Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mindful Ramblings: Tokyo, Philosophy and Nihilism

Watching Lost In Translation again reminded my of my trip to Tokyo 3 years ago. I noticed that I didn't write about that experience as much as I could have, I actually devoted just a single blog to it. When I was walking through the streets and alleyways of Tokyo's brightly lit Shibuya district seeing all the Japanese hipsters and wannabe models strutting on the sidewalk, I was enamored. I regret not being as stylish as I could have on that vacation. Looking back at my pictures, I was dressed rather blandly. I unfortunately also didn't have enough money during my stay there to be able to do the things most tourists want to do, but absorbing the culture and atmosphere is relatively free.

Japan is a very safe country and I felt no fear whatsoever walking Tokyo's streets late at night. Why is it that this small country of 120 million can live so peacefully? Some might say it's their strict firearm rules, but I say it's their culture that is more responsible. The Japanese, while not a very religious people, live under a very strict code of discipline and honor. Stepping out of bounds is frowned upon and the shame associated with it keeps people from engaging in negative behavior. The Japanese people in my experience were very friendly; they went out of their way to help me when I was hopelessly lost on the subway, despite the fact that most of them do not speak any English.

In Lost In Translation, the Scarlet Johansson's character is "lost" as to where her place is in the world. She studied philosophy and is actively searching for meaning and purpose. While watching the movie, I couldn't help but think of nihilism's outlook on life. There are many ways to define nihilism, some of which I don't agree with. To me, nihilism is just not believing that there is an ultimate or objective purpose and meaning to life. It doesn't at all mean that we can't find subjective meaning in our lives and everyday experiences. So what if there aren't universal consequences to our actions; so what if life is finite? The finitude of life is what makes it more important: a precious moment with somebody special is special because it is a moment; if it lasted forever it would lose its value. Diamonds are valuable because their rare. If they were as common as dirt we wouldn't care about them as much. Once something becomes common it instantly looses its value.

So while we may search for meaning and purpose in our lives, in the nihilistic sense we at least are given that freedom. There is no cosmic purpose for us that we'll have to obey or face the consequences for, and that comes with a sign of relief. When we experience love in our lives with somebody special to us there is no need to invoke a spiritual aspect to validate its existence. Love is natural, and while at a purely physical level it may just be electro-chemical reactions in our brains, the consciousness which experiences the sensation and bond created by love is very real. To call love just an illusion under naturalism would be like saying that consciousness itself is an illusion.

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