Rad note » This page is PART TWO (of two) .. for the March, 2016 monthly entry archive. I broke it into two pages because it grew so large. (You know how it is when you're in love in the spring.) At the end of this page (that you're reading now) I have set a link that will return you back to part one.
» Philosophy as Lifestyle for a Better Life
I find it curious that Ariana's a cappella performance reminds me so much of being sung to on the sidewalks of New Haven .. it seems to put me right there on those sidewalks .. because this girl (Kristen Carter) tried to turn me onto Kierkegaard .. way back when.
And I was so dismissive. "No, no, no .. that shit's not for me." I did not actually come right out and say these words, but that was certainly my attitude.
Of all this existential stuff that I have been learning about recently, the #1 thing that keeps smacking me upside the head .. is how dismissive I was ..
.. of this thing that I can now see would have saved me so much banging-my-head-against-the-wall. I am actually kind of embarrassed at my earlier self. Because now I so look with disappointment on anyone who's mind is so closed that you can't tell them jack-shit about even the most obvious things.
I mean, I have come back full-circle to the point at which she was trying to share with me this cool philosophy. But it has been a tough circle. And I have gotten my ass kicked every which way.
I am kinda tripping out at how concisely Kierkegaard nails it. He uses terms that I probably wouldnt have used myself .. and I probably would have drawn my points from different perspectives .. but I know exactly what he talking about. I recognized the patterns right away.
I know these things from experience .. and not necessarily from any book I've read. They are kinda difficult to put into words. Which is why I am surprised that somebody actually did.
And it took me so long to learn these things .. and the fact that he is saying these things in his twenties .. that really torques my cranium. I cant see how anyone can come to these things in their twenties. I can hear the voice back there saying, "Not possible."
You have to explore the higher-functioning areas of life to be exposed to what Kierkegaard is talking about here. So the fact that he is actually able to get there and then write about it (.. which requires more) .. while still in his 20's .. I just dont see how that is possible.
It can take a while to figure out life. But so many claim to have answers .. so where to begin? And what works for others may likely not work for you. You have to take a path that works for you.
And I remember her expressing frustration more over this one thing than over any other. But my approach was something like, "This California girl .. this LA woman .. this singer with the angelic voice .. she is far out there. And I am not into her far-out LA philosophy .. even tho I have no idea of what it says. I dont even wanna know."
But for me .. I can now see (painfully clearly) how much the life-insights presented by Kierkegaard (and other existentialists) could have helped me make better choices in life.
This is the #1 thing that I am most reminded of .. in reading about these existentialists and their philosophy, and especially when the subject turns to Kierkegaard.
And this singer .. she was genuine-legit. I could see that. It was obvious even to me. By which I mean that she had incorporated her philosophy-of-life most fully into her lifestyle .. into her attitude .. into her actions. Into everything. (Including her love-making.) She was not trying to be something she wasnt (.. like so many others).
I could go into great detail on how that made me feel .. but I wont.
Tho I should probably mention .. that she gave me the feeling that she was simply a better human being than me. I dont want to say 'more advanced,' but in that general direction. (In some areas.)
» That's a Nice Girl
Even Nana went out of her way a few times to say, "That's a nice girl .. I like Kristen. I like her a lot." And Nana was never wrong. Not even once. If Nana said your girlfriend was good, then she was good. And if Nana said that she wasnt good .. you were in trouble. (You just didnt know it yet.)
People's actions speak .. more clearly than they realize, I'm sure. And clearly, her actions spoke to me.
In this sense, I am very much an existential guy .. in that people's actions speak to me.
If I am just starting to get to know someone, then I am looking more closely at their actions than I am hearing their words. (Automatically.) Because their actions are more likely to speak the true-true. ( This is actually one of the first things that I taught my son. "Actions speak louder than words." )
That is a curious feeling .. when another person makes you feel like they are a better human being than you (.. without even trying to be). "Why is this?" is the question that begs to be asked.
And I myself was no scoundrel, so this feeling surprised me. And trying to figure her out, and how she managed to do this .. that made me interested in her.
I used to write off this better human being thing as part of the California culture. But now I see that this blanket application was inaccurate. (Maybe later I will delve deeper.)
If someone were to say that my philosophy and approach to life was tech-heavy .. I would not disagree. (You gotta be tech-heavy if you wanna be nuclear-grade.)
» Just Like a Religion
Instead let me quote a passage from the book that speaks to some of these things to which I am referring (page 16) »
Such interweaving of ideas and life had a long pedigree, although the existentialists gave it a new twist. Stoic and Epicurean thinkers in the classical world had practiced philosophy as a means of living well, rather than of seeking knowledge or wisdom for their own sake.
