Existentialism as an Optimistic Idea

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.

59 Best Books on Existentialism

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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this place is intimidating

no. i’m not talking about my house. it’s cozy here (luckily for me). i’m talking about this world. this earth on which we live. this tiny minuscule of an unending universe. this place is intimidating as there is so so much here for a man to know it all. and yet if you see keenly, there is almost nothing, for everything is just dust in the wind (remember the song?).

when i attempt to uncoil these numberless layers of knowledge in this world, i reach a state of what derrida calls “aporia”. you cannot really understand it. yeah, you may try to study the high patterns of these complex structures that work together to put us in a mode of wonder. but such an endeavor wouldn’t really yield to any tangible consequence. in most respects, you would find yourself deserted in a vast ocean of captivating whirlpools, without a sign of hope towards land.

so, shall i take this state of “aporia” as the natural state of being for the human lot? or can there be a higher order to this state to which we may subject ourselves too? jove knows, perhaps, or even he doesn’t.

we came out of nothing and we are sure of disappearing into oblivion. still, all that matters is here and now in this very life, because you may not get another. and so when i see people behaving eerily in anticipation of a nymph-full of an afterlife, i raise both my eyebrows and sigh.  it’s like not having the cake you got for a candy that waits you. i mean not one single soul has survived death, and nobody has the video footage of a glimpse into the paradise. so why waste time pondering over the state of afterlife? that knowledge is forbidden to mankind.

every man has two arenas to face all his life. one, which is under his control and acting on which shall yield him results. the other is that which is beyond his control and on which he has no authority to alter — death is one such area; what your neighbor thinks about you is another. yet in most cases, the poor mortal is intimidated by the stuff that exceeds his capacity of control, and does very little about the things that he can reign over — starting with the man himself.

it is believed that all one needs to know is oneself.

“knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — aristotle

now, wisdom might have a beginning, as per aristotle, but it certainly does not seem to have an end, for the vast amount of knowledge out there. but once you allow yourself into the whirlpool of learning, you activate your wisdom-wheel and the world appears to be a less intimidating entity, because then you free yourself of the dark shadows of ignorance. your inquisition will somehow turn on the lights.

this quest is all that humanity has. and this hope of achieving omniscience someday is what keeps us going.

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