Living with Existentialism

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Existentialism
  3. » Living with Existentialism

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 06:59 pm
Dear all,

I've arrived recently at the inevitable- existentialism. I'm not necessarily convinced that there is NOTHING more to this... I still think that there might be some inconceivable (to earthly humans at least) explanation (if you could call it that) to what is going on in the universe. But, as you can always and infinitely ask why why why?, I see that absurdism is the way of the earth.

This thread is not to ask anyone to agree with or refute the above. Rather, I'd like to hear how fellow absurdists deal with the absurdity.

The realization of absurdism brings with it a lot of anxiety, at least for myself. There is nothing against which to orient yourself, no meaning of right and wrong, no feeling of belonging, loss of faith in love and even beauty.

So, I'd like to hear how people get on with this sense of absurdity. Of course there's distraction, meditation, creating your own universe, etc, etc. But, I'd like to know more about people's personal experiences with this idea. I believe that there is some kind of beauty in absurdism- the world as a piece of art- but right now at least, I don't feel that in my bones. What I feel is confusion and, to be quite honest, terror.

Of course, I assume there will be those who respond to this post with things like "that's life man, deal with it, then you die" blah blah blah. Let's just skip that for now and see if there's a more positive interpretation to be heard. I think there's some beauty to be seen and some happiness to be created... I'd just like to hear how some other people make that happen. [Some inspiration perhaps]. Maybe even a way to use the philosophical sensitivity to the absurdity of the world to your own advantage? Who knows? ... That's why I'm asking. Look forward to hearing from all of you.

Many thanks, All the best,
Tyler

---------- Post added 09-03-2009 at 09:07 PM ----------

I went to the doctors today and my blood pressure was through the roof. I'm a 19 year old, lean, healthy guy who exercises and eats nothing but organic fruits and veggies and I meditate every day.

What I'm trying to say is, my blood pressure is through the roof because of this new existential anxiety.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at this haha. Smile Sad
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 08:40 pm
@tcycles710,
Being an Existentialist, leaving aside for the moment what that word means, is not the easiest path in life. One can flee into mysticism, yoga, the spirit of seriousness, Stoicism, or the delight of the moment, and live a happier life in bad faith. All of these escapes, though, can only be made by denying one's freedom, and I would add, of one's thinking; taking on the burden of being responsible for one's decisions, even though they may be found to be wrong in hindsight or from more complete information,is after all, a choice one makes about who one is or wants to become, as is the anxiety that at times comes with it.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 08:43 pm
@tcycles710,
Existentialism can induce crisis in the vulnerable, but for those with self-security it is the most liberating, energizing, exciting philosophy. It's barely even a philosophy anymore, when one thinks about it, because it's just so self-evident.

Think of yourself standing in a studio with a slab of marble in front of you. You have the chance to carve yourself out of that piece of marble. That is existentialism. You're free. You define yourself. You work within the surrounding constraints, but in the end you are what you choose for yourself. It's exhilirating.
 
Leonard
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 09:59 pm
@tcycles710,
Sounds like an existential crisis. I only ask if the fruit/vegetable diet has anything to do with your blood pressure, or perhaps it's aggravating the condition. The best thing to do is take a break from philosophy (maybe for a day, or even an hour) and just read or something. I want to know, are you a pessimist? That might be a cause. I'll post again later

---------- Post added 09-03-2009 at 11:11 PM ----------

Or take a brisk walk daily, don't think about where you're going.
 
richrf
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 10:40 pm
@Leonard,
Hi,

I was in the same place for a while. I read Camus but I found his outlookwanting. So, I just kept reading and observing and then found (obvious) purpose and meaning. I had to change perspective, but by starting off with absurdity I found the opposite. Basically, both exist, it is a matter of which perspective you take at any given moment. Interestingly, this mimics the fundamentally essence of nature. You can see one side or the otherside at any one time, but not both simultaneously.

