At some point early at University I learned this phrase and took it as truth. It could have been in my philosophy class or it could have been when I decided to read Camus because I thought I ought to read Camus. At some point, through some avenue, that phrase “life is absurd” stuck.
The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy
Life is absurd, isn’t it? We are tossed about, luck happens or it doesn’t, we plan and things change. Our lives end up in an entirely different direction and violà, life is absurd. Well, unless we learn from and give meaning to every experience. We choose our lives by choosing how we react to our lives. If we don’t like our reactions we choose to better them the next time we are faced with a problem or a person who is causing a problem. So yes, when it comes down to it-life is absurd. Absurdity bubbles through our existence because no one truly knows why we are here, nor where we are going.
Does religion pop into your mind? One can question life in the absence of religion. What if I made Existentialism my Religion? Would you prosecute me? Did I lose all moral center? Of course not. And some fire pit isn’t going to swallow me up for it. If you believe this, then well, your God is a mean God and I don’t do mean. This mean God that is slowly enveloping the minds of people is exhausting and drains life of its potential. How can you live an authentic life in the shadow of some great narcissist in the sky?
You can’t. No one can. And no one can tell me what is going to happen next, I don’t care if you saw Jesus in your tollhouse cookie and he spoke to you through a half melted chocolate chip.
“Without God, in fact, there is even more need for ethics because human beings are completely responsible for themselves.” as thought by Simone de Beauvoir from the book entitled Existentialism For Beginners
An open mind to the possibilities that are out there, the ‘I don’t know,’ embracing uncertainty, finding strength through the tools that YOU have, garnering strength within yourself, making choices, being authentic, integrity… this is existentialism. This is also probably why the French know how to embrace life in a way that is lacking in a puritanical society with a bunch of little judges running around. You can’t love what you judge and if you judge people how can you ever truly love them? Everything is to the extreme in this country, one is either all good or all evil. No wonder people are bursting at the seems mentally, spiritually, physically there is too much pressure to be something that is impossible. Chill out people, it’s only life.
The pursuit of happiness…
“I didn’t understand what the meaning of life was,” he said. “I still don’t, but I thought that everyone else did, that there was this big secret that everyone was in on that I wasn’t. I thought everyone understood why we were here, and that they were all secretly happy somewhere without me.” That quote was taken by an article in The Atlantic that I read this morning entitled. “The Existential Pain of being young, white and affluent.” It’s a sad article really, the privileged, young guy in the article addicted to over the counter drugs which eventually turns into heroin can’t find happiness nor a purpose for living. Why? Is it because we never address what it really means to live NOT outside yourself but within yourself. No one will ever find true happiness always looking outward. Always seeking for someone or something else to give meaning or happiness to their life. You turn to your partner, your money, your work, your home, your drugs, your chocolate, your exercise, your food. When will people start looking inward at their own minds and how they work? You are always checking Facebook for those “likes” that bring a small surge of dopamine that lead to nowhere but a need for more likes. If you are addicted to outward appearances how much money and things you have, how religious you are without ever looking inward at yourself, your journey will always remain on the outside. You will always be looking through the filter of something, a filter of money, religion, facebook friend likes. How can you see yourself clearly looking through something. Pretend you have nothing to cling to, now who are you? Who are you without religion, Facebook, money? “Many people have the silly idea, gleaned from movies, adverts and glossy magazines, that life is perfectible. The idea that other people out there somewhere have achieved the perfect life. So, they feel dissatisfied with the life they have or even downright cheated out of the life they think they deserve but don’t have, the life no one has. They yearn for a life of perfect happiness that is impossible, while failing to take control of the life they do have and make it ore rewarding through decisive, realistic action.” How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses by Gary Cox. “…existentialism is saying, if you want to be happy, or at least be happier, stop struggling to achieve complete happiness because that way only leads to disappointment.”
Mauvaise foi: Otherwise known as Bad Faith.
Living the inauthentic life…
Ever have a waiter who seems to be playing a waiter? He or she goes around to different tables saying the exact same thing, smiling the exact same way. This person is inauthentic. Encountering the waiter is an example that Sartre gives for living in Bad Faith or in more modern terms, frontin’ or being insincere or not genuine, pretending to be cool. This is not living an authentic life. You must live a transparent life, know who you are to the core and be that person regardless of what society says you should be or what others think. As long as you are not hurting anyone, living a life true to who you are without trying to be someone you are not is the existentialist way. Did you know that some people are born with brains that can’t sustain a relationship with one person? This is biological and yet our society states that everyone should be married with kids. Who are we hurting? We as a society, by forming all these little labels and boxes, are telling people who are different that it isn’t ok to be different despite the fact that they were born biologically different. What isn’t in the majority is considered bad. We are hurting society as a whole for punishing people who can’t live in the exact same way as the majority. It’s lame on so many levels I can’t begin to write about it but I can write this: Who are we to judge what others do with their lives if it doesn’t hurt you?