By reflecting on life's vagaries in philosophical ways, they believed they could become more resilient, more able to rise above circumstances, and better equipped to mange grief, fear, anger, disappointment, or anxiety.
Notice how closely this "practiced philosophy" mirrors and parallels a » religion. And this was one of the things about Miss Carter's 'philosophy' that bothered me .. because I could see that she had adopted it as her personal religion .. of sorts.
And my thoughts here were » "I already have a religion of my own, thank-you very much."
I can see now that I obviously didnt get it. And I can only now see the value of this philosophy .. as a schematic that establishes some practical guides and helpful tips .. while you're trying to negotiate the minefield that modern life can sometimes be.
It need not threaten your religion, but rather can complement it. Kierkegaard himself was a spiritual man and Nietzsche, despite his declaration that God-is-Dead .. Nietzsche was raised very religiously. His dad, for example, was a Lutheran pastor, who died when Nietzsche was young.
And Nietzsche himself went to schools that emphasized religious studies. I mean, his mom and aunts were grooming him to take dad's old position.
It wasnt until he was nearly done with school that he said, "I gotta get outta here. This shit is driving me crazy."
And it was only after this point (on Easter sunday, if I recall correctly) that he took to studying Greek and Latin. And became the youngest-ever professor at that college. He must have dazzled them .. like he dazzles his readers.
But even that was not enough for Nietzsche.
One of the lingering flavors that I had from looking into him was » "You do not want to walk a mile in Nietzsche's shoes."
My point here, believe it or not, is that » religion is not as far removed from philosophy as it might seem. At least, not as far from Existentialism.
See, Sartre (1905-1980), who Existentialism is most associated with .. he is an atheist. As is Nietzsche.
But beyond the insecurities that a challenging, intelligent atheist can evoke in some christians .. especially in certain types of christians .. beyond this, dont you feel that a person's l.i.f.e should express their religion?
That it should be a living expression of their faith .. seeing that actions speak (so much louder). This is true no matter what religion a person happens to practice.
This is an area really where I could really play around .. and have lots of fun. Probably too much fun.
But let me simply note that Sartre the atheist lived a life more congruent with scriptural principles .. than most christians you're likely to meet. You can read all about his life.
I am referring to social-humanitarian issues .. of which the scriptures speak much.
But Sartre slept around .. a lot. Which, itself is something of an accomplishment, if not a curiosity .. seeing that he was by no means a hunk (.. like Brad or George or Channing). But the book quotes one of his friends as saying (something like) "His ugliness disappeared when he began to speak."
(If you got half the pussy that Sartre got, all your friends would call you a stud.)
Sex with smart, intelligent, educated people is always good .. or, at least, this has been my experience.
Let me leave you with a sentence that spoke to me .. see what you think. Food for thought. She is talking here about Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (on page 17) »
If my parents were still alive, I'm sure that they would have a little something to say about that.
And I heard the voice in my head say, "Dude, you do that." And I thought, "Yeah, I do."
Perhaps later, I will share more .. about feeling Kierkegaard as a writer.
I am certainly surprised, if not amazed, that he was able to come up with and articulate such a view-of-life .. much of it while still in his 20's. I dont see how such a thing is even possible.
I see many parallels between the things that Kierkegaard has said .. and principle that you find in the scriptures. That could easily turn into a super-tangent .. so let's not go there.
» It's Very Difficult to Live an Authentic Life
But, let me simply expand on one such parallel that I have already referenced above. I will fight the urge to get caught up in it.
Regarding Kiekegaard's assertion that it is an extremely difficult thing (.. not far from impossible) for a human being to live a life that befits the species of man .. homo sapiens .. the supposedly 'wise' species .. that learns from its experiences and adapts in clever ways .. the ultimate expression of the carbon-based lifeform. [ Nietzsche said a similar thing. ] He may not use these exact terms, but I'm sure that Soren would not object to my phrasing.
Because I have seen this same pattern outlined in scripture .. time and again. And also the implication that you are going to need some kind of inner strength .. if you are to have any hope of living an authentic life. And even then, you will probably be getting your ass beat left-n-right.
Tho you learn something each time you get your ass kicked. After a while, you begin to accumulate an array of such learning experiences.
All the pictures you see of him make him look so young. That's because he never made it to old age (died age 42).
» Certain Types of Knowledge Come Only Thru Experience
Tho, I cannot help but mention here .. that another one of the big-big things about Existentialism .. in additional to special way of listening that is associated with the mantra-phrase of DESCRIBE PHENOMENA that I already mentioned above ..
