Greg (ghop) recently referred to me as a nihilist, and I've since wondered if that description might be accurate.
I don't believe that God or the universe cares what I do one way or the other.
I don't believe human beings can make a perfect world. I believe we can make a better world, but I believe "better" will always only be a matter of degree--and up to varying subjective senses of what "better" or "good" is.
I believe that the forces of nature are stronger than us and will ultimately win out over human ambition.
I believe that killing other people causes psychological suffering and have no desire to kill or harm others, but I don't think that God or the universe punishes people for the act of killing. I believe that killing and violence are parts of the natural order. So I'm not as pacifist as I used to be, though I still generally find nonviolence to be a better, smarter way of doing things than violence.
As humans, we have learned and found that nonviolence and cooperation allows a more complex society to flourish and I think this is good, but I do not believe the universe cares one way or another what kind of society we choose to create. If we do things that make us suffer, it's because we did something that causes suffering, not because the universe is punishing us.
While I am an animal lover and hate animal cruelty and suffering, I don't believe that killing animals is necessarily "wrong." I don't believe that anything bad will happen to me because I killed a mouse. I don't believe it's bad or wrong to kill a mouse in order to preserve the hygiene of one's home.
I don't believe that humankind has a destiny we are meant to realize. It often feels to me like each of us has a fate, but I wonder if this is just the meaning and order I project onto what may ultimately have none.
But none of this bothers me. It used to, deeply. But I've realized that a lot of the things I desperately wanted to know are impossible to know with certainty. To believe most of the things we believe requires a leap of faith at some point--a leap of faith I'm not willing to make, because I can't consciously lie to myself. The more things I become conscious of, the fewer lies are possible for me to live in or with.
I used to get very depressed thinking that I might never be able to know certain things or that I and/or humanity might not have some preordained destiny or connection with some ultimate destiny or meaning. These thoughts no longer bother me. I feel at peace. Right now, in my life, I'm frustrated, and tired, but happy.
What do I believe?
I believe that the Buddha was one of the wisest and sharpest human beings to ever live and that he saw right to the core of our condition. I think that generations of Buddhist teachers after him have also seen and realized Truth (to some degree or another) and taught others how to see and experience it to the best of their ability.
I believe that people of all faiths and traditions have woken up to Truth and have tried to express it in the language and concepts at their disposal. But I believe far more people delude themselves about what the truth is than actually wake up.
I believe that love is one of the most important things that human beings can experience. Love feels cosmic and mysterious to me--if anything were to be coded into the fabric of the universe, I believe it would be love. Though I can't quite make that leap of faith, I can say that without doubt it is love that has saved me from darkness and being lost every time.
I believe that life is better when it is lived in the light of love, but I don't think this is anything special or grandiose. I don't think asceticism or self-sacrifice reflects a 'purer love.' I believe love is very closely connected to empathy, and, therefore, wisdom--our ability to put ourselves in another's position imaginatively and consider that their perspective and point of view is as important as our own.
I believe that seeing clearly can and does lead to a simpler, more peaceful life. I believe that all the ways we overcomplicate our lives come from delusion and from trying to escape from our experience.
I believe that science and the scientific method have been major human breakthroughs and that the findings of science are worth paying attention to for reasons beyond just technological advancement. That said, I think science is limited and that no matter what we discover via neuroscience and physics, it will never answer or satisfy our deeper spiritual questions.
Am I a nihilist? I don't know. I do know that I'm tired of believing stupid things, of believing anything I can't really know. I'm tired of trying to find the right framework for life and trying to force my life to fit into the story or framework I've chosen. I believe that the Taoists had it right: truth and beauty are found in the natural flow of existence, unimpeded by the deadening constructions of the conceptual mind.
I hope to live the rest of my life learning to let go, let be, and watch the Tao naturally flow along its course. I don't need to found a great new moral order, or try to change the world or the people in it. People and the world are pretty wonderful just as they are. Thank goodness that things aren't 'perfect' because then they would be stagnant, sterile, and dead.