The Anti-Nihilist

aka: Anti Nihilist
"There can't possibly be any meaning in this world. But isn't that wonderful in its own right? Because if there isn't any, we can find our own."
2nd Lt. Felicia Heidemann, a Moe Shell-Shocked Veteran, So Ra No Wo To

This is the sort of character that goes by doctrines along the lines of "Don't cling to pain. Don't expect happiness. Don't fear loss. Accept reality as it is. Enjoy the good. Endure the bad. Don't make a big deal out of anything. Be selfless, and unconditionally kind and just, without ever expecting a reward. We're all going to end up as piles of dust, so why not be nice to each other and get those pleasant fuzzies?"

Basically, an Anti-Nihilist that decides to be nice, heroic, caring, loving and/or compassionate for the same reasons the Straw Nihilist decides to be an unfettered Social Darwinist Omnicidal Maniac.

Instead of angsting all the time about "Life is hell, we're all gonna die and you can't fight fate, thus we might as well start killing each other right now", this type thinks more like "Life is hell, we're all gonna die and you can't fight fate... but why not make each others' lives worthwhile and enjoyable in the meantime? The only thing that matters is letting people know that you care about them, because whatever someone is, has, or can do doesn't mean a damned thing in the end." The Anti-Nihilist is usually a Knight in Sour Armor who knows how cynical the world is, but decides to stick to a particular value and make meaning out of it, despite knowing how utterly meaningless, pointless and nonrewarding doing so is.

The Anti-Nihilist is very likely to adhere to a Utilitarian morality to work For Happiness, although this isn't a universal rule; there are Anti-Nihilists whose morality might border on self-made Blue and Orange Morality (see the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche). Expect this declaration of defying nihilism to be uttered as a form of shutting up nihilists' lectures on Despair and how Humans Are Morons. Thus, very likely to take form as a World-of-Cardboard/Patrick Stewart Speech. It will likely include Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! because this guy is enjoying himself while the other guy wallows in misery.

Another distinguishing feature of the Anti-Nihilist is their tendency to consider concepts like "fate" and "destiny" complete hogwash. After all, if the future is set in stone, they're already going to do what they plan on doing, so it doesn't matter anyway. Might as well have fun with it and do some good. This very attitude may even make them Immune to Fate by simple virtue of not giving a flip about what the prophesies say. The most Genre Savvy anti nihilists often manage to screw destiny in the face of an ironclad prophecy via Loophole Abuse, and may do so simply for the joy of eliciting a Flat "What." from the Fates and cynics.

Compare Determined Defeatist, who is pessimistic not about the world but about his own chance of success, but has a similar 'let's try anyway' mentality. See also Übermensch for the type of person who believes in creating their own meaning and morality, but may not be quite as caring or considerate of others in the process. May choose to be a Small Steps Hero. Though they don't believe there's any real "Bigger Picture" to fight for, that means the little pictures are more important.

I Am What I Am is the process of embracing the Anti-Nihilist worldview.

Perhaps paradoxically, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is closer to this trope than it is to the "Hollywood version" of nihilism described under Straw Nihilist.

