I’ve often thought about my place in the universe, how I came to be, where I am going, what it means to exist at this point in time. It can be quite depressing or it can be extremely uplifting, depending on your perception. Religion dictates that we exist purely by the grace of some God, and that our time here is a testing ground to determine our existence in the afterlife. To me, that seems like such a waste. It’s as if the emphasis of our existence is placed on what will happen to us after we die as opposed to our living life in the world around us. It makes this current life seem pale and unimportant; our actions here and now merely a waypoint (and an unimportant one) in our transition to a place where we will supposedly know everything and experience everthing. What a crock of shit.

Look at it this way: if heaven exists and when we die we get to go to this place where we are still ourselves, and yet we have unlimited powers of knowledge – well where’s the challenge? Where’s the drive for self improvement? I’m pretty sure that I’d be bored as hell within ten minutes, and yet whats the alternative? Eternal damnation? Constant horrendous torture from now until the end of time? Well I guess I’d better be good because that sound pretty uncomfortable to me.
This is why I have no respect for current religions. Ultimately it just seems like someone along the way decided that humanity needed some guideposts for societal evolution, and they figured that eternal reward or forever damnation were a useful carrot and a stick to keep people in line doing good things. Did it work, though? Did their grand experiment succeed? I’m pretty sure that more people have died for the cause of their religion than all the other wars combined. To say nothing of the fermenting anger and hostility that religious differences fester in todays’ society. Look at the Middle East, a hotspot of religious antipathy if ever there existed one.
On the other side of the fence are the scientists and philosophers who have told us that there is no god, that there is no heaven or hell. This existence is all we have, and then we become space dust – recycled into the vast natural machine that is planet earth. Carl Sagan reminded us time and time again that we are all made up of starstuff. The very matter and energy that was once cosmic giants is now an essential part of our being, and will once again return. That does little to console one with the fact of eternal darkness – the deep sleep of death. Non-existence. The End. I figure most people turn to religion as an escape from that thought because it is a scary one – the end of one’s identity and existence for time eternal. No more me. No more thinking, no more living, no more loving, no more being.
There is a side effect though of taking that perceptual route. It’s been said before and most people go yeah yeah ok whatever. It’s true though, it really is. When one realizes that this is all we have one starts to embrace living in a way that makes previous modes of thought pale and listless. Life is meant to be embraced, yet only those with the courage to unload the terrible burden of modern religion seem to truely embrace it. Living with the certainty that this life is all we have makes every waking moment precious, every relationship more real and visceral, every thought wonderful and meaningful. It all sounds so sappy but it really is true. Even when times are bad, and they certainly are a lot of the time, at least it’s living. Something is better than nothing, no matter how shitty that something is.
Think about how rare and precious the gift of life is. From a scientific perspective It was a million to one shot chance that a galaxy coalesced into a stable non-violent one like the milky way. It was a million to one chance that a solar system formed around a benign yellow star that will live for billions of years radiating warm energy upon it’s orbiting planets. It was a million to one chance that a planet formed at just the right distance from the sun that wasn’t too close and hot or too far and cold. It was a million to one shot that radiation and chemical reactions produced the first amino acids that lay down the basics of life on earth, and it was a billion to one shot that a mammal species with a brain too large for just existing emerged. Finally, it was a billion to one shot that you were born, that your mother and father had sex, taking half of his DNA and half of hers to form the basic building block for your existence. Most people complain about not winning whatever lottery is in their neighbourhood, but from my perspective we’ve all won against worse odds than have ever existed in any earthly draw.
I’ve always felt that this is this is the true ideal of Existentialism, and not all the other angst-ridden bullshit that is generally associated with it. Existence as we perceive it is something to be cherished because of the mere fact that we are all unique perceptual individuals who exist here and now for an uncertain future amount of time, but in the meantime we better enjoy what we have because there’s nothing after.
I’m probably wrong as hell, but that’s always been my interpretation. It’s been a liberating philosophy for me and it’s forced me appreciate my life, the people around me and the world I live in. It’s humbling but at the same time inspiring.
Anyways, now for some links that I’ve set aside. First, there’s YAMAS (Yet Another Mac Ad Spoof) that I found particularily hilarious. I’ve been waiting for this climate prediction distributed project for what seems like years now. Only sign up if you’re dedicated to running the simulation for many months. I am currently part of an urban tribe – are you? Why does the US still have a trade embargo on Cuba after all these years? Why is the ‘red devil’ still a major fear for Americans? Is it because it threatens their capitalist dream with an alternative way of life? Isn’t pride a deadly sin? Finally, this article from New Scientist talks about the relationship between corruption, poverty and access to the global economy. There’s some very interesting conclusions that suggest that if a country opens their economy to the world too quickly they’ll have increased corruption because of the increased money flowing across their borders. Perhaps democracy and the global economy isn’t right for everybody at this time.
I’d also like to thank suburban blight for the link-o-rama in her latest Cul De Sac. Cheers!