Rich
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 10:57 pm
@richrf,
richrf;87969 wrote:
Basically, both exist, it is a matter of which perspective you take at any given moment. Interestingly, this mimics the fundamentally essence of nature. You can see one side or the otherside at any one time, but not both simultaneously.
Camus' stunning phenomenal portrayal of this is in his short story The Adulterous Woman, which is in his collection Exile and the Kingdom. I've read a lot of existentialist fiction, much by authors that few here have heard of, and I think nothing is better than this story at giving a counterpoint between existentialism at its most stifling and existentialism at its most liberating. Camus' best writing shows philosophy rather than produces it. I think that's why a lot of us here are Dostoyevsky fans as well, for the same reason.
 
richrf
 
Reply Thu 3 Sep, 2009 11:21 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;87972 wrote:
Camus' stunning phenomenal portrayal of this is in his short story The Adulterous Woman, which is in his collection Exile and the Kingdom. I've read a lot of existentialist fiction, much by authors that few here have heard of, and I think nothing is better than this story at giving a counterpoint between existentialism at its most stifling and existentialism at its most liberating. Camus' best writing shows philosophy rather than produces it. I think that's why a lot of us here are Dostoyevsky fans as well, for the same reason.


Camus' The Fall is one of my favorite novels, at many levels. The Myth of Sisyphus, left me wanting. I had the feeling that Camus struggled to find an ending to the question he posed. As if the essay was a self attempt to find meaning, but he just couldn't. So, it ended as best as it could at that moment.

The essay did begin with a great question, and in time I found may own way forward that seemed more comfortable for myself. But I thought Camus' attempts at explaining and revealing life noble and gallant. I definitely appreciate his efforts.

Rich
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Fri 4 Sep, 2009 06:19 am
@tcycles710,
Personally I feel that Camus The Stranger is probably the best of his fiction book's to read help understand Camus's Existentialism and how we should deal with the absurdity of life. We see this through the development of the rather odd and withdrawn main character in the book. In some senses The Stranger is very similar to Kafka's The Trial. Camus was a fan of Kafka, but he felt that there was always a sense of hope in Kafka's work.

In reply to the OP, the best thing that a person can do to deal with the absurdity of life is to pick a meaning and run with it, due to the absurdity of existence often an individuals meaning/purpose will collapse around them. The only option left open to us is to carry on with life much like how Camus imagines Sisyphus at the end of The Myth of Sisyphus. 'I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.'
 
alcaz0r
 
Reply Sat 5 Sep, 2009 04:36 pm
@RDanneskjld,
I find absurdity to be a double edged sword. Viewing all of our actions to be inherently meaningless may remove some of the motivation to go through the motions, but it also can reduce the doubt and anxiety involved in making tough decisions. Why should an existentialist be afraid of failure?

I am someone who is motivated more by my fears and aversions than by my desires and appetites. So, for me, this outlook is liberating because it places my desires on a more even playing field to compete with my doubts and anxieties.

A question for those who say that existentialism is liberating, how exactly do you find it liberating? I ask because I expect that others will have different reasons for this than I do.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 7 Sep, 2009 01:27 pm
@tcycles710,
Obviously, to say that the world is devoid of ultimate, universal, or absolute meaning, is not to say that the world is therefore without any meaning whatsoever. The Self, by its choices and actions, gives it meaning.

Just as importantly, I am liberated from "sin" or "guilt" imposed by Others or the "spirit of seriousness;" if the situation demands, I will take responsibility for marching to a different drummer.
 
Octal
 
Reply Sun 13 Sep, 2009 08:44 pm
@RDanneskjld,
R.Danneskjöld;88011 wrote:
[...]The only option left open to us is to carry on with life much like how Camus imagines Sisyphus at the end of The Myth of Sisyphus. 'I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.'

That has been one of my favorite literary passages for a while. There is just something inspiring about it.

When ever I realize how futile, pointless, hopeless or meaningless life is, one shouldn't flee with their tail in between their legs. I get up, and cherish the futility. If life had a meaning, or some sort of purpose, would I ever want to live it? My grave is my grave; I don't want it to have been dug before I was born.