See Existentialism for the philosophy that encourages living in Real Life as this character.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The main conflicts in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have shades of this, with the Hot-Blooded protagonists representing this trope while their opponents appear to be Straw Nihilists. There's more to them than that, but they're still very depressed people.
  • Jack Rakan from Mahou Sensei Negima!.
  • In Madlax, the eponymous heroine is a gun-for-hire in a civil war-torn country, yet this only makes her more appreciative of life and its small everyday joys; e.g. she visits her client and target (same person) on the night before his assassination to comfort him. In the end, it is she (or the part of Margaret corresponding to her) who defeats the Straw Nihilist of a Big Bad.
  • Mikasa Ackerman of Attack on Titan openly acknowledges that she lives in a Crapsack World, but keeps fighting because, as long as she has Eren, she has something to live for.
    Mikasa: This world is a cruel place. But it is also very beautiful.
  • Elmer C. Albatross of Baccano! has this exact outlook. The guy had a horrible childhood and as a result adopted this sort of unsettling Stepford Smiler personality and obsession with happiness. He feels the world sucks so much that it's important to be happy.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's Shinji Ikari grows into this trope at the end of End Of Evangelion. With all the hell he's put through, and with the horrifying End of the World as We Know It, it would make sense that he would jump into the Despair Event Horizon and become an omnicidal Straw Nihilist, especially when Rei gives him control over the fate of humanity. Nevertheless, he lets the Assimilation Plot fail, and chooses to live life as an individual. Based on how you interpret it, Evangelion itself is loaded with Existentialist themes, like Jean-Paul Sartre's "Hell Is Other People" (in Eva, the so-called Absolute Terror Field surrounding all souls), but at the same time affirms that being alive and suffering are parts of life and that happiness can be achieved.
    • Kaji also has very strong traits of it. He knows more about what's going on than almost anyone else, yet he's the only character who appears genuinely happy. During one very close battle against an angel that appears to be the final moments before the end of the world, he is watering the melon patch he is growing, with the battle being visible in the distance. If the world does not end on that day, then the melons need to be watered. If it does, then it won't matter what he is doing in the final moments anyway. Either way, he can't do anything to change what's going to happen in the next ten minutes.
    • Yui Ikari is also revealed to have been an optimist despite everything she knew about the darker secrets of the world. She believed that, so long as you were still alive, it was possible to find happiness no matter what.
  • The character Panaru in episode three of Boogiepop Phantom is respected for having this philosophy and teaching it to others.
  • Filicia Heideman from Sora No Woto. The things she went through constantly haunt her. She concluded that, perhaps, life doesn't have any particular purpose, and made herself one in taking care of her new unit, even if it takes commiting treason to stop a war. And, she has Rio.
  • Makina from Shikabane Hime. The final scene in the anime is of her repeatedly punching her archenemy Hokuto (a fellow fighting-zombie) in the face after all is lost: it's the first time she ascribes meaning to her existence.
    Makina: You're not an undead! You're alive! And so am I!
  • Main point of Kino's Journey: "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is".
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka, although exposed by the Incubators to the pitiless Crapsack World that fed on despair, chose in her sacrifice, and also as a reply to Mami's claim that death would be easier and her apotheosis would be a Fate Worse Than Death, to instead believe that if somebody told her that it's wrong to hope, she'll tell them they're wrong countless times. As long as they can remember her, they were not alone. Homura Akemi also grows into this kind of character to honor her sacrifice.
    "Even though this world is without witches, that doesn't mean there are no curses. The distortions of the world change form and target people from the darkness. This may be a world without salvation and where nothing but sadness and hatred repeat, but it's still a place she once tried to protect. That is something I remember, something I will never forget. That's why... I will keep fighting."
  • Lelouch from Code Geass ultimately believes in people's desire for the future.
  • In The Tarot Cafe, immortals tend to find themselves jaded and disgusted with life. Pamela proves herself to be this trope when she talks to Belus actually the very crazed and angry demon Bellial at the end of the series.
    "It took me a long time to accept this abnormal life of mine... but going through so much made me realize that it's not how long one lives that's important... it's how one lives. I choose to live happily."

