Existentialism: Joie de vivre

By Betty Pine

Existentialism is a daunting word at first glance. You might be thinking this is going to be a complicated essay by the judging of that word, and don’t think it’s interesting. But stick with me, and I will turn you on to something that will excite you.

The word embodies a philosophy that deals with our existence and place in the universe. The concept of “self-determination” through our individual experiences, observations, and perceptions. First you have to know you are alive, aware of your true surroundings and start using your “self-determination” to direct where you want to be.

Have you at times become aware that your life has become like that of a drone bee, just going with the flow, same old boring routine. When you start thinking of how mundane your life is, you are starting to wake yourself up and becoming aware of yourself. You ask, “why didn’t I see that awesome tree and all the birds yesterday?” “Why am I killing myself doing something I hate?” “Why am I thinking of that today?” “I shouldn’t let it bother me.” “I just need a day off.” By shaking off the bit of awareness you just experienced because you fear where it may lead, you say things to yourself to delude yourself once again, into that comfortable, lulling zone where life functions, barely.

How can you live your life without knowing that euphoric feeling of how sweet a place you have in the universe? You can’t. People strive to get that feeling, they want that, they crave it, they need it. Some go about it in the wrong ways. Drugs, alcohol, speeding on the road, dare devil stunts without regard for their mortal selves, outrageous behaviors.

People that go over the “edge” do worse, they act out and do harm to themselves and others, and perpetrate all the other corrupt and harmful, and lethal mayhem that man can create. These persons think they have never been more alive then when they are in the midst of their deeds. The artificial stimulus, and the great harm they do others in the end destroy their self worth, and lives. Some will realize it was just a fabrication and distortion and they destroyed themselves in their process to gain a foothold on their existence. Their regret and pessimism for wasting their potential for what life could have been, far outweighs their small gain of living life large with awareness and is a huge waste for them and society as a whole.

How do we get that feeling of “I’m alive, and am excited to be here?” Get out of your “routine.” Choose something you have always wanted to do, and do it! Robert Frost, a famous American poet, around his 39th year took his wife and four children from a life spent toiling at farming and teaching school, the only life they knew, and moved to England from his homeland, America. A year later his critically acclaimed book of poems “A Boy’s Will” was published. What made the man do this? Get up and make such a seemingly impulsive move? He may have said to his wife, “I am going, I need to do this, and please come along with me, but no matter what I am going.”

I can’t say what events occurred in his life that lead him to the possibilities of living his life with more passion and purpose. Obviously we can see through his poetry, he was an introspective and observant person of things around him. It seems he decided to become not only aware, but to become involved with the living of it. Once he was on the path of contemplating and thinking on it, it’s almost inevitable he would choose to make a life change. Who reaped the benefits? He certainly did, as his awareness developed he fully immersed himself with the living of it. I would bet his wife and children did, and of course we did. We have what he left us, not only his works of creativity, but far more important I believe is his example of throwing off the old, and getting on with extraordinary living. Through his own “self-determination”, his observations, his experiences, and his intuitions he has shown us something of great importance. He realized what he must do and made the necessary changes before it was too late.

Each of us can do this. Don’t delude yourselves any longer. When you get that moment of clarity, hang on to it, sense it, examine it. What are you doing, and where are you when it happens? Practice it, and the more you do the more easily it comes. You don’t have to move far away, or leave loved ones, bun-gee jump, or sky dive, it’s not the superficial adrenaline rush we are after. You simply practice at becoming aware of the beauty that surrounds you, and if you are absorbed with living in that moment of awareness, then you’ve got it. Do it some-more. It will lead you. Follow it with your own self determination and quit pursuing life, instead live it.

Into My Own
by Robert Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They should not find me changed from him they knew
Only more sure of all I thought I knew.

(c) 2000 Betty Pine

Artist and writer Betty Pine is the editor of The Whimsical Review, a tickle your funny bone e-zine, and a columnist at suite101.com. Her column Passions Defined can be found in their Humanities topic area.

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