The Nothingness Ex Nihilo

We are “thrown” into existence, within a universe without evident logical, ontological, or axiological structure. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness opposes metaphysical conceptions—including religious doctrines and absolute morality—as these are self-deceptive approaches to ‘authenticity’. Hence, we are beings whom prior to existence were nothing and are destined to non-existence or nothingness. Although this thought undermines the existence of morals and meaning, or virtues and values, we are nonetheless “condemned to be free” to ask ultimate questions without resolute answers, or reach decisions without ethical certainty.

Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, written a few decades subsequent to these existential movements, and Einstein’s formulation of relativity, notably incorporates motifs on both the absurdity of human fortuitous life and the B-theory’s implications towards human deterministic living. This combination implicitly entails the contradictory nature of this irrational world, yet provides a solution that we can be “authentic” by “rebelling” this illogicality as both an idle and likeable resolution.

“As an earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said—and calendars” conveys space-time as contingent upon our construction of our temporality. Although the idealist’s version of time is that “all time is time; all moments, past, present, and future, always have existed; it does not change; it does not lend itself to warnings; it simply is,” akin to a frozen river, yet we experience time as a flowing river. “[Weary] is in a constant state of stage fright, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next” is proof that our illusion of before, now, and after merely traps us in uncertainty, leading to absurdity, due to the simultaneous objective existence of timelessness and the subjective experience of temporality.

Thus, the concept of “why” is irrational, independent of our rationality. From the perspective of timeless beings on temporal beings, “Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? …There is no why.” Accordingly, advocates of atemporality reduces human essence—including cognition and conation—to physicalism, suspended in non-causality. “We know how the universe ends—and earth has nothing do with it, except that it gets wiped out.” Not only humans and animals or chemicals are technically equivalent, this pessimistic yet apathetic theme and tone casually arouses the absurdist question of how can we live lively or rationally in an irrational world?

Vonnegut echoes Nietzsche’s urge to “live your life as a piece of art” within a nihilistic world, as “no art is possible without a dance with death” (Vonnegut 27). The limited intervals, in space and time, or between life and death, gives life meaning. There are infinite possibilities but finite potentialities—akin to producing or interpreting art. “Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones” is a sentience’s issue on conscience, as an artwork’s worthiness or worthlessness is arbitrarily up to us to judge.


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