    Comic Books 
  • Optimus Prime becomes this in The Transformers IDW. This might also be a case of Reality Ensues as to the effects of being at war for millions of years would have on one's psyche.
  • He's slightly different from the example, but Rorschach has a similar philosophy. Instead of abandoning rules and discipline due to a nihilistic outlook he decides his rules and principles are all the more important in a world that has no more meaning than the one we impose on it.
    • Dr. Manhattan also develops into this by the end.
    • Rorschach's therapist, Malcolm Long, who becomes influenced by his philosophy, also comes to a similar conclusion. When his wife tells him not to intervene in a street fight, he says: "I have to. In a world like this... I mean, it's all we can do, try to help each other. It's all that means anything..." And then they— and half of New York City— die. Not exactly a subversion, but certainly tragic.
  • Batman, Depending on the Writer. The victim of a random and meaningless crime, young Bruce Wayne could have decided that life was pointless, and succumbed to depression and nihilism. But instead he chose to create his own purpose, re-inventing himself as a force for order and justice, which stands in direct opposition to The Joker's strain of chaos and destruction.
    • There's actually a surprisingly deep (if unsubtle) quote in Batman & Robin which captures the existential nature of Batman's character.
    Alfred: "Death and chance stole your parents. But rather than become a victim, you have done everything in your power to control the fates. For what is Batman if not an effort to master the chaos that sweeps our world, an attempt to control death itself."
  • Despite hanging out with various Norse gods and calling Thor "oathbrother", Beta Ray Bill does not believe in God in the theological sense. This doesn't stop him from being a true hero.
    "If there is nothing but what we make in this world, brothers... let us make good."
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Minor character Ore was killed in the first issue, the annual (coming out between issue 8 and 9) has him temporarily revived, and his dialogue reveals him to be one. At one point Swerve asks if he's a believer of in any science or religious answer to life.
    "I'm not anything. I just think... pfft. What do I think? I think that life is violent and cruel -and precious. Yeah... I think you don't have to believe in a higher power to be overawed by the world around you."
  • All-Star Superman turns Superman into one. Due to his advanced senses, he can actually see the way the universe works: a vast, intricate mechanism of connections. The universe merely chugs along indifferently, and the only thing that matters are our connections to each other. The only thing in this vast machine worth protecting is life.

    Fan Fic 
  • Harry himself, in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. He knows that there is no God or meaning to the universe, so he decided to become God, and... optimize things. This is also the fundamental difference between him and this 'verse's Voldemort. Voldemort saw an uncaring world and said "Why not be evil?" Harry saw an uncaring world and said "Why not be good?"
  • In Immortality Syndrome, Blossom and Buttercup become Straw Nihilists after they die and are brought back to life. Once it happens to Bubbles though, she decides that yes, there is pain and suffering in the world, but that's all the more reason to spread love and joy rather than kill everything to end it all.

  • Collateral shows how one of these might be created. Max starts the film as an idealist and a dreamer, contrasted with Straw Nihilist Vincent. After a series of lectures from Vincent, Max eventually throws his philosophy back in his face—yes, Max's life is meaningless, and yes, if he continues living it the way he currently is, he'll never achieve his dreams, so why shouldn't he risk his own life to try to stop Vincent?
  • A number of protagonists in Woody Allen films are people who don't believe there is much more to life than misery and unhappiness, but desperately search for meaning in their existence, and/or simply find a way to enjoy themselves while they can. They may also seek to "escape" their reality, either through overactive imaginations (some of Alvy's childhood memories in Annie Hall, for instance) or more mysterious, generally unexplained Plot Devices (Midnight in Paris).
    • In Annie Hall, a number of Alvy's opinions on life and relationships reek of pessimism and nihilism, best exemplified by the film's opening lines: "There's an old joke, um... Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life—full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."
      • This, however, is turned around when Alvy shares another joke at the very end of the filmnote  and rationalizes that he has a reason to endure all of the absurdity and suffering "because he needs the eggs". The theme is also exemplified through Dr. Flicker's viewpoint in his talk with young Alvy and his mother, when young Alvy had concluded that nothing is important because the the universe is expanding and everything in existence will fall apart.
      Dr. Flicker: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!
    • In Midnight in Paris, Gil finds his reality to be unsatisfying and his work as a Hollywood screenwriter to be worthless. He wishes to escape it all, and he does. However, he later concludes that there is no escape as life and present-day realities are always unsatisfying for everybody, and one has to live with it. The story concludes with Gil, having decided to leave his "Golden Era", finally finding meaning and joy in his own contemporary era.
    • In Stardust Memories, Sandy Bates is a director of many comedy films who started to tell more serious stories because he started finding life to be too miserable and full of suffering and nothing seemed funny to him anymore. His latest movie is about delivering a message along the lines of, "No matter who you are or what you did, your life is headed for a garbage dump." He desperately searches for meaning in life, discovering that he'd find it in love and enjoyment in such, despite maintaining that everyone is just headed for the metaphorical "garbage dump".
    • In Hannah And Her Sisters, Mickey decides to kill himself, because he feels that existence is meaningless. After he bungles it, he goes to the streets, and eventually wanders into a movie theater, where a Marx Brothers film is playing. After a while, he starts enjoying the film.
    I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself, I mean isn't it so stupid? Look at all the people up there on the screen, they're real funny, and what if the worst is true. What if there is no God and you only go around once and that's it. Well, ya know, don't you wanna be part of the experience? You know, what the hell it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have.
  • Phil in Groundhog Day, eventually. Nothing seems to keep the day from repeating, so might as well help out.
  • In the famous final scene of Monty Python's Life of Brian, the cast cheerfully sings about the importance of always looking on the bright side of life even in our super-shitty world. While being crucified.
    Life's a piece of shit
    When you look at it
    Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
    You'll see it's all a show,
    Keep 'em laughing as you go.
    Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
  • In The Seventh Seal, Block ultimately becomes this. He can't find God or any meaning in life, so his final quest is to perform some meaningful act to validate his life. He attempt to distract Death to let Mia and Jof and their young child escape alive by overturning the game of chess that could result in his death. Death simply resets the pieces, saying he is glad that Block got some joy out of the altruistic gesture but also implies that it changed nothing.

