All of us at some point in our lives have been frustrated enough of the monotony and the futility of it all. More than once has the question of “purpose of life” crossed our minds which is always over taken by the helplessness of existence. Many have come and gone in this world and yet no one has been able to give meaning to life. Depressing as it may sound, it is true. Mostly we relate it to this fancy term of ‘Existential Crisis’ which we dramatically call the pointlessness of life, the inevitability of death, futility of human action etc. all this is natural and yes, all must die. There is nothing to avoid that but this notion of helplessness seems to be philosophically countered by the schools of existentialists.
God is dead. Takes a little time to gulp down this thought, doesn’t it? Hard as it may seem but let us give ourselves the liberty to live in a world where there is no God and man is the master of his own fate. Most of you must have thought of the term atheist by now which is to an extent correct, given we are following the narrow and current interpretation of it. The above three words were said by Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the founding heads of the theory of existentialism who believed that concept of god is obsolete. Hence, there shall be no god except one which is human.
Existentialism talks about the choices and freedom of choice to take charge of every action guided by humans. The power of rationality to overcome the irrationality the universe offers, to make sense where none exists, to give sanction to any action which does not contain any eventual consequence. Existentialism is preceded by the acceptance of this gospel truth that life is meaningless and we are thrown in this world from nowhere and shall end up dying to go being back to nothing.
Now I believe that being an existentialist can be helpful in various ways. Discarding the concept of god is not easy cause being humans we eventually need to blame someone, right? Jean Paul Satre gave this phrase ‘existence precedes essence’ which can be explained simply that you need to exist to make it worthy of anything. We need an egg first for it to hatch into a chick. As Satre puts it “At first [Man] is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.” So it means that we need to exist first to give life any meaning at all. Which eventually in Christianity hints towards the existence of a god for it is god which granted life. But even though it validates the presence of god it still provides us umpteen freedom to make something of the life given to us as god does grants life but does not guide or control the same. Hence, it is human and human alone to be blamed and credited for his actions.
It may invite many opposite view points but I believe that existentialism lets us be a little more than human on this earth. It is not about being immortal but it does provide the idea of being bigger than life. Life once given is ours to make and ours to take. Mostly people think that existentialism means that if life has no purpose and if we are all doomed to die then what is the purpose of living the same. In short, they think of this philosophy as a suicide helpline which is not true. Well, not entirely. The larger chuck of this thought deals with the meaning of creating order in chaos. It is the art of creating actions which may reap in results which are desired by men and not the results meant by god.
Now to understand this existentialism you may refer to ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Sallinger, ‘Being and Nothingness’ by Jean Paul Satre which are all written by writers who gave various aspects of existentialism.
Be an atheist or not, the ultimate truth that is propounded by existentialism is that there is freedom of choice, believe it or not. Existential crisis can be countered by existentialism, for there is always a choice and it is upon us to make those choices. In the end, it can be said that we have no choice in being born but we do have a choice of making life worth living.
Edited by Mrinaal Datt
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