Existentialism: a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.
I’ve been constantly questioning things recently. Of course, this is a healthy thing to do. As a child, we aim to discover, to learn, to understand our surroundings and ourselves. I think as we grow, we seem to lose some of this childlike wonder, this curiosity fades and we become comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable. Therefore, this questioning, this intrigue, prevents us from becoming stagnant.
And I know ignorance is bliss. But I’ve realised that there must be a balance between ignorance and knowledge. By that I mean we can know that there are murderers and terror attacks in the world and we should consider other’s motivations, yet we must remain ignorant of their evil and instead, revel in other’s unity.
I studied King Lear, a Shakespearean classic, for A-Level at school which centred around the theme of existentialism. Lear repeats the word ‘nothing’ so many times, even the word itself seems to lose all meaning (ironic, huh?). This introduction to existentialism was furthered in my first year of university when I read Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, which depicted a deserted wasteland and absolutely NOTHING happened throughout the duration of the play. *Spoiler alert* Godot never came, and the two protagonists (if you can even call them that) kept waiting and waiting. By this time however, I had big plans for my future – always passionate about acting, I dreamed of performing and conveying these kinds of meaningful (or, in the case of existentialism, meaningless) messages. Therefore, these thoughts didn’t affect me too much and I guess I remained ignorant, or perhaps just sensible and mentally clear. Fast forward to today and I’m just not so sure acting is my one true aim anymore and I can definitely say that I have been pondering existentialism – I mean, here’s a whole blog post dedicated to the subject!
So, this is going to sound really strange, but bear with me. I went to the cinema to watch the new Wonder Woman the other day and my mind exploded with all these existentialist thoughts. Diana, AKA Wonder Woman, was ignorant of the human world and was shocked when she discovers the evil within people. Like Diana, I feel like I too have been very sheltered from atrocities and can’t quite understand when things aren’t all rose-tinted and edited on Instagram or carefully curated to avoid any kind of mental or physical pain. Recent events have peeled away these protective layers, leaving me blurry eyed and confused.
Firstly, these terror attacks that have been so close to home. When I woke up and saw the guardian article pop up on my cracked phone screen, describing the events in Manchester, I was in shock. Being a young girl who has been to pop concerts, remembering the electric atmosphere and seeing the waves of other young girls having fun, exactly like me, I am utterly devastated that something like this could happen. It is hard to imagine human suffering when it is so distanced from you – but seeing videos on the news of people who are hurt from all over the world is heart-breaking. Because, of course, this is happening all the time.
Secondly, personal events in my life have led me to question relationships, jobs, hobbies, taxes, bills and money in general. Let’s face it, being a student and leaving home is hard. There is so much more to think about and to learn about that it can easily become overwhelming and leave you questioning what it’s all about. I know lots of people who have let it all overwhelm them, and I’m definitely not exempt from this. I’ve never been a cynical human being and I find it hard to be around people who are, because I just love positivity and can’t stand it when people are constantly negative. So, sorry for this blog post but, as I’ve said, it’s all about balance.
As I mentioned before, I had always wanted to act and so, for me, collecting experiences was at the forefront of my mind. I aimed to acquire a higher understanding of the human mind and all its intricate facets. Yet, becoming a student and moving out of home, discovering new relationships and work, meant that I was diving head-first into an ocean of words and tears and late nights and alcohol and it has certainly taken a toll on me mentally. Yet I know that it is these experiences that allow me to discover more about myself and how I deal with them and, if I don’t deal with them very well, I know how to change that for the next time.
Also, seeing the people close to me struggle to discover meaning in their own lives is hard. After all, we have a whole universe in our own minds that no one else can possibly know or access – it becomes tricky to discern why someone is feeling the way they are and sometimes it is impossible to help them, no matter how hard you want to try. It can’t be helped that I myself have sat on my bed pondering why I am here and what I can bring to the metaphorical table (i.e. the world) due to seeing other’s struggles. If I can’t help change one person’s life, how can I possibly change the world? This is of course the part where I remind you of what I previously said: each of us has a universe to ourselves in our own minds. It is this thought which prompts me that I am able to make a difference, if not to the whole entire world, then, at least to myself.
By the end of Wonder Woman, she succeeds in stopping evil and helps to win the war but there is a reminder that humans have both good and bad in them. Yes, this blockbuster Hollywood film reminded me of this. After all, if we didn’t have the bad, how could we possibly appreciate the good? It is the thought of this that has overwhelmed me recently. I know that life is a constant see-saw between the floating-on-clouds kind of enjoyment and the streaming-of-eyes kind of hurt and I’m trying so hard to find a balance. We need both, otherwise how would we learn, understand and experience? Perhaps without both, life would be meaningless. Yet we have been given this ability to learn and grow and this is what it’s all about. Okay, okay, I can’t tell you what life means or is – no one can – but I guess that is what makes our lives unique. It is what it means to us, as individuals and how we use this time that we have.
Recently, I have been planning my future and I’ve been so excited to learn and see and experience. Because I want my life to be about experiencing – whether it’s pain or uncontainable happiness – I want to experience connections and people and relationships and understand them. If there’s anything to life, for me, it’s about being with people.
These are all just messy thoughts that have spun around in my brain for a while now and I felt like I needed to write them down in order to pinpoint and understand a little more what it is I am thinking. Even writing this, it is so hard to articulate how I feel, but it is therapeutic to unpick these neurological scribbles. Everyone goes through this and I’m sure it’s the kind of thought that hovers over you like a thick fog – perhaps sometimes, however, the mist clears and, instead of seeing nothingness, you can catch glimpses of meaning.
Until next time,