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Love and Nihilism: An Parallelism Primer
A Nihilist Parable
Arminass stepped out of his ship. Unfortunately it was ruined. He set the self-destruct mechanism and walked toward the break in the trees.
The people of the village found him very strange, but eventually came to accept him. In his third week there, the entire village went into an uproar. A girl was pregnant with a young child that had no father.
"Kill it," said Arminass. "Don't make the mother a slave to it, or it a slave to life."
"You're insane!" said the Priest. "Its life is precious too."
Arminass pulled back his sleeve and sliced open his arm. Blood flowed freely. "Material is the means, not the end," he said. Then he asked for a glass, and holding it with his bleeding arm, urinated in it.
Then he drank the urine.
"The world is one continuous thing," he said. "My urine is not poison, nor is my life the only one. Truth is a way we describe accurate predictions or observations of this world. An unwanted baby is extra flesh. I am not concerned with the individuals, or the whole."
The town hipster sauntered over. "Well why don't you kill yourself then?"
Arminass sliced the hipster's head from his shoulders. "I would rather kill you," he said. "I can do useful things besides dying."
Two days later the town was attacked by bandits. The town elders said a defense had to be raised. "I can't do it," said a young man. "I can't kill."
"You are not killing," said Arminass. "You are pruning leaves from a tree, and the tree still lives."
An old man tottered over. "I am so afraid to die," he said. "It hides on my shoulder like a vulture."
"It is better to die for something, than simply to die. And what has your life meant?" said Arminass.
"I've been the head rear-left-screw-tightener at the factory for 41 years."
Arminass handed the man a sword. "All your life people have told you what to do. Now you must tell yourself what you care about enough to die for."
The bandits were beaten back and the dead buried. The Priest was drenched in tears at the sight of so many coffins. "Oh, what a tragedy is war!"
Arminass stabbed the Priest and let blood flow freely. "Without war, we never would have defeated the bandits, but they would have lived among us like parasites. With war, the town is healthier, we survive and move on! More will be born to replace those."
Sure enough, in some years there were more born.
Arminass worked at the library shelving books. People said scornful things to him because he did not earn much money.
One day there was a nuclear war. The banks collapsed, the government went away and anarchy reigned over the land. "Now I earn as much money as any of you," said Arminass, laughing.
When bandits attacked again, he told the town elders: "A gun makes any man likely to be victor, because if he shoots enough, he will hit someone. When they come with swords, let us fight with swords!"
In the next battle over half of the town was killed. "What ill advice he has given," murmured one woman, her face hidden behind a veil.
"You won't know that until you see what the future holds," said Arminass. "We have lost those who could not figure out how to fight off starving, illiterate, not very bright bandits. The half we have left is the better half."
The people of the town came to trust Arminass more and more. He told them when to plant, what to plant, and stopped them from giving away food to wandering mendicants. He made sure they killed all of the people who lived nearby who could not make a town as well functioning as their own town. Some of the women cried, but others looked at Arminass and said, "This is a Man."
The next generation of the town was fruitful, and two decades later Arminass faced the best army in the country.
"We are so powerful, we do not have to engage the others," said one man.
"But we will," said Arminass.
"Why?" cried the daughter of the Priest.
"Because we represent a better order. Look at these people. They strip the trees bare, they live in filth, they have no letters or music to speak of."
"But that's how they want to live," she shot back.
"It's not how I want this country to be," said Arminass. "And since I trust myself, I will do everything I can to crush them."
The people of the town waged a brutal war against the enemy, and when it was over with, there were many casualties but the town controlled the country.
"What do we do now, Arminass?" said the people of the country.
They fixed everything as it was, and got the machines running again and sent people to work. Soon most people had food, shelter and some money left over for entertainment. They began to grow complacent.
"Now it is time for war," said Arminass.
"War against whom?" said the grandson of the Priest.
"War against ourselves," said Arminass. "Modern society has brought you no happiness. We were told the machines would make it so we have to work only three hours a day, but instead we work ten. We were told having a big society with people from all over the world would bring us interesting other cultures, but most are happy with our own. We shall wage war against this stupid system."
"But it is a just system!" said the daughter of the Priest.
"Kill her," said Arminius. "Justice accomplishes nothing. War and planting-time accomplishes something, and if it is not just, the world keeps turning. But we are frozen in time when we worry too much about whether our actions are just."
"We will work with you toward a solution," said the bureaucrats. Arminass had them killed.
"We will work with you toward a solution," said the politicians. Arminass had them killed.
"Together we can make a change," said the religious leaders, before they were killed.
Arminass called the working people together. "The old way does not work anymore. We do not need a society where we fight each other for the privilege of wealth. Our bureaucrats make sure we all have 'justice,' but the price is that we spend longer at work while people fill out paper."
The bureaucrats were all fired and sent to work on the farms. Most died of exhaustion, heat prostration, or medical ailments they did not know they had. Arminass lined them up and asked who had complaints. They all did, except for a handful of people who were suntanned and happy. Arminass had the rest killed.
