What Exists & Has No Meaning, But Is Always On Your Mind?
I don’t like big words. Unless of course, I am dropping them.
They say if you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it at all. Recently, I had a friend share her “existential crisis’’ with me over three pitchers of beer and one neat shot of vodka. By this point, she was done with heavy words like “existentialism’’ and “culpability’’.
We spoke of Kylie Jenner causing a dent in Snapchat’s profits. After this, we briefly discussed the cheapest options on the menu, before talking about Nirav Modi’s swanky London house and taking digs at Trudeau’s fancy India trip.
My friend chugged her beer, sat up straight, and said: “My entire life is one long awkward moment. When life gives me lemons, I just stare at them”.
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That's when it struck me. The likes of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche may have made massive contributions to our understanding of the concept of existence, but my generation is definitely doing a better job. After all, what simpler way to explain concepts like “existentialism’’ and “existential malaise’’ but memes and punchlines like ‘’Roses are red, violets are blue, everybody dies’’; or even “I use despair-scented oils’’.
Simply put, the “existential crisis’’ means the concept of YOLO and its ilk are as important to you as a rat’s fart. Because you already know you’ll only live once, and you already know you have to make the most of your short time on the planet. But despite knowing all this, you spend your life struggling to get yourself excited about it.
I have always thought of existence as a state of mind where you know that before you bump into the ‘F*ck My Life’ moments in life, you’ve got to keep calm and acknowledge the ‘To Be Honest’ moments.
That said, when I looked up the term ‘existence’, I was hit with heavy sentences like, “Existence (being in the world) is the supreme reality”; “Existence’ is a precursor to one’s consciousness. (An awareness of what meaning can be made attributed to one’s life)”.
No. Just, no.
There were a LOT of smart people who wrote a lot of smart things about existence. Sometimes, they didn’t even agree among themselves. I decided, then, to simplify these heavy definitions of existence, with three common themes that I observed in all these theories about existence.
1) We are mere cogs in an uninvolved and nonchalant universe. There is no meaning that can be ascribed to anything.
In simple terms, life sucks.
You know the feeling when you wake up to a new day, sit upright on your bed, heave a quick sigh and then plop down onto your pillow again? You then have two distinct options:
a) Stay in bed
b) Option ‘a’
This bed conundrum has inspired several punchlines like “I am good in bed. I can sleep for hours’’ or “I like my bed more than I like most people’’.
2) We are accountable for ourselves. With this responsibility, comes apprehension and inquietude.
In simple terms, your destiny leaves you with performance anxiety. Now compare that to, say, pizza. Pizza demands very little of you.
3) Action, freedom and volition are crucial to the ‘existentialist’ narrative. Because nothing amounts to anything, it is upon ourselves, however alarming that might be, to take cognisance of the same and incorporate life with meaning.
In simple terms, you know how they say that life is a soup and we're forks? They were right.
When life gives you a lemon, you realise that you are the lemon, and that life is the flat surface that you will roll off. As you teeter on the edge, you will be hyper-aware of your position. But you have to keep rolling, you know?
Bottom line: Keep calm. We are all in the same boat.
You call it “existentialism’’, we call it something simpler. Something that is easy to understand and express and helps us laugh at our sorrows.
In case you haven’t guessed it already, “life” is the answer to the question in the headline.
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