The Vacuum of Choosing Happiness Over Meaning

“Mankind does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does.”Friedrich Nietzsche

In the episode of the Middle Ground Podcast, A Return To Meaning, I discussed the quandary of modern humans and their shortsighted tendency to prioritize happiness over meaning. What’s intriguing about this topic is that Nietzsche, one of the West’s most influential philosophers, is sadly only know for his statement, “God is dead”. But even in this it is most telling that in an age of truncated statements, most of those who cheer Nietzsche’s statement do so without having read what his commentary on the statement was, namely that once religion/belief in God was removed, mankind would spiral off into despair, a result of meaning no longer being a pursuit1. Where once a believer could contrast his life on earth to a life in the Here-After, now we are left with contrasting our lives with objects: How we possess them (always needing the latest gadget, for example) and how many of them we possess. In a further turn of irony, Nietzsche, an atheist, turned to his “Übermensch” theory as a way for modern man to make his own values to establish meaning. The problem with Nietzsche’s Übermensch was that he felt it was out of reach; it was in a way a kind of utopia, the place which literally “does not exist”. In many ways Nietzsche, in his attempt to resolve the gaze of abyss2, created a perspective that drew upon a religious cosmology. There seems to be no escaping religion — even if only in the realm of imagination — for the atheist.

Nietzsche’s prescient insight into the challenges we face today should leave modern Muslims with much to contemplate. As I mentioned in the podcast, some of this can be seen in how increasing numbers of Muslims are prioritizing emotions (chiefly, happiness) over meaning, leading many to feel a loss of faith. For the one who pursue happiness, they may find themselves incessantly departing but never arriving. For according to Nietzsche, meaning is what we really long for.

Notes

1. Hendricks, Scotty. “‘God is Dead’: What Nietzsche Really Meant”. Big Think, 12 Aug. 2016, http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead.

2. Aphorism #146. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Trans. Ian Johnston. Beyond Good And Evil: Prelude To A Philosophy Of The Future. Arlington, Richer Resources Publications, 2009.

Life of the Prophet – Session 3: Theology Superstition and Modernity

The following is a short audio excerpt on the monthly class, Life of the Prophet, at Middle Ground. At the end, we discussed how the world was changing at the birth of the Prophet and the advent of Islam.


[Direct download]

Moving One’s Life Back Towards The Center – A Khutbah

The following khutbah was delivered at Middle Ground Muslim Center on January 1st, 2016.

“The ‘aqidah (theology) of modernity has changed to make the ‘abd (the slave/worshipper) the Rabb (Lord) and the Rabb the ‘abd.”


[Direct download]

Full notes here.

Masjid Al Abidin Presents – Spiritual Survival 101

Joing me February 23rd in NYC for Spiritual Survival 101Religion in the Modern Day: When your old ways of self-refinement and problem solving don’t seem to be doing the trick, perhaps it is time to take off the ancient spectacles and put classical religious problems under the microscope of a modern lens. Join me as we try and tackle pertinent and enduring issues facing Muslims today, many that have been around since the time of our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, with a perspective attuned to the time and age we live in. God willing, we’ll try and stay one step ahead of the game.

Musings on Technopoly and When Technology Wounds

“Most technology survivors lose all or part of their hero system*. Long-Standing, fundamental beliefs about themselves and the world can shatter into irretrievable fragments. One’s identity can be the first to go.” Chellis Glendinning, When Technology Wounds.

Are people losing their identities by using the Internet, Facebook, and other technologies that allow a so-called anonymous interface? And how do we deal with this in light of our descent from a culture of shame to a culture of humiliation? More thoughts on books from the Summer Reading List 2012.