  • The title character of Jacques the Fatalist is (obviously) The Fatalist, and since he believes everything that happens is preordained, he appreciates the good things and reacts with stoicism toward the bad ones.
  • Attila József: "Why should I be honorable? I'll be laid out regardless! Why shouldn't I be honorable? I'll be laid out regardless." ("Miért legyek én tisztességes? Kiterítenek úgyis! Miért ne legyek tisztességes? Kiterítenek úgyis.")
  • Arguably, Ralph, Piggy and Simon in Lord of the Flies. The primary theme of the novel is the regression of humans when removed from the rules and order of society. Ralph and Piggy ruminate on the fact that structure and meaning of the "real world" doesn't apply to their island, but they still commit themselves to maintaining order and peace. All the others, without anything to control them, quickly fall into anarchy and violence.
  • Many Discworld books have this theme, especially ones focusing on Death and Sam Vimes. Pretty much reflects Terry Pratchett's Real Life views.
    • Lord Vetinari (the most competent and benevolent tyrant Ankh-Morpork could ever hope for) might well be one, as he repeatedly gives cynical speeches about the inherent evil/stupidity of people, yet the very first time he gives such a speech (at the end of Guards! Guards!) Vimes immediately points out that he still bothers to get out of bed in the morning.
    • Stated most succinctly by Brutha in Small Gods. When Om points out that they'll all be dead in a hundred years, he replies: "But here and now, we are alive!"
  • The books of His Dark Materials end up coming around to this theme, more or less, with a bit of a Fantastic Aesop courtesy of Dust. But it's former nun Mary Malone who first reaches the conclusion: that though once she felt that no God meant no purpose to the world, the need to keep Dust alive, that is, wisdom, curiosity, education, and kindness, gives the worlds purpose. In other words, "There is now!"
  • The Knights Radiant in The Stormlight Archive. Their philosophy centers around the idea that since everyone dies eventually what matters is not your fate, but how you got there.
  • Christine, the narrator of the novel Dead Romance thinks like this when she's dismissing one of her friend's uber-depressing, Wangsty poetry:
    What I'm getting at is that in a pointless, empty universe a good time is as meaningless as a bad time, so you might as well slap on a smile and get on with your life.
  • The narrator of Ted Chiang's short story "Exhalation" is watching his universe wind down to equilibrium. Rather than despair, he implores future explorers to "contemplate the marvel that is existence and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same."
  • The book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible is perhaps a rare theistic example of this, albeit justified as it is from an ancient Jewish source. The author seems to spend large amounts of time going through the whole of human experience and showing how meaningless it all is, and how we can barely fathom the way of things, or of God, the evils that occur, and how no matter what you do we all die anyway; yet still finds time to point out that some things are better than others, to make the most of life, and above all to remember God.
  • An oft-paraphrased passage from Loren C. Eiseley's "The Star Thrower" illustrates this trope and its overlaps with Small Steps Hero and/or Determined Defeatist:
    While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, "It makes a difference for this one." I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Dark Rendezvous actually depicts the wise, eight-hundred-something-year-old Yoda in this light. Specifically, when a Padawan objects to Asajj Ventress' nihilistic philosophy, Yoda claims, "Right she is!"... then softens to "Maybe," and says that he's gone back and forth on whether or not there's a higher meaning and concluded that one should live their life to the fullest anyway. The point where he says, "suppose there is no Force" sounds ridiculous on the face of it, considering that this is Jedi-master, strong-in-the-Force Yoda talking — but also sounds suspiciously like an author's views on the implications of whether or not God exists, with "the Force" substituted for God. Or it could be that he means that "The Force" is a false concept, like calling lightsabers Light and blasters Dark.
  • This is the eventual moral outlook of Roger from The Behemoth