Living in the now, authentically:
You can’t live outside your present reality, you can’t use convenient excuses and coping strategies to avoid your present. Living a life blaming your parents for your misfortunes or anxiety disorder doesn’t fly in existentialism. Your parents screwed you up? OK. You and most of this world. Read something like this:
“Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents by Nina Brown
Another Existentialism No. I should have done this and I should have done that. Guess what. You didn’t. So learn and move on. Life is what it is. Do the best you can with it, live authentically and with integrity. And please don’t be one of those “you should” people, it is incredibly annoying to listen to someone prattle on a list of you shoulds. You should write more mainstream pop, you should be blonde, you should sing on broadway. Counter. Why don’t you write more pop? Why aren’t you blond? If I sang broadway tunes my brain will became a Dali painting. (no offense to Broadway loving people)
Thinking all women are “crazy bitches” doesn’t fly either because it’s simply not true. Ever look inward to see if perhaps you are attracting the wrong type of person?
I listen to women talk about how men are so horrible and then men turn around and say women are so crazy. There are narcissistic men and narcissistic women so… What’s inside you that is attracting an asshole narcissist again and again? How can you understand another person’s mind without first understanding your own? Read this: “How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving“
by David Richo
Be authentic look within and change because those crazies without love in their hearts. They? They will never change, it has to be you.
Learn, fix what’s broken to the best of your ability and if you can’t do it alone ask for help and then move on. If you want change in your life you must change and live authenitcally so don’t try to be so damn cool, just be.
Being And Nothingness
You can’t avoid the present by living through an invented ‘what if’ future. Living a life of ‘what ifs’ is a big NO in existentialism. Living a life of What ifs? “What if” I am sick with some unknown plague. “What if” the government is going to come after me with a bunch of drones. What if the illuminati have tapped my phone. What if the New World Order is coming? This is also a way to avoid your present. What are you avoiding by not living now? Is it projects, something creative, working on yourself? It’s easy to let some website full of ‘what if’ boogie men do the thinking for you. Living in the land of what if is VERY counterproductive. It’s an avoidance of the present. Because at present you are reading this blog post and no boogie man is at your door. Live in the present, cultivate who you are in the present, be secure in the present this is the essence of existentialism.
Believing in what ifs keeps you occupied, keeps you immovable. Once upon a time I knew a brilliant mind, a poet and a painter, absolutely brilliant but unfortunately, he lived a life of wondering what would happen next. He spent countless hours on the internet researching all the things that might come get us rather than working on his art. Now the world has lost an incredible artist, who in my opinion could win a pulitzer for his writing. For a brief moment in time I got to see new work that harkened Da Vinci and Lord Byron. Alas, his work is lost to the land of ‘what ifs’ and it makes me sad to think about it. Regarding the ‘what ‘ifs’ my reply to him was always “what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow?” This is a possibly. So I live today as thoroughly and as joyfully and as authentically as I can. If something is bothersome that’s just the way it is for today and maybe tomorrow it will be better. It is said that existentialists live in the shadow of death. This is true in a sense. I know death is there and it is a part of life. Death just sucks and there is nothing we can do about it. This isn’t meant to be morbid it is just a fact. Existentialists like facts, pragmatism and logic, this just makes life easier. Existentialists usually get the reputation that we are melancholic. Yes, when you accept the world for what it really is one can get melancholic about it all. However, this is also a choice. I can focus on the good rather than the bad or I can use a melancholic state to create. I choose this sentence that I just read in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina “…I rejoice over what I have and don’t grieve over what I don’t have.”
“The person who chooses to be positive and confident or, at least, genuinely tries to be positive and confident, will encounter a very different world from the person who chooses to be negative and timid.” How to Be an Existentialist
We are suppose to make lives better for one another not worse. If your friends and/or family are making your life worse. Walk. Life is short.
In his book “The Pursuit of Perfect” Tal Ben-Shahar describes the sense of accomplishment and true happiness he felt after he became his country’s youngest national squash tournament champion. The feeling lasted for three hours.” The Myth of Happiness. It truly is in the journey.
“The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them“
by David Richo
Existentialists accept reality. No one’e life is perfect, all of us experience boredom, dissatisfaction, heart break, death.
1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not always fair.
4. Pain is part of life
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.
The above list is from the book by the brilliant author David Richo. From what I have read by him I have come to the conclusion that he is a modern day existentialist with a penchant for Jung. I happen to love Jung as well so it was great to find this author. David Richo approaches life in a very pragmatic fashion while still holding onto an artistic outlook. In a way he gives us a base and once that base is secure we can go off and be creative about life. Another way to put it, I studied classical singing. I worked extremely hard at perfecting my arias so they were ready for auditions at the Met with the late Charles Riecker. I created a foundation and then when I left the regular opera world partly due to losing Charlie I used that foundation to create Syren but was able to be more creative with my voice and lose some of the rules from my strict studies. Picasso studied classically but obviously went off course.
Once you create a base by knowing who you are in this world and how your mind ticks, then you can go out into the world and experience people and life from an authentic place.
“You will always be waiting for some current problem to become a thing of the past, you will always be looking for future fulfillment until death is the only fulfillment, the only possibilty left to you. This is not a bad thing, it is just the way it is so you would be wrong to get depressed about it, although many people do. A true existentialist doesn’t get depressed about it. He/she says “O.K. that’s the way it is. Never mind, I’m still going to make the most of my life…” How to Be an Existentialist
Note: there are many, many thinkers on existentialism that I did not mention here only because this would have become the length of a dissertation if I had.;-)
“To attain his truth, man must not attempt to dispel the ambiguity of his being but, on the contrary, accept the task of realizing it.” Simone de Beauvoir from The Ethics of Ambiguity