Nietzsche was an advocate of using Apollinian and Dionysian forces (art, basically) to escape the terrors of life, and believed that although science helps accomplish this too (by trying to find meaning for everything), it was rather superficial and lacked profundity, and should quickly reach its limits and shipwreck.

I remember reading how Kierkegaard acknowledged these existential terrors, but felt that these terrors gave him a sense of enlightenment.
 
NonSum
 
Reply Tue 15 Sep, 2009 11:55 am
@tcycles710,
JGWeed: One can flee into mysticism, yoga, the spirit of seriousness, Stoicism, or the delight of the moment, and live a happier life in bad faith. All of these escapes, though, can only be made by denying one's freedom, and I would add, of one's thinking;

I opted out of the existential abyss by re-examining the existential assumptions, i.e. its 'faith.' Existentialism describes me as being adrift in a world, but how do I know there is in fact a 'world,' and that 'I' am some one, among many, humanoid creatures lost without an instruction manual within it? As any idealist will tell you, 'I don't Know it.' Do I trust what my mind tells me, when it also tells me that I can be easily fooled every night when I dream of different 'me's' living in different worlds?

We all know that the senses are unreliable, and often distorted. When I synthesize this imperfect sensa into perceptual phenomena, how can I know if that reflects anything 'out there' accurately? Modern physics assures us that it's all waves/particles of energy/matter, and the rest is pure imagination that one either believes in, or does not.

I don't do 'faith.' Whether, theistic or atheistic, I see no reason that an existentialist must take on the unsupported assumptions that condemn them to any particular scenario which tells them: what they are, where they are, and how it is where they are. THAT (JGWeed) is what it means to "deny ones freedom and thinking."

Edmund Husserl: "It is clear that no proofs drawn from the empirical consideration of the world can be conceived which could assure us with absolute certainty of the world’s existence."
 
melonkali
 
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 10:03 am
@tcycles710,
Tyler,

I'm new to these forums. I haven't read enough posts to develop a good understanding about the other members or the "subtle protocols" of posting here. This ignorance at least triples the odds of my response to you creating the impression that I'm the village idiot of the forums, as perhaps I am.

And so begins my reply to you. You see, twenty, thirty, forty years ago, the realization that I might be taken for a fool would have been paralyzing to me. On the other hand, to my husband -- yes, we are old enough to be your grandparents -- to my husband, who was ever examining life, ever trying to make some sense of its absurdities, that same type of realization would have been no more than a passing thought (to perhaps later enter in his journal) as he floored the accelerator pedal and yet again rounded some blind curve on two wheels, thoroughly enjoying the pure exhilaration of the experience, while never doubting its absurdity.

Both of us, from very early adulthood on, "examined" life and became somewhat existentialist in our understanding of it. The difference between us was that my husband always LIVED, while the first half of my own adulthood amounted to little more than vicarious existence, examining life through the eyes and experiences and thoughts of others.

Now, in our twilight years, he has a rich, full life to reflect on and write about. He allowed himself to experience, first hand, all the beauty and joy and sorrow and surprises life offered him. He followed unknown trails just to see where they led, taking in the scenery along the way, occasionally stopping during the day to taste and feel the sweet coolness of a virgin stream, spending nights without sleep just gazing upward and marveling at the moon and stars. Even these days, though aged and in failing health, and having never previously been around equines (or any large animals), he thoroughly delights in tending our wild "rescue donkeys". The first time one kicked him in the gut (with both barrels), he nearly died... from laughter.

Having now spent the last twenty years sharing my husband's contagious, courageous, open "sense of living", I can say to you, with absolute certainty, that only your own unique first-hand experiences of life, however absurd, can answer your questions. That while appreciating the experiences of others and their ideas (through whatever medium of expression) is an important part of "the examined life" and should not be completely discarded, a life lived vicariously, "Waiting for Godot", is even LESS worth living than "the unexamined life."