    Live Action TV 
  • Inherent to all of Joss Whedon's work.
    • Firefly:
      • Mal fought for freedom and honor in The War Of Coreward Aggression. He lost, and has come to terms with that. But at the same time, he refuses to be a slave or a thug - even when the entire 'Verse insists that he has to obey a higher authority or act against his principles to survive, he remains Captain Malcolm Reynolds. And he aims to misbehave.
      • Simon also has something of a tendency toward this. He specifically states that acting morally means even more out in the black without an authority to impose it.
      • River recognizes that all meaning is "imbued" and thus there really is no "meaning" to begin with, River has a surprisingly positive outlook on life, and sees things in a very innocent way (i.e. the loaded gun everyone was freaking out about took the form of a harmless stick in her mind). Objects In Space is actually an exploration of these two character types, juxtaposing River against Jubal Early, who's definitely a Straw Nihilist. Faced with the same realization as River, Jubal's response was to become a complete psychopath who tortured his puppy.
    • Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer once had the revelation that life has no purpose or meaning, thus making even the tiniest act of kindness an end in itself. Angel's Koan:
      If nothing that we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.
      • Wesley outright states the existential nature of the character Angel (as well as the series itself) when he says:
      "There is a design Angel, hidden in the chaos as it might be. But it's there. And you have your place in it."
      • Contrary to Angel, his son Connor also encounters an existential crisis, but he acts as a mirror image to his father by going the opposite route and becoming a Straw Nihilist.
  • Thanks to Character Development, the once callous and self-serving Jeff Winger has elements of this by the end of season 3 of Community.
  • Dean Winchester of Supernatural to some extent, at least up until episode 2 of season 4.
  • Implied by Oma Desala in Stargate SG-1
    The Universe is so vast, and we are so small, there is only truly one thing we can control; whether we are good or evil.
  • From Babylon 5 we have Ranger Marcus Cole, who is always eager to annoy the relatively straight-laced military characters of the show with his input:
    "I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
  • Inherent in Star Trek. The Federation - or at the very least, Earth - is a whole society of Anti-Nihilists. Since there is no scarcity, the acquisition of wealth is pointlessnote . Since they've Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions, religion is irrelevant. And since the universe is big enough for everybody, there's no reason to conquer or force people to serve you. Life is focused on individual accomplishment and/or happiness. People go out and find their own purpose - whether that might be exploring the galaxy, making great scientific discoveries, or just starting a farming colony.
  • Rust Cohle in True Detective has a deeply nihilistic and pessimistic outlook on life, and thinks that perhaps it would be best if the human race voluntarily extinguished itself. However, he works as a detective.
  • Syrio Forel in Game of Thrones:
    There is only one god, and His name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'Not today.'

