Monday, 28 October 2013

"We would rather believe in nothingness than not believe..."

Nietzsche, “On the Genealogy of Morality”

We are fundamentally set up to know things. We have five main senses that constantly capture snapshots of the world and the billions of nerve cells in our heads are there to interpret, edit and create a seamless experience based on these sensations. Every waking moment is spent experiencing the world and ourselves; we incessantly gather information and try to make a coherent picture out of everything we experience. We must know.

However, there are limits to our knowing; the way we sense and build a world is limited (e.g. we only see the world in colour), we have an imperfect point of view (we can never experience perfection since a perfect view point requires us to experience another person's point of view, which is impossible), we are limited to experiencing the present and only know the past (the future is more or less inaccurate predictions). Therefore, when there is a barrier to understanding, instead of accepting that we may never know and living with the uncertainty, we try to fill the void with such spurious notions as God, the "afterlife", contacting the dead, assigning causes to unrelated effects (e.g. I am to blame for my Parkinson's), seeking to control things outside of our influence (e.g. praying).

We are not scared of the unknown; we are terrified of not knowing. We simply must know, even if it is knowing nothingness (or things we cannot experience such as the perfection of God). This impulse to know at all costs can make us vulnerable; the nothingness we believe often has conditions that must be fulfilled (e.g. we must believe in God otherwise we go to hell; but two nothings do not make a something!); nothingness, being nothing, must justify itself.

We should live with the uncertainty of not knowing, but instead we cram our lives full of spurious, unverified “knowledge” outside of experience; we replace the lack of certainty with the certainty of nothing…

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