A story based on Nietzsche’s view of nihilism
His knees were sore from the weeks on end he had come to kneel on the stone floor of the church to pray for his ill mother. He knew her condition was only getting worse and worse, but still, in spite of it all, he muttered quietly into his closed hands “Oh Lord, thank you that you love my mother, Celestine da Silva. I ask, in the name of Jesus, that you would heal her soul from Satan, that you would have compassion for me and her”.
Joaquin da Silva, who got his last name from his mother’s side of the family, had always been a fervent Christian. He went to church every Sunday since he was a little boy doing Sunday school, and every night he prayed and thanked God for taking care of him. For him, God was divine, and Jesus his saviour and his utmost devotion. Besides from this major aspect of his life, Joaquin had other characteristics, such as being an unmarried middle aged man in his late 30s, living in a small but efficient apartment close to the office in which he worked, and having a weirdly strict routine of watering his plants right after waking up everyday.
This was, of course, until his mother fell unexpectedly ill a few weeks before. She had been doing well before that, and he was sure her bond with Jesus was as strong as it had always been. Besides, she was still in her 60s and had a long way to go. ‘Why would she be punished like this, then?’ He kept asking himself. The Sunday morning of the 3rd of September had been the last day he had watered his plants.
He stood up and left the church making the least amount of noise he could, as to not bother the other praying souls in the room, and walked into the suffocatingly warm, morning spring air. He walked in a quick pace, and his thoughts were almost completely made up of wonderings about his mother’s state: ‘When will the doctors call?’ ‘Is she getting better?’ ‘Will she ever get better?”. As he turned right, heading north towards the hospital, his phone rang.
“Hello, Joaquin da Silva on the phone.”
“Hello, Mr Silva. This is Kevin Heart from Santa Catarina Hospital. We have news about your mother.” A disembodied male voice said through the phone.
Joaquin quickened his pace,“How is my she doing? Is everything okay?”
The secretary’s voice responded with another question, “Would you be able to come to the hospital straight away? Her doctor would prefer to deliver these news in person.”
He could see the big white building at a distance and, out of breath, muttered words of affirmation before turning his cellphone off. After a few minutes of speed walking, he got to the front of the hospital, almost knocking his face in the glass door as its sensor didn’t catch up with his own speed. “This damned door! Hospitals really have no consideration over its visitors!”
The reception was right in front of the door, and the receptionist on the counter looked like he was searching for something inside his head, but had no thoughts that were good enough to satisfy his search. Joaquin approached him and made himself known with an out-of-breath question:
“Where is my mother?”
“Sorry sir, could you give me your name and the name of the patient you are visiting?” The receptionist asked calmly.
“I am Joaquin da Silva and my mother is called Celestine da Silva.” Joaquin replied sharply.
The receptionist’s eyes widened for a split second and he seemed like he had awakened from his dream – “I will call the doctor, please wait on the chairs by the left side of the counter”, he said, gesturing to a line of dark blue, plastic chairs a few meters away.
Joaquin hastily sat down and waited (not very patiently) for the dark skinned, tall lady who had been taking care of her mother throughout this illness to appear from behind the corner. After around 4 minutes of obsession, he was finally able to catch a sight of her emerald green uniform, which instantly triggered a nerve ending in his body that made him stand up. The doctor approached him.
“Mr Silva, you may need to sit down for this.” She said while holding his arm steadily and gently directing him back to his seat. Joaquin was too shocked to say anything, and too busy praying in his head to think about something else other than anticipating the words that would follow.
“We did everything we could to save her, but Celestine is gone, I am so sorry.”
“It was very unexpected, she was starting to get better when she suddenly stopped breathing. She is in a better place now.”
The image of the doctor Joaquin had previously grasped so clearly became blurry and his nostrils started burning and his hand shaking. There was no way his mother was actually dead. He had prayed to God. He had lived a sinless life and so had his mother. The doctor must have gotten confused, God would never let his mother die like this, with no one by her side, so young and without any warning. But he could see it in the doctor’s empathetic eyes, she was dead. Her body was probably lying on the below-ground levels of the hospitals, waiting to be violated and examined by an apathetic doctor.
