The ultimate badass attitude is that of a nihilist. You don’t care what is to happen because nothing has meaning and it all will end. We are but a mistake.
Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad recently wandered and wondered about this idea when joking with his brother-in-law, Eugene Thacker, about he had written called In the Dust of This Planet. Thacker’s books developed into an inside joke with the family because they were so obscure and dense in philosophical thoughts that they questioned if he was writing for anyone at all. Good for Thacker when he joked right back that he didn’t even care. It is the ultimate conviction of a writer to write regardless of the circumstances and audience.
But then it turned out someone had read the book. Someone had enjoyed it enough to print the book cover on a sweatshirt. And then a costume designer saw that and the book cover landed on the back of Jay-Z in the music video “RUN” with his wife, Beyonce.
Radiolab did as it does best and questioned it all, and the narrative conclusion came to suggest that pop culture fans are enamored by the nihilist badass because deep down we’re all afraid that this will end. The nihilist hero spits in the face of what Nietzsche called The Most Difficult Thought to ponder, that nothing means anything. Just because.
But that’s just one story.
Sure, it is sexy as hell to have the confidence and strength to flip off the world in a hail of bullets and drive off into the sunset with your own personal queen in the passenger seat. No one ever really tells the story of what happens after people drive off into the sunset but we’re left to think it’s romantic and eternal. It might be sad and chaotic. It might be boring. The only real truth is that we go on until we don’t.
Knowing that death is our fate, regardless of the stories we tell ourselves, there is a choice. Author Ryan Holiday makes this distinction in The Obstacle is The Way by plainly stating, “Our perceptions can be a source of strength or of great weakness.” Life is the story we create in our minds. It is not the buzzing world around us because as Holiday continues, “We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it. And why on Earth would you choose to feel anything but good?”
Tell yourself a new story. What if no one reads my blog? What if no one buys my art? You decide what it means.