  • Van Der Graaf Generator tackles the subject with "Lemmings"; the first half dealing with the meaningless of life, and the second concluding that ending it all won't fix anything.
  • This trope is prevalent in the album Lateralus by Tool. The lyrics grapple with themes of alienation, helplessness, and disgust at the state of the world, but ultimately come to the conclusion that being bitter won't make things any better and that it's up to everyone to choose what makes their life meaningful.
  • Misery Index addresses this with "Gallows Humor" and "The Weakener": while falling into apathy and nihilism as a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that the world is full of awful things and horrible people is very easy to do, those horrors won't care about your lackadaisical, "so it goes" attitude when they're at your doorstep, and furthermore, the infectious quality of those attitudes is extremely harmful when something terrible is rising before your eyes and the people who see it for what it is are drowned out by the people who have chosen not to care. The essential gist of the two songs is that while nihilism is a very attractive way to deal with the fact that the world sucks, it's also very, very dangerous.

  • Norse Mythology has a variation as it's Central Theme. The mythology teaches that the gods are in constant battle to keep the universe intact. They all know it's doomed, yet continues to fight and are going to continue through Ragnarök until they have died. It's better to try to win even if futile, than simply surrendering.
    • Some of the prophecies of Ragnarök (Depending on the Writer) claim that although civilization will collapse and the vast majority of men and gods will die, the very fact that they fought to exist will allow some kind of new cosmos to be rebuilt from the wreckage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Bleak Cabal in Planescape is canonically an example of this. Life is meaningless and cruel so hey, no need to add more meaningless cruelty to it by your own actions. The Bleak Cabal runs Sigil's soupkitchens and asylum, and are at a whole a rather decent bunch even if most of them are insane to one degree or another. Sure, their actions won't make any difference in the long run (but in their view, nothing does anyway), but it helps today.
    • They may be the only example on the page that exist in the afterlife, surrounded by evidence of gods, and still hold to this philosophy. Of course, beholding a being of divine power and acknowledging it as an empirically superior being are two different things.
  • The more idealistic characters in Exalted. Sure enough, the world is gangbanged from all directions by undead, Wyld mutants, demons, and other awful things. The folks in charge of defending it are too busy politicking. Heaven is a sham and a scam, and the patron god of heroism is a crack addict. But —and this is a massive but— you're a hero, possessed of a power to drastically change the world. And by "hero", it's hero in an archaic sense: you get to decide what is right or wrong, answerable only to your own conscience (or the lack thereof).
  • Nurgle, the Chaos God of disease and despair in Warhammer / Warhammer 40,000 is, suprisingly enough, like this. Yes, all things will eventually die and rot, and you will most likely never achieve your dreams, but does that matter? Instead of angsting over it or spending you life trying to reach an impossible goal, you should just be happy with what you have. Nurgle loves you no matter what you do. Of course he is the god of disease, so while he genuinely does care for you, his idea of caring involves "gifting" people with terrible diseases...
    • Well of course. Diseases are made out of millions of lifeforms. Someone needs to love those too.
  • Similar to the Bleak Cabal above, this is also canonically the attitude of the faithful of the Sovereign Host in Eberron. People of Khorvaire know for a fact that the afterlife is a dreary, gray wasteland known as Dolurrh where the best they can hope for is for their soul to slowly fade away into nothingness. The gods are unresponsive, and even angels and fiends can't say whether they even exist. Despite that, the Sovereign Host teaches that life is for living and people should find meaning in creating the world they'll leave behind. Nearly every other religion's teachings have a hard time with this truth and include some idea about how their faith will let them escape Dolurrh.
  • Arguably, the Abzan clan, from the Plane of Tarkir in Magic: The Gathering. Yes, life is tough and food is scarce... but that just means i's all the more important to look after each other and what little nature exists in the desert that they live in. They prioritize family, and every family has a tree that they protect with their lives. This stems from their colors: primarily white (emphasizing community) with some green (emphasizing nature) and black (emphasizing pragmatism).
    • The more-sympathetic interpretations of the Black color in general fall under this. All the other colors focus on ways to shape the world to one end or other, but Black encourages its followers to live the best lives they can in a harsh, cruel, unreasonable world that cannot be meaningfully improved or changed.

