MY LIFETIME FOCUS REMAINS THE HUMANITIES. AFTER MANY YEARS OF ACADEMIC WRITING AND A TWO-YEAR LAYOFF FROM BLOGGING, I HAVE RE-KINDLED MY INTEREST IN THE NONFICTION GENRE. I ENJOY POSTING A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION FROM MY PERSPECTIVE AND WELCOME ALL COMMENTS FROM READERS.
I am definitely not an existentialist. While they do search
like many of us for the meaning of life, they express a deep sense of despair.
I do not.
Existentialists stress freedom of choice and do agree that
we should accept responsibility for our actions, but find humanity unexplainable
to the extent that life becomes meaningless. I strongly disagree.
Philosophically speaking, existentialism is a belief that
human beings are independent thinkers, and as such, the only real answers in life are
the ones that are authentically our own. In other words, we define who we are by
examining what comes from inside each of us. We create the meaning of our
lives, not deities, authorities, or rules. If you follow this belief, you
accept the fact that life itself is absurd and meaningless, except to the
extent we individually choose to give it meaning.
The master of this philosophical branch was Jean-Paul Sartre.
While I disagree with him on an intellectual level, I respect his ability to
predict the future so well. We, as twenty-first century Americans, are enjoying
his prediction. In order to express 320 million individual meanings of life, we
seek representatives to help us think for ourselves.
In his famous work, No
Exit, Sartre presents three damned souls trapped in the same room in hell,
each for different reasons. They expect medieval forms of torture, but find
none of it. Instead, they have each other.
Garcin is a weakling, big-time adulterer, and a coward who used
to bring mistresses home as acts of cruelty toward his wife. Now, in hell, he wants
to be considered a hero. He surmises that Inez knows and understands his
emotions and shortcomings and desperately seeks her approval as a hero. Inez
tortures him with her refusal to acknowledge his heroism or manliness.
Estelle, perhaps a prostitute, wants and needs a “manly man”
and seeks the affection of Garcin, who is clearly not one. He tortures Estelle
with his disinterest in her.
Inez is a lesbian with designs on Estelle. She is tortured
by Estelle’s unreciprocated attraction to her.
The three damned souls are "inseparable." Life has
caused them to become "inextricably linked." The "agony” each
suffers is “of the human mind." Trapped in hell, none are allowed respite
from each other. They exist in hell, where sleep is nonexistent. Consumed with the absurdity of their bleak,
eternal future, they conclude that “hell is other people.”
Sartre accurately predicted the current state of the U.S.A. He
simply got the numbers wrong. Instead of three damned souls, we enjoy the
absurdity of a President, House of Representatives, and a Senate. It might not
be true, but I hear the leading candidate for the White House in 2016 is Saint
Michael the Archangel.