Why I’m an existentialist

I know–some of my blogs have been far too serious of late. But it’s the mood I’m in, so I’ll let my demon carry me.

Perhaps I inherited my nature from my mother. She was a pessimist in my estimation. I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years, so maybe she’s donned rose-colored glasses–but I doubt that.

My life experiences have I think, to a greater degree affected my thinking than my genetics. After all, genetics would be the easy way out, something to blame for my own glass-half-empty ethos–and that just wouldn’t be existentialist of me.

What is existentialism? Well, I’m no expert, like my friend, Dr. Michael LaBossiere, but here’s a quick overview:

1) Personal choices and responsibility reign supreme. The blame game is counter-productive (enjoying one’s self at the expense of progress, as Ralph Peters puts it) and quite often wrong. It’s the mere avoiding of the painful truth that our own choices often get us into bad spots.

2) No set of hard and fast rules can make everyone happy all of the time.Technology cannot and will never save humanity from itself.

3) At times there are difficult or downright horrible truths to be faced. But face them we must. Many times the universe is illogical–which brings into question science AND religion–neither can escape the existentialist’s questioning mind with easy answers. But ultimately we must choose something.

4) There is no magic way of avoiding pain and each of us must find his or her own path and define ourselves through our personal experiences. We have no inherent value except that which WE build through our actions.

5) To sum it up, existentialism is about the individual, which is why Nietzche said (I’m paraphrasing) that he despised systems and systemizers.

Interestingly, existentialism has been the philosophy of people who’s beliefs would seem to be diametrically opposed: Dostoyevsky (Christian); Nietzsche (Anti-Christian), Kierkegaard sp? (Christian); Sartre (Atheist). But they all had many things in common too. They did not believe that a system or government could make individuals happy. It’s personal and up too us to find what does that.

Before I went into the Army, my friend Dr. LaBossiere told me I was Nietzschean. I disagreed at the time, primarily because Nietzsche was an atheist, and I’m not. But in many cases Mike was correct. As Nietzsche believed, so do I: The universe is a big, oft-illogical place with no easy answers. Sweet lies will not relieve us of our burden of choice and personal responsibility. And finally, sometimes things go really, really bad, no matter what we do.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of my favorite authors. Reading his books, though sometimes a literary chore because of the dozens of characters and psychological complexity, is like looking into a mirror. I see my own thinking on those pages.

Nietzsche’s writing is the same. Though his themes are dark, I find myself feeling energized by his works. I’m less familiar with Kierkagaard, but from the little I’ve read I like what I see.

My time in training with the Army has revealed something to me. I’m not being true to my self if I’m overly and senslessly positive. I feel like that kind of thought is at once disarming and a lie.

Last week, someone told me that I’m too serious. I shrugged my shoulders, because, for one thing, they’re wrong. For another, if by too serious they mean–seeing the world the way it really is– then I’ll accept the brand.

Besides, paradoxically, I’m happier being a pessimist! Too bad girls do hate a pessimist….


3 Responses to “Why I’m an existentialist”

  1. 1 Mike Rozos
    October 20, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    If a five mile wide asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, we can go pass a law that says it is a criminal offense for it to hit the Earth, or all wear happy pins that say, “Make Love Before Asteroid Charlie Hits”.

    Still, we’ll all die.

    Sometimes it’s better to just get Bruce Willis, or someone smarter, to go into space and blow it up.

    I love to be overly positive to stay happy through the workday. But reality is this;

    When a Giant asteroid is going to blow up the Earth, you need to find a way to get rid of it, not act happy.

    Reality works, too!

    Now ruck up! There’s a Taliban squad lurking in the nearest town and the locals are sick of our smiling and saying, “Be positive”.

    It’s business time.

  2. October 23, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I’m distainfully eating two MREs a day, working 18hrs and being stressed to the max (or they’re attempting to stress us in the Tac Ops Center). Existentialism is working for me though–it sucks and that’s that. That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy the hell out of a good steak and beer at the Outback when I get back…:)

  3. 3 Mike Rozos
    October 30, 2008 at 12:27 am

    I used to love it when people would say, “I love MREs!”

    Really? Eat them constantly for two months. How do they taste now?

    They are better than anything before it, but the body still craves real food.

    As far as working 18 hours a day. Think of all the overtime pay!

    Oh, wait a second…

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