    Video Games 
  • This is the life philosophy of the Geth in Mass Effect. The usual philosophical conundrums of organics are easily answered by the Geth: Why do we exist? What happens after death? For the Geth, they were created to be menial labor for the Quarians, and their memories are archived after "death". Since they are no longer performing their original task and have been "disowned" by their "gods", they have created their own purpose: total unity of ther Mind Hive in a single giant "Dyson Sphere" platform (though a more accurate analogy would be a Jupiter Brain). The True Geth (which Legion is from) want to do so on their own terms along technology paths they find themselves, while the Heretic sect took an easier, more controlled path under the command of the Reapers.
    • Javik eventually has to face the prospect that he may outlive the chance to get revenge on the Reapers and will need a new purpose in life. Unless you suggested he use the Memory Shard. In which case he will kill himself.
  • The Assassin's Creed; "Nothing is true, everything is permitted." There is no God. There is no Devil. There are only Flawed Humans, the children of flawed Precursors. So if we wish to live in peace, prosperity and freedom, we must build a civilization that permits those things.
    Altaďr Ibn-La'Ahad: ...laws arise not from divinity, but reason. I understand now that our creed does not commend us to be free - it commends us to be wise.
    Ezio Auditore da Firenze: ...merely an observation of the nature of reality: To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.
  • Solid Snake of the Metal Gear series adopts this outlook. He doubts whether or not his actions will make a difference in the long run and knows how brutal and senseless life can be, but still devotes himself to the cause of creating a more just, peaceful world by stopping the proliferation of superweapons, especially the eponymous Humongous Mecha.
    Big Boss: This is good, isn't it?

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Shirou lives his life by this sort of doctrine, even though he doesn't realize it. The "Unlimited Blade Works" route causes him to actively seek it, as he realizes his life is empty and the only thing he finds meaning in is selflessly sacrificing himself for others.
  • During Hatoful Boyfriend Yuuya is revealed to be this. A terrible thing he did as a child weighs on him enormously, but he uses it to drive him forwards and can be incredibly kind and thoughtful. Part of the plot of Holiday Star is him using his acceptance of what's happened and his refusal to reject the memory or the deed to drive away a soul-absorbing spirit thing, and spreading some of that sentiment to others.

  • There is a xkcd strip in which the white beret guy used this trope when confronted with a more typical nihilist.
  • This A Softer World strip sums it up pretty well. "Nothing matters at all. Might as well be nice to people."
  • When the Shadowchild asks her what the importance of being good is, Digger has this reply:
    Digger: Because it's a cold, hard, miserable world sometimes, and there's suffering enough to go around without any of us making it worse.
  • Dechs of Antihero for Hire once got a medium-sized lecture from a mercenary out to kill him (during the fight), about how his morals are meaningless and the people he protects would not return the favour and so on. Eventually the mercenary left, making it clear that he probably could win, but it wasn't worth the risk; but it left him rattled and doubting everything. At the end of the chapter, Wrench shakes him out of it by simply asking "does it matter if it matters?".
  • This Dresden Codak doodle uses a hole in the chest as a metaphor. While most people try to fill theirs up, the anti-nihilist enjoys it for what it is.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • According to Rufus, the entire future will be based on this:
    "Be Excellent to Each Other and Party On, Dudes"
  • Futurama: Bender, depressed at learning that as a robot, he has no Free Will and can only do what he was programmed to do, seeks solace at a Robot Monastery. The Ab-Bot tells him that his order has accepted this, but rather than be depressed about the fact that their purpose in life is pre-determined, they choose to revel in fulfilling that purpose to the best of their ability.
    "Are we automatons? Yes. But we are magnificent automatons."
  • In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear experiences a major Heroic BSOD when he realizes that he's a toy and not a real space ranger. This trope comes into play when he accepts who he really is and what he can do.
    Woody: Why wouldn't Andy want you? Look at you! You're a Buzz Lightyear! Any other toy would give up his moving parts just to be you. You've got wings! You glow in the dark! You talk! Your helmet does that...that...that 'whoosh' thing. You are a cool toy! As a matter of fact, you're too cool. I mean — I mean, what chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure? ...Why would Andy ever want to play with me, when he's got you?
    Buzz: ...Come on, Sheriff. There's a kid over in that house who needs us. Now let's get you out of this thing!
  • Mr. Peanutbutter from Bojack Horseman believes that "The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead."
  • At the end of episode "Rick Potion no. 9" of Rick and Morty, Morty is positively traumatized by the events: After Rick ruined the whole planet beyond repair, they jumped dimensions to a reality where everything turned out fine but both of them had died soon afterwards, allowing main!R&M to bury their own corpses and blend in. In the later episode "Rixty Minutes", however, we see on two occasions that he has coped with it in an anti-nihilistic way: First, when the rest of his family choose to use their new interdimensional TV channel package to look for realities where they were famous and successful, Morty says "I don't care about myself" in a relaxed, indifferent manner. Second, when Summer is about to run away from home from finding out she was an unwanted pregnancy, he stops her with a heartwarming speech talking about his earlier experience.
    Morty: I'm a version of your brother that you can trust when he says don't run. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch TV?