12 thoughts on “Existentialism”

  1. Had to comment about this site I read.. this guy posted a ‘you might be a leftist if..’ post and I felt I had to respond…
    Also, if you’re looking for a little inspiration, check out this link: the Sombrero Galaxy. As beautiful as it is you know that that is one of the billions of galaxy that probably doesn’t support life as we know it.. Lucky us. 😉

  2. Might I just say that this article is the best shit I have read in a long time. Most of the Existentialism based articles that I have read have always focused on a meaningless existance, and never a miraculous existance. Just because you don’t believe in an alternative to this life, does not mean you have to discard the idea of charishing the one life we have! It made me feel excited that this is our one big shot at living. We should feel grateful. UTILIZE THIS LIFE!

  3. “I’m pretty sure that more people have died for the cause of their religion than all the other wars combined.”
    Questionable, considering “religous” wars were more common at a time when world populations were also significantly lower (pre-Industrial revolution for instance). Also, what we consider religious contexts aren’t all religious, neither are non-religious wars devoid of religious elements.
    Anyways, the reason I am writing though is about the rest of your existential musings. I am personally an agnostic, who in more recent times have come to appreciate “religion”, and this I was able to do mostly by ignoring the Judeo-Christian roots of how we often perceive religion in discussions.
    Perhaps a few considerations of what religion means to particular people would be nice….
    There are a whole host of religious people in the world, to whom, the existence of “God” is not necessary, and how have little inclination to thing that “we” as such continue to exist after death, and as a whole, religion is not about the quest of “meaning” or for a sense of security. Instead, religion means to perceive the universe in a certain way, and to rely on “experience”. Which….strangely enough, I don’t find is too different from my general tendency to base everything on science.
    So, in sum, although I have unloaded a huge burden of believing in an Abrahamic God and future of heaven and hell, I can see how religion can still add to the experience of being for some people. It is precisely the essence of what you have pointed out, that we are endowed with the chance to exist, that some of these people value. And… even if we may not exist tomorrow, what about the things beyond our bodies?
    Ok…I have rambled enough in an effort to avoid finishing a term paper.
    I found this article through the article about 21 grams, which is now near the top in Google, because of your discussion. I wanted to find out too!
    Carpe diem (not all the way though!)

  4. I’m writing a paper on this shit and I was kind of stuck so I was looking up random things to inspire me and found this. It reminded me of the time when Jesse Ventura said “religion is for the weak minded.” That was a slap in the face to Minnesota, not me, I’m not religious, agnostic. But I guess to some extent that’s true. There are so many people though that aren’t exposed to other options of spirituality. It all depends on the way you are raised. But this artical is very true in saying that existentialism is all in the way you look at it. I guess in some ways it’s easier to look at it as dark and full of anguish because it’s so hard to imagine being nothing. The way I deal with the idea of being nothing is this: I think about the time before I was born, now you think about it….Nothing, you remember nothing, did you have a problem with being nothing? I’m assuming not. I’ve written so many fucking papers on existentialism and even gave a speech for speech class. I’m on my final paper and I’m about to explode. I will end with a quote I found on a different existential website.
    “Existentialism is about being a saint without God; being your own hero, without all the sanction and support of religion or society.”
    -Anita Brookner
    If any of this interests you I’d love to talk

  5. That’s a great quote! That’s how I am the way I am – I have a deeprooted belief in myself. Some may call it ego but I say it’s more than that – once you find out who your self is then you can start seeing how you may have a path to follow.

