I began as a liberal existentialist. The first “philosophical” book I ever read was “The Stranger” by Camus and that sent me on a hunt for more information about existentialism.
Soon coming dangerously close to nihilism, I realized that meaning and value do not have their origins anywhere external to human beings– that it is all invention, artifice… Only later, and with the help of Nietzsche, did I come to understand it as “art”… as a life-expression… and learn to wholly affirm it.
But for awhile I was troubled. What was the meaning of my life? Where does my identity come from as an individual? It comes from what I do and what I accomplish, of course, but what is it exactly that I wanted to accomplish?
Most of the people around me seemed to think that the motivation for accomplishing anything was to “do something you enjoy” and then attain financial stability and independence by doing that thing you enjoy- and then to end up with a good job, a house, a nice car, etc.
Hobbies were always emphasized too. “Find something you enjoy” was the mantra. Happy funtimes — good feelings — were their credo. And this was then to be universalized for everyone. I came to a type of pseudo-Kantian universalist perspective where an act could only be “good” if it could be apply to everyone at the same time without contradiction… It was a meek mashup of inherent egalitarianism and the universalist principle.
But this didn’t seem right to me. Fun and happiness are good but is that all life is about? And does everyone really deserve to be treated the same way, and expected to abide by the same principles? There must be a purpose higher and more meaningful than my own personal feelings, I thought. All of the greatest people in the world throughout all of history had a vision which they thrust upon the world in aggressive fashion. The people I respected and honored most throughout history: Alexander the Great, Julius and Augustus Caesar, Charlemagne, Ælfred the Great, Ragnar Lothbrok, Napoleon, and even mythical heroes such as Odysseus, Achilles, Beowulf, Sigurd, and so many more, were righteously aggressive and saw only strength, cunning, wisdom, skill, and beauty to be the highest virtues in life. The world is better off now after being reigned over by these noble heroes.
And while these thoughts brewed I continued to study all I could about philosophy and history, and I was pulled by the power and glory of those great heroes in the direction of my ancestors — toward myth and legend. I wanted to know the culture of my forebears, to know how they thought and how they defined the meaning of life.
For a long while I resisted their siren song, but after years of inner conflict between the modern pitiful egalitarianism that I accepted as a child and this historically timeless perspective of affirming all which vitalizes life I had acquired through careful study as an adult, I finally broken the modern voice within me. I now believe that life is more meaningful with the strong unity that traditional culture brings… And that individuality is overrated… I now see the wisdom in many of the traditions and values of the ancient Germanic and Celtic cultures of Europe– my ancestors– and I wish to define myself in relation to them and their gods! Being a part of an age-old process and passing that down to your children is a form of immortality. My grandparents and parents live on in me, as their grandparents and parents live on in them, and so far and so forth as far back as time itself, and that is how it will continue with my children going forward. Culture and tradition make men immortal.
Despite how it may appear to a staunch “individualist,” doing this does not restrict my freedom or sense of individual identity. I am still a rational existentialist, and I understand that in rational, objective terms, values are subjective and we create our own meaning in life.
But in subjective terms, the values and traditions I uphold are holy and I am willing to die for them. This is my choice because I choose to affirm the instincts and traditions that were passed by blood for thousands of years, rather than some universalist “reason-based” woowoo which pretends pure reason is the proper standard in he valuation of values.