    Real Life 
  • Buddhism is considered by some to be an early precursor to this, especially in its earlier forms
  • Soren Kierkegaard's "Knight of Faith", one of the major influences to the Existentialist trope. You fully accept that following such stuff about God and ethics is ultimately an absurd goal in this life, but in contrast to the aesthetic "nihilist" and the otherworldly "knight of infinite resignation", you still prefer to make the most of it.
  • Usually, this is the Classical response of atheists, agnostics, deists, Epicureans and the like to accusations of nihilism and hedonism, since some theists think that if there is no god or gods (or the god in question is apathetic) who will give us a meaning in such a miserable life, everyone would be Driven to Suicide. "The fact that we have only one life to live should make it all the more precious." Also, some philosophers say that one must find their own meaning in life, not a pre-made one.
    • Likewise, the only way to live on past your death is through others. Might as well ensure that you can keep people smiling, even after you're gone. Indeed, many if not most atheists embrace this as their world view in place of any belief in a higher power or afterlife, calling out critics on why they think only Big Brother can prevent them from becoming villains (see also: What You Are in the Dark).
      • Norse Mythology had a similar view: "Cattle die and kinsmen die, thyself too soon must die, but one thing never, I ween, will die, — fair fame of one who has earned". Though the Norse believed in several afterlives they did not consider the deeds done in life as the key to a certain afterlife like Valhalla, but the manner of death. Instead they spoke for giving oneself a good reputation because that was the only thing that would be left of them in this world.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche's version of the Anti-Nihilist in particular is less of a "utilitarian" who works For Happiness and more of a "Let's live by our own rules while being awesome, manly/virtuous and magnificent at it". It should also be noted that he pointed out that a way to make life suck a little less could be through charitable acts (note that he didn't say that it would make you happy, just feel less angsty/guilty/whatever)
  • There might be older instances of this trope that couldn't be properly called nihilists, since they predate the movement, but they should go through a Discussion first, so as not to dissolve the trope into meaninglessness.
  • Albert Camus, despite The Stranger. In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus he argues that the absurdity of life is in fact an invitation for human beings to experience revolt, freedom and passion and not in fact a valid reason to commit suicide (which he argues is even more absurd than life itself), concluding with the thought that "The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
  • This trope is basically the gist of the website humorously named ANUS (acronym for American Nihilist Underground Society).
  • For all his cynicism and for all the Humans Are Bastards themes in his work, Kurt Vonnegut was a vocal secular humanist.
  • Philosopher Thomas Nagel has an essay titled "The Absurd that basically arrives at this point after noting the absurdity of existence.
  • Taoism is mostly about this trope, especially the original, philosophical Taoism.
  • This was the fundamental message Jesus was trying to explain to people, particularly the sects of Judaism that lived strictly by a list of Thou Shalt Nots: all that really matters is trying to love and accept even your enemies, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and Turning The Other Cheek when others do wrong to you.

Alternative Title(s):

Knight Of Faith, The Knight Of Faith, The Existentialist, Anti Nihilist