They took the machines to one part of the center city. Those machines ran all day and all night, with people working four-hour shifts and then going home. "Get to know your families," said Arminass. "None of us knows how much time he has left."
He took all of the costumes, novelties, finery, and entertainment products to the town dump, and burned them. "We do not need these things," said Arminass.
He and his disciples went to those who sold things and destroyed all the products which did not have a survival function. "Meaning is not found in coins and what they can buy," said Arminass.
The disciples went far and wide through the land and counted the people. "We have many people now, Arminass," they said.
"How many are smart enough to understand what we must do?" he said.
"Only about one for every ten," they said.
"Take this knife," he said to each disciple. "Go to those who do not understand and promise them free beer for the rest of their lives if they will let you sterilize them so they cannot breed. Take the chronically poor, the criminal, the drug addicts, the priests and the perverts and drown them in the swamp."
They smashed every television and cash register, and took the plastic toys away from the children. All empty buildings were destroyed, and any roads that were not necessary were replanted with trees.
"Our government is nearly bankrupt," cried the elders.
"Good," said Arminass. "We do not need an economy. From now on, we do things because they must be done to keep our society going."
"But what will we do with our time?" said the people. "There is no structure to our social lives."
"You will do whatever you need to," said Arminass. "You will meet some people, and you will find friends. But ultimately you should realize that you are alone in this life, and socializing will not substitute for having something that makes you feel your life is worth living."
Arminass fixed the people with a fierce stare, and suddenly they fell into a trance.
A warrior was standing nearby. "You are a warrior," said Arminass. "What do you enjoy?"
"I like to climb trees," said the warrior. "I like to walk on the beach with my wife. I like to play with my children, and build furniture for my neighbors. And I like to be a good fighter."
Behind him was a grocer. "What do you enjoy?" said Arminass.
"I like to know what is good meat, and what is bad. I like to pick out the good vegetables and throw away the rotten. I like to make sure that the people who come to my store go home with good food. I like to go to the beach, and I like to tend to my garden."
Next to him was a leader. "What do you enjoy?" said Arminass.
"I like to know the reasons why things turn out the way they do. I like to find out why people act the way they do. I like to solve problems, and have people come to me when they need me to do that. I like to play music, and take my family to the forest where we camp and look up at the eternal stars."
Arminass looked over the people. "As these are, so are you all. What you do for all of us is part of what you do for yourselves. That makes sense, since you are part of the group that is all of us. I want you do to what you enjoy, and thus not require money or my sword to motivate you."
The people went back to their homes, stores, fields, pubs and posts. Except one.
"And what do I do?" said the surly voice of the small man. He was short and stout, was not very smart, not very good looking, not very good at anything, so he did odd jobs around the grocer and the town square.
Arminass poured two beers. He handed one to the surly small man. "You work odd jobs, and do what others tell you to do, and do not worry about the problems of this town," said Arminass.
"That's what I always did," said the small man. "You're just like the rest of them, keeping me down. If it weren't for you, I would be rich."
Arminass pointed across the square. "That grocer was an orphan who had no money, but now he has a store. Did you have two parents?"
"Yes," said the small man.
Arminass waved to the town policeman. "That man started out life as a small baby, fighting for life, blue in the face. Were you born normally?"
"Well, yes I was," said the man.
Arminass thought, told the man to drink his beer, and then pointed to a woman who was tending small children. "Her husband died and left her with no money, but now she has her own store of metalworks and a healthy family. Is your wife alive?"
"Why, yes she is," said the man.
Arminass turned to him and said, "You can see there is a reason why you are what you are, and it is not that I kept you down, or anyone else did. You are at the position life has selected for you. What you should do is rejoice in your freedom from having to worry about the complications of life, and spend your time enjoying it. In fact, I suggest you drink and be merry."
The man drank. "Why are you not drinking?" he asked.
"I must consider the safety of the town," said Arminass. "If tigers show up and I am drunk, I cannot stop them. If a fire breaks out and I am drunk, I cannot smother it. If bandits appear and I am drunk, I cannot fight. This is why you should be glad not to have to serve as I do."
The man considered Arminass. "But isn't that boring?"
"No. It is what life made me to do, and I find that while I would like to be drunk sometimes, I feel better if I am doing what I am made to do, so that my life may have meaning."
The grandson of the Priest came up to Arminass. "You are right on time," said Arminass.
"Why is that?" said the grandson.
"There is no perfect town, nor would we want there to be," said Arminass. "A healthy town needs no Priests, but it needs for there to be error at every step. When the town ceases to be healthy, that error rears its ugly head, and the generation at the time takes care of it. If at some point the people are too weak to overcome it, the town has reached old age and must die."
"That's a lie," said the grandson. "There could be a perfect town."
"There could," said Arminass. "But then it would fall apart inward, since there would be nothing to strive for, no reason for exchange of blows or leaders."
The grandson stabbed him and Arminass coughed blood. "That is your purpose here. It is now time for me to die," said Arminass.
"But what are we to do for a leader?" said a town elder.
"One will come along," said Arminass. "And if he does not, the town is old, and like me, must die."