Can Existentialism make the Difference in your life?
I wrote this article on on existentialism because I speak to a lot of people who are unhappy with their lot in life, some of these people fool themselves that they don’t have a choice to make things better, they conform to the norm and live a life lacking in any purpose whatsoever.
Perhaps for these people a little bit of existentialism could be the key to a better life, so let’s move on and get to grips with existentialism and take to heart just 3 essential messages from; Kierkegaard, Sartre, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche and how existentialism can help you make the difference in your life.
‘We are our choices’ said Jean-Paul Sartre who was born in Paris in 1905, this unfortunately cross eyed Frenchman was said to be the father of the existentialist movement, and perhaps the most important message we should take from his work is that we all have a choice in life, and that we are free to make our own decisions.
‘Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does’. – Sartre.
Yet its not just the freedom to make a choice, it’s also that we are responsible for the choices we make and that our lives are a result of just these choices, I see people trapped in a life of poor decisions every day, some fail to realise that it is really down to them to make the choices they need to make and take the responsibility they need to take to improve their situation.
Perhaps the smoker who doesn’t stop smoking, the drinker who doesn’t stop drinking, or the person that decides not to help themselves are free to make their own choices yet they should also understand that their life is all about the choices they make or even fail to make.
So what I’m saying is that life is down to you, like it or lump it, if you want something better the choice is yours
‘you are your life…and nothing else’. – Sartre.
Some perfectly healthy people live a drab existence, they go trudge through life from day to day, their existence is little more that mere survival, they live a nihilistic life void of purpose, drifting deeper into pessimism and negative thought, to snap them out of this life of depression and despair they need purpose. So let’s hold this thought and talk a little more about the value of having purpose in one’s life.
It is times like this that I think of the distinctively moustachioed German Friedrich Nietzsche who said
‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how’. – Nietsche
Although Nietzsche came up with this nugget of a quote I think if we talk about purpose we also need to mention Viktor Frankl an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps of World War 2 which led him to write his book ‘man’s search for meaning’ as he understood the importance of having a meaning in life in order to survive what ever you are going through.
Yet we shouldn’t confuse the fact that life is not just about survival, in the words of the well bearded Russian Dostoevsky;
‘The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for’. – Dostoevsky
which can be more succinctly put as ‘the purpose of life is a life of purpose (Robert Byrne) because the ability to live a life that is true to your values, belief and vision is a powerful thing and those without purpose can easily become lost.
People match the way they think to fit in with the norm, they copy those around them, their attitudes, their behaviour and what they do in life conforms to the social group that surrounds them. The great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who was also considered to have been the first existentialist even though he never even used the term, he proposed that each individual and not society or religion is solely responsible for giving meaning to life.
So if you are surrounded by non achievers you can easily be dragged down to their level, that is their norm, I look at the poverty trap of the benefit culture on a daily basis and see generations of families with learned apathy accepting their fate because that is what others around them also do.
‘Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth’. -JFK
So let’s take these messages from Kierkegaard, Sartre, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche and remember that we are free yet also responsible to make choices and our lives are a result of these choices. That having a purpose in life gives us strength, whilst not having no purpose can lead to an empty life and for some even one not worth living. Whilst for some conforming to the norm, or conforming to what those around you expect of you is what is stopping you from growing, being the authentic you and getting a better life.