Even if nothing matters, the individual still matters.
As an epistemological and existential nihilist, I have a hard time trying to conjure any form of stable meaning behind anything – from the more practical and tangible things and processes like a tree or eating, to the more intellectual and vague ones, such as concepts, ideas and values.
However, I cannot honestly deny that there is something which has been continuously successful in defying my nihilism, extreme most of the times, as well as my relativistic approach to language and morality. Structures, to me, in all their forms, are prisons of various strengths that are encroaching on this something – our body is a prison, buildings are prisons, roads are prisons, laws are prisons, words are prisons, values are prisons, theories are prisons, reason, imagination and emotions are prisons, nature’s rivers, mountains and lands are prisons, existence itself is a prison1.
This something, in my view, is objectively meaningful – not because it is intrinsically full of meaning, because it is rather devoid of it, but because from this something all meaning can and is born. Even if existence itself is meaningless or meaningful, it takes this something to reach and accept either of these conclusions.
What I am talking about is the sovereign individual, not just as the most important socio-economic unit but also as the central metaphysical concept for the human civilisation: Western and Eastern. Without the individual, there would be no society, no religions, no art, no literature, no music and no scientific and technological advancements.
The individual is the bridge between the sacred and the profane, the mystical and the rational, order and disorder, the pool of all creation, the source of atrocities and the gate towards the profoundly metaphorical and yet undeniably physical heaven and hell.
The individual is the goat, the sheep and the wolf, the serpent and the phoenix. The individual moulds and is moulded by the universe around and by the world within. The individual is the point where alpha and omega cross, from which gods are born and killed. The self-appointed saviour of these gods. The metamorphosis beyond the animal.
The individual is the atemporal and space agnostic circle of existence, and yet the power to break this cycle of existence, and more specifically of history, exists in each one of us. As such, the individual is the pillar of all creation and habitable order and the nuclear fire of destruction. The protector of life and the harbinger of death. Never unintentional, always premeditated.
The non-dependence upon space and time makes the individual universal. That it is, an individual does not have any coordinates – they do not come from a particular place, nor do they belong to a specified period of history. The individual has always existed throughout time as the sole unit of society, across geographies, uniting all cultures and creeds.
The individual is neither a man nor a woman, religious or non-religious, good nor bad, they have no nationality, sexual orientation or skin colour and swear no allegiance to anything or anyone except to themselves. The previous few words must not be confused with unbridled selfishness – rather, for clarification, it is a statement which solidifies the undeniable truth, known by each one of us: the individual’s own truth, that is living and being true to one’s own nature.
Sovereign is the individual. If this is not the case, one is not an individual. Sovereignty here is equivalent with a form of freedom. Not absolute freedom for that can never be attained in life – only in the complete absence of everything such freedom can be found. Most of us are born autonomous beings, with agency, but not as individuals. An individual is forged through choice after choice, shouldering the consequences of one’s choices. One becomes an individual. The sovereignty of the individual means one’s freedom to become what one is.
This does not mean that the individual is a creature or concept that dwells in isolation, either in the physical world or in that of metaphysics. Quite the contrary, there are seen and unseen links between all individuals. Probably the most potent such connection, that crosses both worlds, is the starting point of each one of us: we are born without a say, nearly tabula rasa2, and for a brief moment only imprisoned by nature. This initial condition makes all of us one – one humanity made of multiple, uniquely shaped and shaping units: individuals.
Our desires and needs may be similar, even the same in some circumstances, but their manifestations and intensities, as well as their value are neither here nor there, nor this or that, for they are unique to each individual. Perhaps more important, what makes the individual unique is the combination of ultimate values or goals respected or pursued, some of which are incompatible with one another.
This means that individuals may pursue ideals that cannot live together, side by side, in the world as it is at that moment, leading to seemingly inevitable conflict. The acknowledgement and acceptance of sovereignty of the individual is the solution to this apparent conundrum for it instils both respect for the individual and a deep contempt for any structure, from the most abstract to the most concrete, that even threatens to curb, let alone to fully oppress the sovereignty of the individual.
The world can be meaningful or meaningless. What we do can matter or not. These are subjective points of discussion. The individual, that something from which these perspectives arise, the intersection point of the a posteriori and a priori realms, is objectively important. Without the individual there is no notion of meaning or of anything, there is no society, there is no progress, whatever one makes of it, and there is no beauty.
Defend the individual’s sovereignty: the freedom to be what one is, which includes the freedom to speak one’s mind, to express oneself, to pursue one’s goals as long as one’s actions do not morph into the threat of limiting other’s sovereignty. If and when they do, point them out and call them out. If the individual doesn’t matter, nothing else matters. However, if nothing matters, the individual still matters.
When you stand for the individual, you stand for the whole of humanity.
- The only state which is not a prison is Chaos: formless, thoughtless and emotionless.
- I say “nearly” blank states because there are traces of previous cycles inside us – genetically speaking and, perhaps, as I believe to be true, psychologically and spiritually.