Positive Existentialism

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Positive Existentialism

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Søren Kierkegaard, 19th Century Danish Existentialist Philosopher & Theologian

The Problem

Existentialism is the idea that man suffers inherently in a chaotic world due to his very nature. Along with this, existentialism also means that due to the degree of free will that man has, he often makes the wrong choices, leading to his sudden or eventual downfall. This all comes from his own hand and actions and therefore is all the more troubling to the existentialist philosophers such as Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre. Dostoevsky can be rightfully included on the list of existentialist philosophers due to the nature of his novels, being the greatest example we see of existentialism played out in realistic fiction. Existentialism is often paired in the 21st century with nihilism, though it does not have to be by any means. Existentialism leads one to “look into the abyss” as Dr. Jordan Peterson says, and this is not an inherently bad thing in of itself.

What it means to look into the abyss is that you must stare the metaphorical, or sometimes literal, devil in the face and be able to contemplate in their presence and take wisdom from the darkness. This means that to many who hold onto a negative existentialism that is not paired with any other philosophy or ideology, the body can be seen as a prison, the mind as a means of liberation, and the soul as trapped inside a sinking coffin. The reason for this is that these people look into the abyss too long, and if you look into the abyss for too long, it will take hold of you, whether you wish for it to or not. In modern times, this would be considered taking the “black pill” and or being in a “doomer mindset.” Those who have experienced or hold onto the value of existentialism can attest to the transformation that such an experience, of retrieving wisdom from the darkness, has on a soul. Nietzsche was a man who had a mind more powerful than his body, and a man who was a prophet of his age. The version of existentialism that prevails today is one that is imbibed with Nietzschean nihilism and the absurdism of Camus. While both men are to be greatly studied and admired, it is of my opinion that both outstanding minds looked too long into the darkness. There is beauty to be found in the darkness, if we simply do not let it take hold.

Eternal beauty can be found in humanity and suffering is endurable in the face of divinity. Without adversity, man is unable to be forged into a diamond acceptable to nature. Nature has condemned you to die, but before the blade of the guillotine drops, you must find aesthetical beauty in this life…and your physical energy will live on forever in creation.

Positive Existentialism

Unlike negative existentialism which promotes the idea that the situation of man is hopeless and that we live in continual absurdity, I present the alternative of positive existentialism. Existentialism at its very core is about looking at the truth head-on, whatever it may be. Whether the truth is evil or heavenly it is of no concern, for the pursuit of wisdom is philosophy itself. While avoiding the tricks of Mephistopheles and falling into the Faustian pursuit of knowledge through vanity and pride, a positive existentialism does pursue metaphysical and philosophical knowledge about reality itself so that the enrichment of human life on earth can take place. The enrichment of human life is a better understanding of our place in the universe, or rather that of the individual in the grand scheme of global society as far as previous philosophers have been concerned. If we break down existentialism it can be seen as “Why do we exist?” and from a relationship perspective, breaks down to our connection with ourselves. When expanded we see that when we think about our existence and why we go on continuing to live, the frame rapidly expands. In Dostoevsky, it is seen that the relationships with other individuals, whether romantic, platonic, professional, or familial, all interconnect with the soul of the individual and leave one asking “Why are these people in my life?” Thus this can be practically applied in gratitude when we reflect upon why people are part of the story of our life. As we read a novel, we carefully consider the characters who appear in the pages, so how much more should we do this with our one and only life!

Positive existentialism also leads us to a reality about life, one that makes this existence a beautiful game. Whether we live or whether we die, we are the main character in a story better than any movie that will ever be produced. We laugh and cry, feel pleasure and pain, and through it all, we live out this existence. Embracing your story, even if it is painful, is crucial to becoming congruent with your archetype and allowing yourself to flourish on this earth from every point of view. We are all part of the grand narrative that is the history of humanity. Whether you are religious are not, there is a spark of divinity in the notion of the grand trajectory of humanity from the dawn of time until now. The amount of beauty that has been molded and shaped into existence is unlike anything the mind can comprehend. Suffering has been with us the entire time too, lurking in the shadows. Billions of people have lived and died and their bodies have been returned to the earth from which they came. They lived a story just like you, and so will people in the future. There is something special in accepting this idea, because it means that you are at peace with existence. Whereas the existentialist philosophers wrestled with the reality of suffering in this life, I say that we must view not just a chapter of our life but the entire story, the story that goes beyond what we know. For those who are religious, this means trusting in God. Whatever happens in this life, it is to his end and has been allowed by him. Returning to a secular point of view, all people live as in a novel, we may shed a tear when we are very attached to a character in the story, but we know that they have played their part in the narrative. This is how we must view existence and flip the negative connotation of existentialism to allow for a reimagining of what has been so distorted by the influence of nihilism.

There are a million worlds in each person

Where the possibilities are endless

As the aesthetics flow

And love fades into the eternal poem

Collin Cooper

Applying Positive Existentialism

I do not only work in theory, for what is the use of something intangible to you as the reader? I propose a direct application in your life of positive existentialism. I ask you to zoom out of just your life. Think about all the experiences of your parents. Think about the experiences of your grandparents. They had joy, but they also suffered. They lived, but they will also die. You have thousands of years of human history and experience flowing through your veins and accessible by your mind and soul. Live in the aesthetics that you want, read what brings you knowledge and wisdom, and utilize that to build a better future. Every created object around you was designed, planned, and produced. Your city was planned and created by people just like you. Empires have risen and have fallen, cities are built and fade away. Though time goes on for humanity, you have a unique opportunity in this current story. You have an era to live in, a unique viewpoint that no other human has before you or ever will have in the future. Live out your story and unlock the next chapter that lies ahead for you, and fearlessly step into the eternal story of mankind.