“Would you like to go clear up your head outside?” the doctor asked, after a moment of hesitation.
All Joaquin managed to do was nod in agreement, and the next thing he knew he was being guided by another nurse out the front doors of the hospital. The warm air was even more suffocating than before, and instead of helping to clear his mind, it helped more thoughts bloom in it. He could barely keep up with the chaos inside his head, only noticing that one thought kept reoccurring: ‘God would have never let my mother die like this’, ‘God would have never let my mother die like this’, ‘God would have never let my mother die like this’, ‘God would have never let my mother die like this’. The thought started to shift, ever so slightly, each individual thought triggering a new one like a tower of dominos, until he was left with thoughts he believed he would never think: ‘God let my mother die like this’, ‘God is not good’, ‘God is bad’, ‘God denied us’, ‘God does not care’, ‘God, Bad, God, Bad, GOD, BAD, GOD, BAD, G-’. Both his hands formed a fist that scrunched up his sweater, and before he knew it, all of his thoughts had turned against God and everything he had devoted his life to.
A surge of burning rage filled him and lead his hand into his own arm in a punch. Several times. How dare him rebel against God like this? How dare he say such things about his Lord and Saviour? His breath felt shallow and his heart weighted with guilt. The only way he could redeem himself in the eyes of God for such horrible thoughts would be to go to the church and confess his sins to the priest. So he started running.
The force the paved sidewalk imposed against his feet was greater than during his walk to the hospital 20 minutes before, and although he could see the church in the distance, the run to his destination felt like it lasted a lifetime. When he finally got to the tall building, he held onto the wooden doors and put his weight on them, trying to calm down, or at least get his breathing to become more stable. He entered the church and was bombarded by the image of lonely people scattered around the room with their hands together in front of their closed eyes, as he had done so many times before, and couldn’t help but think about how foolish they looked, praying to a God who would never attend to their wishes. He, quite literally, shook the thought out of his head, and headed in growing distress to the confession booth.
He entered through the wooden door and was quickly enclosed by the darkness. “Father, I beg you to bless me and forgive me in the eyes of God, for I have committed the worst sin there is.” He said, with a shaky voice.
The aged voice of Father McKenzie, the church’s priest, came calmly from the other side of the booth, “May the Lord be in your heart and help you to confess your sins with true sorrow.”
“I have done the worst thing a follower of Christ could ever do. This morning, I rebelled against God.” Tears started rolling off the sides of his cheeks, “After I received the news my mother had just died, I started thinking sinful thoughts. The voice inside my head kept saying that God was to blame for my mother’s death and that ‘God does not care’. I caught myself hating the God who has given me everything I need, and for that I deserve to be punished. I am so sorry.”
“Son, I recognise the sound of your voice and am compelled to give you advice. You have always been a faithful boy, and I am glad you were strong enough to recognise your sin even when going through hard times. Blaming God is a common response to when life does not go your way.”
The wooden door opened and closed on the other side of the church. The place felt a little bit lighter but the weight Joaquin carried inside his heart made up for it. The priest went on.
“But to blame God is to put a fault in Him. And, as mere God creations, we have no right to do so. We have no right to question His higher intentions. God would never simply let you mother die. He has a pl-” The priest was interrupted by a question coming from Joaquin:
“Wait, what do you mean God would never let my mother die?” asked Joaquin, as if he hadn’t started leaning onto a conclusion already.
“You didn’t let me finish. God would have never let your mother die in vain. He has a pl-” He was interrupted by Joaquin once again, but this time his words were harsher and more affirmative:
“Therefore, God doesn’t exist!” He exclaimed triumphantly, completely ignoring the “in vain” part of the statement.
Father McKenzie started a sentence “Son-” but Joaquin wouldn’t let him speak. His voice had changed as if he had come to some sort of closure.
