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The Contingencies of Despair: How Existentialists Survive

The Contingencies of Despair: How Existentialists Survive

~ Dread is the dizziness towards freedom, freedom that looks down

your own chance. In this vertigo freedom succumbs. ~

An individual wakes up as usual, uses the bathroom, and

he brushes his teeth as usual and goes to the kitchen for his usual bowl of Slurpy O’s cereal. But her new housekeeper bought her the day before and, finding no Slurpy O’s, has brought four different brands of oatmeal and rice into her closet, hoping that some will satisfy him until she finds her usual one. When he reaches to open the cabinet and see the options for ….., he stops, stuck to think, stuck to make a decision. You absolutely can’t wrap your brain in this early morning choice and eat nothing. [1] This is, in a small part, what existentialism is.

A few doors down, a person is faced with another riddle. Six

months ago he had succumbed to an offer from a leading Internet service provider to sign up for 45 days of free browser and email service. He had entered his credit card number on the first day, knowing that even though he was maxed out, by the time a month and a half had passed, he would have been paid and then could pay the $ 300.00 limit, so the The ISP could charge $ 30.00 per month from then on. But on the thirteenth, he discovers that the ISP has frozen his account. When you find out why, because they tried to charge your card and the card denied billing, you get angry that the company has lied to you / defrauded you by giving you only 13 days free, and then cut your livelihood (works online) by not being able to charge you 32 days ahead of time.

He immediately writes a letter to ISP Godzilla, demanding it

cancel your membership, a letter you fax that same day. ISP

Godzilla responds by saying that this is not the way.

Cancellation works, and you could call 1-800-XXX-XXXX. He calls and they put him on hold first, a position that for five

minutes keeps you stuck in a loop recording of a saccharin

voice saying, “If you need further help with your computer repair needs, go to http://www.oursite.com. “When you get a human, you get a person informing you that the company” can’t find him “in their records. At the same time, you also have an answering service provided by the same company. When you dial the home base to retrieve your messages and dial your password, a mechanical response tells you that there is no such account. The messages are there, as your indicator shows 5, then 7, then 12 incoming messages … which you cannot access. The result of the calls not returned in the loss of three clients, two friends and a fiancé, all inferring that he has excluded them.

In the next few months he receives three threatening bills.

Godzilla, demanding a payment that if you fail to pay will result in the termination of your account. The invoices are then delivered to a hostile collection agency, invoices arriving with the rest of your mail, which also contains new CDs for the start-up service with the same company. On the CDs are the words “Go back to Godzilla and we’ll give you 45 days of free online access!” This is also existentialism.

And in another anywhotown in another part of this precipitate and

rickety balloon, a person is kidnapped. She is taken to

captor’s house, tied up and used for man’s pleasure. Every

day for two weeks, she is forced to submit, allowed to get up only to bathe, wash and eat, and then tied to the bed to stay while the man goes to work in a major corporation.

in the center of all sites.

On the fifteenth, the man goes to work and the woman does everything

she can free herself. She finally lets go and leaves the

home to shop, eat, drink coffee, and sit in the park feeding the

birds. After a few hours, the woman returns to the house, puts

herself back in the shackles and waits for him to return. [2]

This is also existentialism.

However, in the same sense, existentialism implies much more.

The general concern of this social, atheist and / or theist

The philosophical movement holds that the existential human being, the

solitary individual, lives an existence composed of

essence only when / if / after he / she defines himself – that the

the existence of the individual precedes its essence. [3] And the

principles of existentialism (although technically impossible to

isolate and encapsulate in a few pages) consist of the

understand that you have freedom because you are nothing; that

one must exercise this freedom by accepting the moral responsibility of free will and using this free will to choose (in good faith); that because each is an individual with individual focuses of existence, life is only subjective; and that life – even and especially for the rational human – is irrational, it is absurd.

It is because existentialism as a complete philosophy is actually a set of philosophies that do not fit into orderly and calm categories, but are reflective, multidimensional, sometimes screaming, other times contrasting and conflicting.

contingencies – ironies and absurdities – that overlap and often

collide like monster parts of an onion hybridized by chance

I mean here only an integral part of the whole.

Because existentialism is absurd in its own understanding of the absurd (and points out its own absurdity), it is paradoxical in its own understanding of the paradox (and declares its own paradoxical nature), I try to identify only one nature of existence. It is for that component – the characteristics (or symptoms) of contingencies as they are and as they inevitably lead to despair – that I write.

And it is with all the respect that one can have for him

onion skins and layers started by Hegel and Heidegger, or first bred by Descartes, or developed by Sartre, de Beauvoir,

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, or taken piece by piece

dissected by Camus, Dostoyevsky and Kafka that I write … again, to express understanding of a (subjective) human experience, and not to speak in any intellectual, all-encompassing way, to a

definitive discussion of each cell of the deepest

of philosophies.

