One of the things that strike you when you read Nietzsche is that he considered a good life to be one that is dedicated to personal gain. ‘Personal Gain,’ is a very loaded term that in this day and age that often implies selfishness, vice and bad actions until you realise that is that every life is dedicated to personal gain.
When stoics live for virtue they do so because they think that will gain something from the expression and practice of righteous actions. The same principle applies to Buddhists who think by giving up any attachments to desire that nirvana will be obtained. Hedonists (in the Epicurean sense,) live for the enjoyment of sustainable pleasures maximising life satisfaction whilst minimising the experience of pain in yet another form of personal gain. All philosophical disciplines represent attempts to gain something for the self in a methodical, organised and structured way as to guarantee consistent results. In contrast, Nihilists live for nothing because the materialist understanding that absolute meaning cannot be found in the greater universe makes personal gain the most honest thing that you can do with your life.
So, let’s answer the question that naturally follows on from this, what is personal gain? The most immediate response being anything that makes you authentically happy. For some this might be fame, riches and worldly success, for others it might be the lasting satisfaction from having gifted the world with a thing of beauty, whether it’s art, song, or architecture, for yet more others it might be a life of idle pleasures or the study of nature, science or even philosophy. Whatever it is that you decide to do you must understand that it’s ultimately meaningless to the greater universe and finite in duration because all things pass away in time. To be a happy nihilist you have to reject grand narratives whether political or otherwise such as the meta-fictions that comes from religious belief, university indoctrination, the rightness or wrongness of your nation’s constitution, social structure or culture. In order to do this, you must look inside your own soul, peering into the dark corners of your psyche taking apart any beliefs, precepts and concepts that you hold to be true to see if they have any actual validity and are not simply ideas imparted to you by others that may be false. If you can do this you will become a superman, rising above the common herd of humanity, beyond the realms of sainthood to become a truly authentic human being able to live life on your own terms ready to deal with anything that the universe throws at you. It’s at this point you will know where your interests lie and what is personally gainful for you, making your path obvious…
“you must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame;
how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra