Nihilism in Nature

Many people, overburdened with stresses of city life, seek out solitude in nature where they “lose themselves” in it. If one, surrounded by nature feels like he has become a “part of nature” does that make nature nihilistic in the same sense as religion? Many people experience nature as ‘surrender’ and diminishment of one’s sense of individuality; they also come to see death as ‘natural’ and lose their fear of it to a degree. Do people seek out solitude in nature (like Thoreau) for the same reason they seek religion? It just seems that people go out into the forest to find themselves, but instead, they end up ‘losing’ their sense of self (importance). :-k

I think the longing for nature is mostly a physical one (cities are electromagnetically polluted, as well as traditional types of pollution); the longing for religion, it could be argued, is psychological – Freud’s death drive, for example.

Longing for nature can be psychological, too, because a big part of stress is itself psychological. Yes, it’s true that people want to breathe fresh air and eat fresh food, and detoxify themselves or whatever, but many people also want to get away from it all psychologically in order to ‘get in touch’ with themselves (to get away from the day-to-day roles they have to play and keeping up with appearances), by, paradoxically as it seems ‘forgetting’ themselves, because essentially that’s what happens. So I am wondering if psychological part of this longing is nihilistic.

I don’t think we can say we ‘forget ourselves’ we just forget the part of ourselves which belongs to the city. Most, if not nearly all of our genetic history is derived outside of what we think of when we think of a city, so we are actually remembering or coming back to the majority of our subconscious experience.

I think nature is the opposite of nihilism; you feel completely in touch with everything, and that gives purpose. After all, before we started wondering ‘what is purpose?’ we were in nature, purposely doin shit, and just stayin’ alive.

To me, that doesn’t sound anything like what you just described.

What about this quote by Emerson?

oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/ … son-a.html

I don’t like to bring up Nietzsche because there is (rightly) a stigma associated with his thought. But I do think the Apollonian/Dionysian divide is an evocative metaphor. To be sure, one that other thinkers had touched upon, but Nietzsche really honed in on it so we may as well use his vocabulary.

At the end of the day, Apollo is the god of the city. The specialized craftsman, the rational thinker, the self-sufficient man – in short, the individual. But Apollo is also the god of dreams, because all those things are a mere illusion that we build. Instead, we are Dionysian beings: generalists, irrational, inter-dependent. That is the essence of what it is to be human. Ironically, densely populated cities are the domain of Apollo whereas the isolated wilderness belongs to Dionysius. So those alienated by the sunderings of modernity do not retreat into their fellow man in the city, as one would expect, but instead retreat into isolation in the forest to re-connect with those essential elements of themselves.

Is it nihilistic to connect with the Dionysian? Given that Nietzsche is an advocate for the Dionysian and he is associated with Nihilism, that case could easily be made. But I’d argue that Nietzsche is not more nihilistic than Buddha. A superficial reading of either, laden with Judeo-Christian bias, creates a nihilistic framework to be sure. In Nietzsche’s case it goes a little deeper, since he is a product of a Judeo-Christian environment. But that isn’t what he was about. A proper reading asserts that neither are nihilists. They both sought to grasp what it is to truly be human, not in the Capitalist sense of the producer or the Christian sense of the prayer but in living life. Admittedly, they drew opposite conclusions, but for that they are both painted as nihilists! Two more unlike thinkers you could not find! But all of life is a circle, opposites create complimentary angles.

I don’t think we’ve left nature. Even if you want to call it super natural. There are varying degrees to solitude, especially when self imposed. It could be a wish for nothingness, but also for the return.

That’s more appropriate to what you’re saying. I’m not a big fan of Emerson.