Monday, October 09, 2006

A comfortable fear

Envious, my heart! O dark and dreadful word!
When these with passion their bright destruction bless,
Who, drunk with the pulse of their own blood, preferred
Deep pain to death and Hell to nothingness.

- Charles Baudelaire, from Les Fleurs du Mal (translation by Humbert Wolfe) [1]

But what if there were no difference? What if Hell turned out to be not a place of brimstone and suffering but an eternity of nothingness, an infinity blank and inconcievable? How would we tell God from his absence? How would we decide between the believer and the non-believer, since both would see themselves vindicated?

Where one man sees a conspiracy of rules and punishment, the other sees only a universal indifference.

Nietzsche writes [2]:

"It is the profound suspicious fear of an incurable pessimism which compels whole millennia to cling with their teeth to a religious interpretation of existence: the fear born of that instinct which senses that one might get hold of the truth too soon, before mankind was sufficiently strong, sufficiently hard, sufficient of an artist...Piety, the 'life in God', would, viewed in this light, appear as the subtlest and ultimate product of the fear of truth, as the artist's worship of an intoxication before the most consistent of falsifications"

Like the gambler who believes in chance, and is so caught up in watching it play out that he never notices that the buttons he is wagering with have no value.

Is this all God is then? A painted veil, a terror that we inflict upon ourselves only because it keeps us from seeing that other unappealable horror - the vertigo of nothingness. A fear we take comfort in.


[1] The original reads:

Et mon coeur s'effraya d'envier maint pauvre homme
Courant avec ferveur a l'abime beant,
Et qui, soul de son sang, prefererait en somme
La douleur a la mort et l'enfer au neant!

[2] from Beyond Good and Evil, (No. 59)



Anonymous said...

Got reminded of an exchange with a friend a long while back. The discussion got shelved then, as things got rather emotional. One of the things he'd said was: "God is a pattern people have noted but ironically, while people believe God created man, in effect man has created God (the concept)." Your current post helped me understand a bit more about what he was getting at.


scarecrow said...

indeed a comfortable fear where we believe thr is someone to take care of all our horrors.
May be what we go through as a parent child relationship(parents taking care of us in all and every way) makes us feel and believe that life can be lived by such ways and then our desire(as life becomes more complex) to cling to sth more powerful makes us invent God...

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

....and you still wonder ( didnt you?) why people are Nihilistic...

btw what's your MBTI personality type?

If I have to take an intelligent guess it would have to be INTP....or INTJ..
something about your thought process and your posts...

do let us know...

Falstaff said...

N: Thanks

Scarecrow: Ah, yes, the God as parent bit. Our Father who art in Heaven and so forth.

Man who wasn't there: You're right about everything but the T. I remember the firm doing a profile for us, and I turned out to be a moderate I, super strong N, moderate F and borderline J (though the J/P distinction was incredibly weak).

I have to say I'm not a devotee of Myers Brigg - I think it's an amusing conversation piece, but fairly bogus otherwise.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

mmm...interesting...So why do you think it is bogus? :) I mean it's not 'occult' but analytical psychology....yes yes ofcourse everyone is an 'individual' and cnanot be bracketed yada yada but still these types give a reasonable idea about the person...

And Ironically enough one's personality type itself could influecne the way one looks at these types..if you get what I mean..:)

So why do you think it is bogus?

btw was your type 'consistent'? I mean there are many sites which offer these types..the questions are different (ostensibly ofcourse) but just curious to see what it turns out...

Falstaff said...

man who wasn't there: I guess I think it's bogus because I don't believe in the existence of a single personality decontextualised from situation. Take the T/F dimension, for instance. Personally, there are contexts in which I would be very uncomfortable using logic, and others where I'd be equally uncomfortable using feelings. So it's really a question of what decision I'm making, who I'm with, what my mood for the day is. Figuring out some kind of mean tendency isn't particularly useful if the deviation around it based on situation is high. Besides, it irks me that MBTI looks at frequency of preference but doesn't really account for intensity of preference. There's a difference between saying someone usually prefers to think big picture and someone strongly prefers to think big picture. And finally (though this may be a repetition of the context point) I find that my own 'type' is impacted by who I'm with - with people who are strong Ns I tend to become very detail obsessed - even relative to my own average - and this despite the fact that my N score is pretty much of the charts.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@Falstaff: Fair enough I guess. Some of the questions were indeed context dependent and yes indeed you do have a point when depending on the company you could have a different predilection. but the issue is given to 'yourself' (assuming no company ) what would be your leaning like? And why would you choose(?) a particular leaning?
Yes that's a good point about 'intensity' of preference. there are other tests based on similar principles which tests intensity (well if you can call it that...from very low to very high..about 7 levels ) but that begs the qn of what is the objective equivalent of 'very low,low' etc.

Sure it is obviously far from perfect but dont you think it is heading in the right direction?