The ultimate absurdity of my own life is that I spent the first half of it hiding in an introspective foxhole, terrified of going "out there" without a map, even though I'd realized for years that there was no map.

rebecca
 
tcycles710
 
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 09:20 pm
@tcycles710,
Hi All,

I haven't responded to this post until now, because I wanted to see how it played out. I just wanted to observe as others gave their interpretation.

I have to say, I find it all very liberating. Before, when I first posted this thread... I was dealing with a lot of anxiety. When you're in a state like that where life just doesn't provide many if any joys day to day, then absurdism doesn't offer much comfort because it seems to scream in your face- WHAT'S THE DAMN POINT.

But, I've learned that liberation eases a lot of anxiety. And that relief provides a little bit of excitement, which encourages you to use your new found freedom, and it can be exhilarating. For the first time, I think I'm starting to get it* And I think that it's important to acknowledge that you can't analyze the enjoyment of life when you're experiencing anxiety- you have to realize that it's just an emotion, it will pass, and things will make better sense when it does- even if it's inconceivable at the moment. That's what was tough about anxiety for me... not just not being able to remember what happiness feels like, but not being able to remember ever feeling it.

*Well, I won't say that it's the first time that I'm getting it, but rather the first time that I'm 'getting it' while trying to understand it. Surely we've all felt immense joys in our lives, we've felt the excitement of freedom and the energy - but until recently I haven't spent much time analyzing it. But I think that's sort of the point- to know that it's outwardly meaningless and to not care of how inwardly meaningful you can make it. The constant analysis of happiness was a self imposed barrier - but now that I've breached it (or at least reached the peak), the other side seems just right. It all makes sense.

Here's something I thought might interest some of you, in case you haven't read it:

The Song of the Happy Shepherd

The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? - By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
Buy the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass -
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
Noword of theirs - the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewarding in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.


LT

---------- Post added 09-19-2009 at 11:44 PM ----------

Quote: JGWeed: One can flee into mysticism, yoga, the spirit of seriousness, Stoicism, or the delight of the moment, and live a happier life in bad faith. All of these escapes, though, can only be made by denying one's freedom, and I would add, of one's thinking;

JGWeed,

I don't understand how yoga or meditation interferes with your own freedom. Could you please elaborate?

I know there are some who use yoga as a way to some sort of spiritual awakening. But there are plenty, including myself, that use it as a tool to achieve better focus, concentration, and general relaxation. Are you only referring to the former, or the latter instance as well?

Thanks,
T
 
johannw
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 01:55 pm
@tcycles710,
I think a good way to think of it (as cliche as this might sound) is with a simple quote from Chuck Palahniuk's book/movie, Fight Club:

"It's only after we've lost everything, that we're free to do anything."

I think that that simple sentence can offer a way to deal with the meaningless-ness of life that existentialism causes. Once you've realized that there's no universal meaning and purpose to life, you're free to create that meaning for yourself.

Also, about yoga, I agree with LT (tcycles710) that yoga, although many times associated with spiritual awakening, can be effectively used to highten your focus and concentration, and especially learn how to control, relax, and be aware of your body. I love yoga =)
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 06:07 pm
@johannw,
I have the feeling that no matter where you find meaning, or in what, be it highly regimented or fairly unregimented life, in a dictated life or in an undictated life or anywhere in between, the anxiety comes from living one foot in, one foot out. People find peace and happiness in highly regimented lives people find happiness in pure hedonism. I often think that in talking about existentialism people talk more about the -ism and forget about the existence. Meaning exists, its out there ready for people to take hold of. We exist, ready to take hold of meaning. I feel that existentialism has become a reactionary movement away from specific regimens moving into other regimens. The -ism in existentialism has adomped an agenda over a couple generations of exposure to culture. In Camus' novel, "The Plague" people found their way in several walks of life. People waded through the plaugue to find out who they really were, learned and grew. Some of their previous highly regimented lives were affirmed, some moved on. They all found that they existed and they all found a self redemptive meaning.

Okay sorry for the preaching,
Continue with the thread.

