The philosophy of existentialism is usually considered as one attached with negative notions of angst, gloom, hopelessness and despair. Camus’ The Outsider and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis present an indifferent world. The protagonists appear to have embodied the very absurdity that surrounds them. But it’s merely one way of looking at the existential philosophy, a view that brands human existence as futile and meaningless.
Existentialism, in fact, is about liveing a life full of positivity and optimism. The fact that we ultimately die, and all our ideas, plans, actions and dreams amount to nothing in the end, gives us a sense of freedom. The realization of this impending death clearly has the potential to awaken our consciousness fully so as to leave us truly alive. That is perhaps what Sartre meant, in his book The Aftermath of War, when clearly points out:
“Never were we freer than under the German Occupation.”
Existentialism has something important to offer to the 21st century, a century that is clearly losing the real virtues: of living life passionately, of taking responsibility of their actions, and of feeling good about life. Sartre once said that he never really felt a day of despair in his life. It is not a sense of anguish that existential philosophy brings out. It is the sense of an exuberance of feeling on top of it. It’s more like: one’s life is for him to create.
When Sartre talks about responsibilities, he does not talk about any abstract notion. There is something concrete to it. It is about the individual: talking, creating, making decisions, taking the actions and accepting the consequences. There are over six billion people in the world and nevertheless what one individual does with his life shall make a difference. It makes a difference in material terms, and to other people as it sets an example. The message of the existential philosophy is simple: one should never see oneself as a victim of various external forces. It is always one’s decision to determine as to who he actually is.
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