The Isolation Game

It’s Sunday again, I’m hungover again, let’s do this.

When I set out to do this weird, meandering little philosophy mini-series, I have to admit I wasn’t overly sure what the third one would be. Psychological Egoism and Determinism were dead set, unassailable choices. I actually started writing about Solipsism but found that I just couldn’t agree with it on the same level, so that got canned. It wasn’t until this morning that I managed to settle on an idea, so you’ll have to bear with it if it seems a little cramped and maybe not the most thought-through thing you’ve ever read (or skimmed over and told all your friends you read).

To explain, allow me to introduce you all to the most important cookbook you never knew you needed. This might make sense by the end, I promise.

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The Hungover Cookbook recommends a number of dishes to the reader based on what type of hangover they are suffering from, using PG Wodehouse’s six classifications of hangovers. It’s brilliant. I have no idea if it works as I’m usually too feeble to cook anything, but it’s great at giving me an idea of what takeaway I want to try and stomach each fine Sunday that rolls around.

Anyway, hangover types. In my more youthful days I was definitely a cement mixer (read: nausea, oh God the nausea). These days, I tend to be somewhere between a broken compass and a comet (read: confused by everything and everyone, away with the fairies). Many of my mid-twenties hangovers have been spent in a haze of existential pondering. I might be a less competent human than Homer Simpson when drunk, but the day after I become a new-age Sartre.

As I was wallowing in fugue and crisis this morning, I clocked it: Existential Nihilism (because Sunday evenings are never bloody cheery in the Half-Rust world). That’s what I will write about, thought me, and so I did.

Existential Nihilism, or really any variety of Nihilism, tends to get a bit of a short shrift from many who dismiss it as unnecessarily angsty. Unfortunately for them I love angsty things. Take a look at my CD collection sometime, you’ll see it’s true. Existential Nihilism is the idea, or belief, that life has no point. None, nada, nil. Existence has no value or purpose; it simply is, because it is. Something like that, anyway. There’s quite a lot of argument as to what ground exactly Existential Nihilism covers, and what is just Existentialism or what is just Nihilism, but that’s how I’d define my idea of it.

Think about it: what can you actually define as the point of being alive? You didn’t intend it, it’s not something you chose. What great purpose do you serve? Obviously, this is a train of thought that lends itself very well to the depressed. I spent years wondering what the point was of life, because it wasn’t becoming abundantly clear to me. It was a constant struggle of mine to try and define some point to life and existence – there had to be some kind of point, because if there wasn’t, then why was I continuing to struggle through life; why not just take an early exit? Having typed and retyped it, I still can’t come up with a brilliantly eloquent way to say that I saw no value in existence. It was just something we did.

I think Existential Nihilism links nicely to Determinism. If you accept Determinism and the idea that we have no true free will, then it means that all of one’s intentions are pretty meaningless. Intentions under Determinism become a pre-self-justification of a further course of action rather than a driver to commit said action, a way to rationalise one’s own actions, not to cause the actions. If our intentions are false, and we have no true choice in our behaviour, then what’s the value to our sentience? Are we not just biological robots? Why do we have those thinking parts that cause us such trouble? It all seems a little irrelevant. I also think this view invalidates traditional Existentialism and the self-created meaning espoused by Kierkegaard et al, because the self-created meaning only holds value if there’s a choice as to what that meaning is. Obviously impossible under Determinism, I think.

My view on Existential Nihilism has not changed much over the years, to be honest. I still think life is an inherently pointless enterprise. I still wonder, sometimes, why I am persisting with it. To be honest, nothing I do is going to have any relevance in a hundred year’s time, let alone a thousand. Even this Ironman endeavour. I mean, God forbid I one day have children, I will never let them forget the fact that Daddy’s an Ironman, don’tcha know. I will batter them around the head with this fact until they are sick of it, and I’ll become like the slightly senile grandparent that takes any chance to tell you how it was somehow better in the war. Oh no, Grandpa George is having an episode again, put him in the corner and give him his meds. Then the grandkids will be embarrassed by it, and in three generations it’ll be gone, forgotten by all and sundry. Meaningless.

The only thing that has changed with my ideas on Existential Nihilism is my reaction to it: I have achieved that common epiphany of Existential Nihilist where you can have ‘fun’ with it. If nothing has any point anyway, what’s to hold one back from doing ridiculous things? Remember, failure’s just as meaningless as success. Why can’t a former druggie, alcoholic, self-loathing strange little man go and do extreme endurance sports? No reason, because nothing has reason. None at all. So here I am.

The one concession I would make as to having some kind of ‘meaning’ in life is that, having fought through the pits of despair myself, I think it’s important to try and live in a way whereby I can maybe do something to make other’s paths easier. Hence the fundraising thing, which I will kick off properly in the new year. I don’t think it’s a raison d’etre in itself, but it seems like a good way to live, and much like Psychological Egoism and Determinism it’s actually really hard to think about Existential Nihilism all the time; we just don’t really work our minds in that way. Occasionally the act of doing things just gets in the way of thinking. I’m sure that I’ll revisit my philosophical wanderings in more depth, but I’ll save that for the hours of turbo sessions staring at a wall at what-the-fuck-do-you-call-this-o’clock in the morning that I have lined up for the next year. Sigh.

That about concludes the philosophical guff, both for this post and the little mini-series thing. It’s the first time I’ve really expounded on or tried to clarify the bizarre goings on in my head, and while at times it felt pretty clumsy and tough to find the accurate way to convey what I was aiming for, I’m glad I did it. Apologies if it got a little ‘ramblings of a crazy person’ at times, but maybe it’s given some insight into my thought processes and motivations for this thing.

So, now for the other news. I had a mid-week meeting with Coach Holmes, the last one before we kick into the training plan in January. In between me cracking my iPad on the pavement and other stupid things, it was a pretty productive and informative chat. It was good to get an idea of what my training plan will roughly look like, in terms of what sessions I’ll be putting in per week, and how this will change over the course of the months.

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It was less good to accept that this will be starting with 12 hours a week, so goodbye any kind of life – but I kind of already knew that would be the case. Also there’s something in July called a ‘Hell Week’. Let’s be clear: anything, ever, that is called a ‘Hell Week’ is just going to be unfun. I can feel my muscles crying out in distress just at the thought of it.

I’ve also managed to settle on a couple of other issues. My last key practice race is now booked in – the Big Fish 3.8k swim in May. I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t find a sea swim of suitable distance around that time, but I’ll have to find another way to tackle that little bugbear. Also Worthing Half Marathon on Valentine’s Day is a thing, because I have a Goodgym Race Team vest and it would just be great to actually make it to a race I’ve registered in the red and white and represent. Third time’s the charm, I’m sure.

There’s also been some race bookings and admin stuff on the London League front. A 2016 Half-Rust race calendar is in the works for the Christmas break, so you’ll all be able to turn up and hurl abuse or wave flags or whatever. Presuming, of course, that you’re in the 20% of people that read this and won’t be competing in the races.

Ah yes, Christmas break! There will – maybe – be a post next week, but it probably will be a bit light on account of festivities. There may be new lycra. We’ll see. Regardless of new lycra or not, have a merry Christmas, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

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Aww, you guys.

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Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!

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