First, existence. Existence first. Existence precedes essence.

A human is first, nothing. A human does something

defining himself. And it does so by accepting

responsibility for himself, what he does by acting, for

choose. What arises from this responsibility for the

existentialist is anxiety, a combined and internalized anxiety,

fear, helplessness, longing, desire, guilt and [what Kierkegaard defined as] dread – like the fear of this freedom to do whatever one wants with oneself. Add to this anguish the notion that one is also responsible for humanity and must act, must choose, and one is in a kind of agony of living death: one is desperate.

From the forms of despair: not being aware of having a self, the

unwillingness to be yourself to get rid of yourself and unbalanced

relate to another, and want to be yourself [4]–one

paradoxically brings more despair than despair

itself. That is, out of desperation, one might be tempted to avoid

responsibility. But avoiding is being in what Sartre called

“bad faith” or bad faith [5]… leading to further despair.

We cannot know this, just as we cannot know our own future.

I / our time, more than we can control ourselves,

future or destiny. This contributes to the existentialist’s conscious despair, which even contains the despair of hope.

We cannot control another, either, in our human urge to be

knowing / thinking about oneself, which is considered an effort to be God (or what Nietzsche would argue that we could be and are: Der Ubermunsch, The Overman / Superman). The impossibility of this creates a despair that resembles the fear of knowing that we cannot know our own beingness, because such beingness is only recognizable / definable by its relationship (ship) with other existing beings. As Hegel designed (or decoded) it, we are in a constant dialectic between self and other. A human cannot exist unless he exists against the existence of another.

The best known analogy is that of the master / slave, but

To deny antiquity in favor of modernity, let us return to the

woman in the open example who broke free, only to re-chain

herself again.

At some point, she (consciously or unconsciously) identifies

herself as a submissive, or masochist, who does not exist as a

masochist unless there is a sadist to bring out the masochist

nature of it. Once it is free, it is no longer

“masochist”, and therefore is nothing. She does not

exists. She needs the other to “name” her, to give her

existence … or beingness. This notion that the self depends on the other for meaning is one that Sartre pointedly commented from the place of his own despair, saying, “The other is the drainage pit of my existence.”

Furthermore, although we share this interdependence, this dialectic

requirement, we really only share one universal: that we are

fundamentally free. On the contrary, although existentialism is

sometimes considered a social philosophy, it eludes the

nomenclature how it individualizes us, stripping us of any

universal identity. We are, in every way, alone in our

existence. As the modern radical therapist RD Laing puts it: “I

I can’t experience your experience ” [6] Emblematizing the very

alienation from the human. Hence the despair that resurfaces in another multi-layered dimension.

Also, since existence is subjective, since the only

meaning / essence is what we attach, what we do or

bring into the world – communication, too, is subjective. For him

In the very act of communicating, a subjective meaning or subjective character is given to that communication. So when imposing

sense on the outside, one robs the outside of the ability to

absorb one, which exhausts one to the point of death.

This brings us back to the internalization of alienation and fear and, at the same time, to the strange longing and need for that very inevitable possibility of alienation necessary to be free. For the morning man, faced with cereal choices, this means being an esthete and doing nothing (or being an animal that makes animal choices). Not choosing is not attaching meaning, but attaching meaning is being subjective. To separate and define is to be in good faith, but to separate and define in any conscious degree is to try to control the uncontrollable, while succumbing like a woman to its shackles is to embrace freedom in dialectics. To attempt objective communication as the man with the ISP nightmare did is, unconsciously (and therefore in bad faith), volunteering for the absurdity that one consciously tries to deny, although trying to change what is inflexible in its immutability is also be in bad faith.

So is it only possible or necessary to go back

nothingness or death (killing oneself)? It may be so. Or is it to be an existential thinker, which is to be a reflective thinker, which is to be in oneself, inwardly, presupposed as being, accomplished like me? Is that possible, however, anywhere other than in the dizzying confusion of our own imagination?

Final notes

[1] Palmer, Dr. Donald. Conference analogy. Marin College, Kentfield, CA. October 1981.

[2] Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothing. Citadel, 1956. 270.

[3] Tie me, tie me Dir. Pedro Almodóvar. Perf. Victoria Abril and Antonio Banderas. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1990.

[4] Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye. Illness to death. New Jersey: Princeton University, 1980.

[5] Cumming, Robert Denoon. ed. The philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre. New York: Vintage Books, 1965.

[6] Laing, RD. The politics of experience. London: Routledge

And Kegan, 1967.

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