“If God would have never let my mother die, He does not exist! God would let my mother live. But she died. Which means there was no God behind this and everything else that has happened in mine and everyone else’s lives. Because He doesn’t exist!”
“That is not where I was going with thi-” The priest started exclaiming, but was cut off by the sound of the confessional’s door closing and Joaquin’s steps quickly gaining distance from him.
Joaquin was almost running through the hollow (a word which he would have used to describe its literal and figurative state if he could think straight) hall of the church, half trying to keep up with his own thoughts and half trying to escape the place who had fooled and trapped him for so long. As he exited the church into the afternoon sun, he realised that the street was way fuller than before. And so was his mind. Not being able to keep his thoughts for himself as he walked through the crowds, he muttered (or at least he thought he was muttering) about everything that was filling his head, gaining him weird stares from the people on the street.
“God isn’t real anymore.”
“God has never been real.”
“How could I be so blind?”
“Nothing that has ever happened was according to God’s plan.”
“Because there is no plan and no God.”
“And nothing happens for any specific reason at all.”
“Because there is no divine creature to give reason to anything.”
At this point, the people on the street were starting to avoid him, and even moving to the other side to stay the farthest away they could from the shouting mess Joaquin had unawarely become. He kept walking and talking without looking at where he was going, until he was covered by the shadows of a 3-story building down the end of the road. He looked up to the dingy yellow structure, and realised there was absolutely no reason why it was constructed at this specific place, and the little girl coming out of its glass doors had absolutely no reason to be the way that she was, and if she was ever to achieve something, it would be purely out of luck, maybe luck in her genes or luck in her status, and that achievement would get her nowhere because in the end she would end up in the same place as his mother. Dead. Neither in heaven or hell, because of course, there is no afterlife without a creator and
“There is no meaning without The Divine.”
Joaquin fell onto the paving stone ground of the meaningless building, still staring at the way the meaningless shadows moved in front and above the meaningless girl. He looked down to his hands and realised there was no reason for him to keep living the way he was. He had always been living a meaningless life, and he was always a meaningless little human specimen, who had no predestined job in the Earth and no set of rules to follow. There was no reason he existed, and his life was full of meaningless nothings and random coincidences and will continue to be that way until he dies a meaningless death, without any God by his side. Without a higher power to give him purpose or meaning to life. He had no reason to live a life where nothing had a meaning or real value.
He hadn’t even noticed that the girl was long gone, and as he came back to consciousness, he found himself staring at the top of the faded yellow building in front of him. His thoughts went from his mother to God, then to life and its meaninglessness, until they stopped abruptly and fixated on one thing. The solution. He hopped up scratching his knees on the pavement in the process (not that he cared at this point). He ran into the building where the sunlight could not reach him and was met by white lights that made its dead-looking corridors seem longer and his eyes more tired. He turned to his right and found what he was looking for: the staircase. Joaquin ran up the stairs, each step giving him a boost of adrenaline. Even though he felt extremely tired and could barely maintain one steady breath, Joaquin kept going without stopping due to the state of euphoria he had induced himself into. Once there were no more steps to climb up he finally stopped for a few seconds and let his vision go back to normal. When it did, he easily located the old, unused door that would lead him to his final destination. He walked in.
A soft afternoon breeze grazed the side of his face and bare arms as he stepped out on roof. The sun was setting from behind him, which made his body cast long shadows on the ground and into the open below. He walked to the edge of the building and looked down to see the people dispersing below. He could see the top of the trees and the parked cars on the sides of the streets, and couldn’t help but think how meaningless it all was. Below him, everyone was living routeless lives, either guided by the light of a fake God or pushing through each day without any reason to. He felt eager, and the only reason he could think of that would explain this feeling was the fact that he would finally be able to
His feet lost track of the sturdy surface of the roof and his ears popped open with the pressure of the wind. The fall felt almost freeing for once he was not worried about the consequences of his actions. There was no God to judge him. There was nothing he had to accomplish. There was no reason for him to keep living.
Joaquin smiled as he fell to his meaningless death.