.. another big-big thing about this philosophy is a focus on the type of knowledge that comes ONLY THRU EXPERIENCE. This is such a big part of my resonance with these existentialists that I am surprised that I havent mentioned it already.
Beginning at t=8:55 in this video on the Existential Problem .. they discuss the difference between objective and subjective truths or types of knowledge. About a minute later, in wrapping up this little section, they say » "If a person does not become what he understands, then he does not understand it."
That is a mouthful. I could get off on such a tangent here, but let me just say that, a man may have read many books on how to fly a plane .. but I am sure that you would rather fly with a pilot who has actually flown before. No?
And the reason why I have adopted this particular aspect of Existentialism .. long before that I knew it was an aspect of Existentialism .. is because of the number of times that I thought I knew about something .. but then I actually encountered that thing in my own life .. and I was surprised at how different my actual experience was .. compared to my original idea of it.
I know that you know exactly what I am talking about here, so I wont labor the point. (But I could.)
I was reading a passage of scripture recently that reminded me of this very thing .. where Jesus says that doing comes before knowing.
If you listen closely, you can hear the Existentialists calling out to you from the past, saying » "Experience is knowledge. Experiencing life is to know life, so have a new experience and learn something new."
But you can trace my grasp of this aspect of the philosophy [ experience is knowledge ] back to the way I have focused on s.h.o.w.i.n.g my son that I love him .. and not just telling him (.. which is certainly much easier to do).
These are two different kinds of knowledge. Very different. And only one of them really matter. I wanted him to feel the authenticity of my love. (And you can tell that he gets it. He gets the message.)
» Existentialism in a Nutshell
I got carried away there, a smidge or two. After trying to give you a flavor for my feel for existentialism (above) .. let my try to nutshell my understanding of it for you. (Admittedly, I am far from a qualified academic on the subject. I merely have an intuitive feel.)
The root of the word existential is simply » exist.
And you know all about existing. Nobody has to tell you jack about existing. In fact, you have been doing nothing but existing .. at least since the moment you were born .. and probably even before that.
Now, some existentialists might argue that you have not been paying attention very closely .. to life .. but that doesnt mean that you havent been existing. And it's not very difficult to start paying attention.
Existing is something that you know about .. very well .. something with which you possess much firsthand experience. (Tons.)
And this is exactly what the existentialists mean when they use the term 'existential'. They mean » as experienced by the person, by the human being, by someone who is part of the human race, of the species of man, by these humans who lives in a society, and in a culture.
And that person, that human (drum-roll, please) is » you.
That is your existential starting point. And from there, there arent many places that you can't go.
So this philosophy is very personal and very human-experience-orientated. But they also put the responsibility for your life squarely on your shoulders. They do not let you blame things on others. Even when it seems difficult not to.
This is the thing, I feel, that makes it more likely that an existentialist (atheist or otherwise) is simply going to be a better human being .. than your typical christian.
[ And it's not like I havent slept around myself, so I am certainly not holier-than-thou-Sartre. Far be it from me to cast a stone at anyone for reasons involving sexual activity. (But none of them were complaining, my friend. They were too busy trying to find their eyeballs.) Thou I have argued that I am not slutty. I mean, even when I wanted to be .. I couldnt. ]
I am not so sure that a person would read about existentialism and then become a practitioner. Rather, I feel that a person would first have these inclinations already .. and be drawn to like-minded people with like-minded ideas.
Where you read after these people and say, "Yeah .. that's exactly what I think. Of course. Doesnt everybody?"
It is a challenge to describe what existentialism is .. because, I feel, it must be presented in personal terms, as experienced by the person. I mean, that is kinda the whole point. And that is not an easy thing to do. (At least, not without sounding like a nutcase.)
As I said earier, I feel that this philosophy speaks mostly to people who have had life give then a particularly nasty kick in the teeth.
Tho, I also said that existentialists do not use the term as it applies to mortality. And I am still trying to figure it out .. but it is most definitely the case .. that an existential crisis that DOES involve mortality (.. and the threat thereof) ..
.. that such an existential crisis DOES INDEED catapult you to that place where you see things more existentially .. if that even makes sense.
But it has something to do with the fact that .. now » existence means MORE to you. (Cuz your ass is happy just to be alive. Particularly if you are not in pain or suffering.)
In my own writing, I have noticed that I often put you-the-reader in my place, standing in my sted. This comes automatically. It is from that existential part that I do this. And sometimes I even have to go back and remove you-the-reader from my writing .. because I do it too much.
Hemingway did the same thing .. in Moveable Feast (1964). He inserted his readers into his experience. I love that.
Rad note » This is the end of the March, 2016 monthly archive. Here's a link back to » PAGE 1.