Cheers,
Russ
 
Wisdom Seeker
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 08:02 pm
@tcycles710,
no one rules the universe if the universe will end and no one intends to protect it except us humans, we humans are the real gods, we are the only known beings who plans to save a falling universe. we are the only one who can rule it,the universe is useless if no one have manage to use it but we somehow give it some use.

our greatest enemy would be the void, the absence itself, in which it turns everything to nothingness while we turn something to exist, specially the universe, it is our greatest opposite.

it is a battle between existence and nothingness, Will we let the universe dissolve to nothingness? or we plan to make it useful by managing it, restoring to its fullness?
 
Cortland
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 12:54 am
@tcycles710,
You're right, life is absurd. Sometimes when I stare out into space I get lost thinking about all the possibilities about everything. I look at it like this. Anytime you do anything it provides an innate pleasure or displeasure. Doing things you enjoy is its own meaning, live a good, fun life and don't hurt other ppl (at the risk of sounding cliche). If I live an enjoyable good life then when the time finally comes that it is time for me to die I can do it without fear because life was fun and if there really is something more after this life, great! If not, I would regret nothing and wait for DMT to flood my brain and send me into the next great experience.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:44 am
@jgweed,
I think I'd echo most sentiments expressed thus far.

For my part, I realized that this need I/we feel to find meaning is a phantom. It's a groundless, baseless need that really "needn't" be there. As I looked into the origin and basis for this need for meaning, I couldn't find any source (except for my own ego and/or the way I was socialized to view the world). From whence this ultimately comes, I don't know, over time I've come to the realization that regardless, it was important I consciously create my own meaning, worth and purpose.

It does feel rather "untethered", but truth be told; we've been untethered all along anyway. Also, it may feel disingenuous to create our own meaning and purpose - but this too is how humanity has coped since its beginning[1]. Many don't do it on a conscious level, but they create it nonetheless by selectively buying-in to <this> or <that> which their inner selves select as being able to fill that void.

If you accept these truths, then the problem isn't in finding meaning, it's in accepting the truth of what's been the case all along - that we create it. The advantage for the philosopher is that one can do this on a conscious level - fueled by an open realization and conscious acknowledgment of that terror of which you speak. Head held high we can press on to be a product of our honest intellect, rather than try and adhere to some placebo our subconscious picked up along the way.

As far as other aspects to this: Yes, I'd say there's a beauty and grace in the existentialist mindset that accepts that ultimately the worth and meaning of his or her life is in their own hands. It also feels honest and humble - it releases us from an un-winnable search for something that doesn't objectively exist. Besides, no metaphysical or specifically-theological outlook imbues meaning anyway, as if we must receive such a thing externally.

If this is you, then accepting the truth of what's been undeniably likely-true all along is the best start. Then, once your period of mourning is over, meditating over what gives you - personally - that sense of value, hope and positiveness can lead you to a place where your sense of meaning is real, honest and uniquely yours.

Good luck


~~~~~~~~~
1. Various theological systems give us the sense of purpose by doctrines that tell us our existence was created for a purpose. To the extent that someone believes this, it can suffice. I suspect; however, that for many - even the most ardent believers - it isn't enough. Each case is different
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 07:39 pm
@tcycles710,
The complexity of my consciousness often masks the simplicity of life.
Thinking, that is, participating in thoughts, makes it harder to truly experience your experiences.
We can try to remember certain events of the past. "I just remember I was scared, and then it was all over." Typical response. "I remember I had a lot of fun, I don't remember what we did though..." Another typical response.
This speaks to me. It takes the form of Bruce Lee and says: do not think; feel...it is like looking at a finger pointing to the moon. Do not focus on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory.

In the past, I came to terms with existentialism as my understanding of reality. Now, I cherish my experiences, fear not death, fear not failure, feel no anxiousness towards success, disregard criticisms of lifestyle, enjoy my conversations and friendships, etc...

The hardest thing to learn to appreciate is that the meaning of life is simply to live. Like a plant with legs and a brain. Smile
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Existentialism
  3. » Living with Existentialism
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 09/25/2020 at 09:54:27