“…individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude,” or a sense of disorientation, confusion, or dread in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.”
Ageing and turning 60 is an interesting time. I am reflecting over my life. The metaphor of fitting jigsaw pieces together is the best one that can describe my experience now. I now understand the meaning of existentialism. I thought I had an idea of what it meant. Not until now do I know it truly. It is a jolting reality. The now observing the past is how one can see existentialism alive!
As a child I remember waking up at night with a strange sensation that lasted only a few moments. A surrounding feeling that came to mind. One that I could not touch, access with words, or edify. It was a feeling deep in my teeth of something other. It would go away quickly. I had that same feeling through my growing up. I always knew when the other feeling was approaching. The other feeling went away as I grew up.
K -12, my whole education experience I was asleep. I realize this now. Existentialism is based on contrary things. Conflict or mindfulness to the absurd world we live in. When I look back at myself, I was experiencing or having an existential experience my whole young life. I was in a shadow world of social pressures and abstract ideals that where strange to me.
Only waking up occasionally to the wind on the hills or the rain while walking home. Playing in green fields with my friends. The smell of the earth and the feel of pepper trees on my skin. The aroma of the eucalyptus tree.
I went through the motions at school. I did not study or bring books home, and if I did, I don’t remember them much. I do remember reading the little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, the King James Christian Bible, and Seven Arrow by Hyemeyohsts Storm. (Native American Myth,) Sherlock Holmes appealed to me. Also, songs on the radio are moments of awareness.
I was in trauma while I was growing up too! I was living in a home with an alcoholic parent and experienced love but also emotional abuse as a regular part of my life.
My point being I was not awake to my human experience until I started waking up later in my teens by the jolt of consensual sex, youthful love, and punk music.
I remember at 18 or so there were times that a light would come on and everything seemed more intense. One time out to dinner with my parents it seemed that the restaurant light above us turned on brighter. I was in an intense illumination. Then the light went out. This is when I was experiencing an awakening an existential conflicting experience.
When I entered the punk rock world in Los Angeles, I experienced this existential conflicting experience increasingly. The people and music really stirred me up. I awoke to the absurdity of life in a good way. I found my mind, voice, and soul all aligned. I began to acquire knowledge easily. I read ecstatically. I found out that I had an engaging and intellectual mind that had not been touched by the k-12 academia that tried to teach me.
I don’t think we can continue to live in an existential conflicting reality. Yet in these such moments when the existential happens. This is where we can find our authentic self. I am incredibly grateful!!
“…child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim believed that fairy tales help children cope with their existential anxieties and dilemmas.”