Thursday, December 07, 2006

On existentialism

"Seek first to understand and then to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: they listen with the intent to reply. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives."
-Stephen R. Covey

"To endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe. You cannot hire a wise man or any other intellect to solve it for you. There's no writ of inquest or calling of witness to provide answers. No servant or disciple can dress the wound. You dress it yourself or continue bleeding for all to see."
-Frank Herbert

"Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is."
-Albert Camus

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
-Oscar Wilde

People that lament that life is meaningless and has no purpose want meaning and purpose to be imposed on them as opposed to taking the initiative and giving their life purpose. We're thinking too much. I could learn a lot from my dog. Dog's live in the moment, their purpose is to meet their needs for right now. For instance, he currently needs to take a shit, but wont do it inside because he knows if he does there are negative consequences. So right now my purpose is to be courteous to him and take him outside so that he can relieve himself in a better place. It's a deal we have. In exchange for him not shitting in my house I take time out of my day to walk with him.

Currently my purpose in life is to walk the dog twice a day, and feed him when my parents don't have time. I have no job and no friends in the area that I just moved to, which when I think about it is depressing, but at least I have a purpose: keeping my dog from shitting in my house. A purpose I am currently ignoring in order to ramble here.

I don't know if any of this made sense, but it was an effort. Existentialism is fun to talk about, a good conversation piece, but other than that it's a waste of time.

I'll elaborate.

I'm not saying that existentialism isn't important, or that I myself don't like it. However the more broad and open ended you make the question (why are we here? What is our purpose?) the more useless it becomes in terms of finding an answer and actually accomplishing anything.

Now existentialism on a personal level can be helpful to us. It can help us get our priorities straight. A parent's purpose for existence is to provide for their family, a student's purpose for existence is to graduate, and my purpose for existence is to walk my dog. What is my purpose? Is a good existential-type question that with a little time for introspection and discussion can garnish useful answers.

I can't tell you why we're here as a species, nor why we have this odd case of self awareness. I'm sure if I were to pose such a question to you it would be just as difficult for you to answer. There are simply far too many possibilities and far too many questions that have to be answered as a prerequisite to even being able to come close to an answer. We could talk about it for hours, weeks if we were inebriated enough, but it would be impossible to come to any sort of conclusion. At the bare bones of it all none of us really know.... why? That's where faith kicks in I suppose. Not necessarily religious faith, although it can manifest itself that way, but the faith that there is an answer to why we are the way we are where we are.

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