  6. I like the way you said that.
    You must see the movie Waking Life!
    Don’t read this if you have seen it –
    There is this boy ( the younger boy from dazed and confused) and he in a dream, he doesn’t realize it until later when he starts to lucid dream. He has conversations with all different philosophers and random people. They’re real actors but animation is somehow placed over them to give it a dream effect. It is one of my favorite movies by far.

  7. ok i know i keep writing and im like that other guy, I’m avoiding my paper. I wanted to talk about lucid dreaming, as i mentioned up there. Most of my dreams are lucid dreams now. Which is weird, but good. I usua;;y fly or have sex with people , you know. But a few nites ago something crazy happened. I couln’t fall asleep and it was about 4 in the morning and somehow I could put together any dream in my head and then I’d slowly start to dream it. Right before I was in the actual dream I’d jerk out of it. I did this about 5 times. Then I put together one last dream and I actually fell asleep and dreamed it. This is very crazy. I don’t know if this makes sence but I hope it does because it’s so awesome that it is possoble to do this.

  8. I’ve seen the movie Waking Life before and I must say it’s awesome. Truely a philosophical movie, pure and simple. If you want to talk about lucid dreams I recommend you head over to stungeye and talk to Wally – he’s an active lucid dreamer. I’ve always had trouble with holding onto dreams myself, I really do want to experience lucid dreaming.

  9. A Billion to one…what kind of thinking is that..you just gave up on something higher and cannot embrace such ideas. Billion to one…shit..that Billion to one can be used for everything right…hell ya. Fuck God, lets just say Billion to one.. Whatever. If you still can’t answer the fact as to why you are here and what is the purpose of the Universe…then you have already determined there should be a God. Nothing can’t make something. But something did make something. There is always a source. Well, we don’t know what it is. Scientists are dickheads and jerks as well.. some of them. I don’t care how smart they are with all the knowledge they posses. Manmade ideas are not perfect. We have only named these solids, gases, and liquids to determine what makes life in general. But we have yet to determine why it was made…and who or what…there must have been some kind of power…Not just static power, but some dynamic power…fuckin jews..

  10. Everything there is there always was and for ever will be. There does not necessarily have to be an initial cause if the totality of the Universe is a constant. What if the 2nd law of thermodynamics was in fact incorrect? Or at least correct but unfinished? Could there not be some kind of balance to the eventual heat death that is prescribed in that theory?
    If you want to talk about dynamic power, well then you’re talking about life and everything that’s created through the acts of living. Is there a more powerful force in the Universe? I don’t believe so.

  11. If heaven or hell existed i do believe that no matter how horrible or great the circumstaces of that existence were, it would not make a difference. We would gradually overtime become used to it. And just as we look at our home’s we feel safe. Eventually (even in hell) that same feeling of home would come to us in the afterlife be it 10 minutes or 10 centuries you would realize that it’s stable and that would inspire an understanding that would not be penetrable by any amount of pain or distraction even. So my argument is Heaven and Hell could not exist because over time you would eventually become used to it and the great or horrible conditions would become “normal” or “dull” after a period of time plus if god created everything who the fuck created him?

  12. This debate of God, Science and Religion or whatever is all great and fine. Do you know what we all get from them… experience! That’s right what would the world be like without experiences of varied types. “Hell” would be a place where there would be only one kind of flower to look at forever and Heaven would be a place of variety. It is a good thing we have variety and the ability to think for ourselves and make our own choices. In my humble perception we all create our own “hell” and or our own “heaven” where we feel comfortable, at peace or antsy and jittery. One thing is certain! There must needs be opposition in all things… otherwise there would be no existence!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *