But today I thought of Mr. Beck as deeply nihilistic when I listened to his radio show. I confess to a certain fascination in listening to his show. He puts me in a bit of trance actually, and on some commutes, that's nice.
What's not nice is nihilism. Without being overly pedantic, nihilism is the philosophical (and religious) conclusion that everything is, in the final analysis, meaningless. Meaningless because there is no substance to reality; only transitory impressions and bodies that carry them, and then they all fade to black.
Atheism isn't really the main point (though it certainly implies atheism and an atheist would need to struggle mightyly not to view reality nihilistically.
Perhaps a film clip would help. Lacking that, there is a bit of brilliant dialogue: In Signs, Mel Gibson's Father Hess (how's that for a pair of opposites!) has concluded that "There is no one watching out for us; we are all on our own."
Life, death, love, beauty, justice, goodness and desire all absurd and destined to die with our deaths. Cheers!
Mr. Beck's Nihilism.
Now I don't know exactly Glenn Beck's religion or particular denominational flavor, but functional nihilism is certainly compatible with a belief in God. Functional nihilism is similar to Pelagianism in the moral life: Jesus is an example for us, but we must struggle mightily (and alone!) to perfect ourselves. Beck seems to takes this view and transpose it to the social and political order.
The nothingness in Mr. Beck's world is indicated by the word "we."
- We must do this.
- We must join him now to do that.
- If we don't do something now, what-have-you will happen.
Being, not being busy.
Albert Borgmann in Holding on to Reality notes that hyperactivity and sullenness go hand-in-hand. Just watch a teenager after playing 12 hours of Halo or somesuch. Busyness is not just for teens and the emptiness that drives busyness is pandemic in our culture today.
At the heart of emptiness lies nihilism: the conclusion that the alternatives are perpetual stimulation or despair from the yawing abyss inside. The wonder of nihilism is that one can be infected and not even realize it.
Fortunately or not, the truth is that we (there I go!) can't save ourselves, and we can't give ourselves life. Sorry, Mr. Beck, something deeper is at the heart of reality. When we pay attention to that we become fruitful.