Without an ethos, there can be no communication. There must be core values of shared implicature for communication to occur. We must understand each other’s motives and desires. If there is sufficient overlap, a leveling process ensues as values are transferred and modified. This does seem to be inextricably bound to negation, where values in conflict must be excluded for concord to occur. If a common ethos is established, depending on the zone of consubstantiality, friendship and even love occur.

Nihilism prohibits love by its very nature. That’s why I don’t feel like I can succumb to it. The essential quality of love, to me at least, is placing someone else’s welfare above your own. The translation of this into a tragic formula has been complete in my experience; everyone I’ve ever loved, I’ve had to let go of. Because my presence, in one form or another, proved damaging to them.

Friendship is quite similar to love in some respects. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and all that. I suspect it’s a parity relation. Rather than holding the welfare of a friend above our own, we hold it close to the same level as our own. The balances shift, as values come in conflict, but stable long term friendships are marked by this oscillation, and return to parity after periods of disagreement and disconnection.

Ron queried: “Can our disembodied friendships be as meaningful as our embodied friendships?” I am the wrong person to ask about this. Other than my ex-wife, I have had few “embodied” friendships in the past six years. Most of the people I have called friend now live in a different state; I suppose it’s this disconnection that leads me to rant so much in this environment, hoping that someone will hear, hoping that someone will share my view.

I try to avoid online crushes, but as Shauny commented, they play some part in linking activities. When you read what people share of themselves on the web, you construct images of them. Sometimes you really start to feel a “real” sense of friendship, a friendship built on something completely outside the physical. It’s inevitable, and dangerous. I’ve made the transition from online to “meatspace” with a few people I’ve met online with mixed results. Sometimes, people do look perfect far away [obscure Bottle Rockets song reference]. I suspect that is the case with me. The last time I met someone as the result of an online exchange, I came away with the feeling that I should have left it in the abstract. I rarely have much in common with people’s ideas of me.

However, this doesn’t stop the process of reaching for consubstantiality, for interpenetration with another. It begins with shared values, shared hopes, shared dreams. These things can be expressed both through speech and silence. I’m much better at speech. I can’t seem to handle the silent parts too well.

The ultimate end of nihilism is silence. I choose belief instead. I surf lots of sites, and take the wafer thin-slices of people into my mouth, drink an occasional white Russian (rather than wine), and hope for the miracle.

1 thought on “Nihilists”

  1. Disembodied, or embodied, there is a person in each. I think of it as the body holding the person. Even the person in the body can lie, just as a person online can lie, or a person over the phone. To me, there is not a major difference in disembodied, or embodied, except that I’ve had closer relationships online or over the phone, because there are certain things absent that can get in the way in person. I know people online. I don’t know a lot of bodies in life though. I’m more of an internet kind of guy because crowds take my breath away. On here I am who I am. I’m not distracted by the physical world. Not nervous or afraid. I know people all over the world. Once the internet gets into the physical world, such as with my last girlfriend, egh. I am one hell of an anti-social bastard, but it’s who I am. It drives me. Thats what I think anyway…
    Oh, and one more thing. Glen Frey of the Eagles was an uncle to my first girlfriend. No joke.
    consubstantiality is my new favourite word. heh. i never knew such a word existed that just sums up how i feel about the whole blogging caper. i guess i just put stuff up there hoping someone will just read it and connect and see in the words what i wish they’d see

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