Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Existentialism: A Menopausal Stoner preliminary discussion

Existentialism, as a philosophy, came into my life in tenth grade at Spring High School outside of Houston, Texas. We didn't spend much time on it. I can't remember reading anything on the subject, although I'm sure we must have since it was English class.

A tenth grade moment I will never forget came when my buddy Greg and I were smoking weed in his garage while his parents were out. We were having a fine time passing a reefer between us when the garage door unexpectedly started to open. Fortunately automatic garage door openers had been invented by then, so his parents were still in their brown station wagon. In a frantic attempt to cover our activities, Greg jumped up, cranked on the lawn mower and began driving it in circles around the empty garage. He only pushing the lawn mower when his parents got out of the car to ask, "What the hell are you doing?"

The beauty of these kinds of moments is that parents always generally so stunned by their children's stupidity that the idea we're on drugs doesn't come up for another week or two. That may be why I figured I should go ahead and give up pretending I don't know Velvet smokes weed. No drastic covert measures to over up the activity. I have had to reprimand him for leaving paraphernalia on the coffee table since it compromises my position of plausible deniability.

But we were discussing existentialism in philosophical terms like Being and Nothingness.

The way I understood existentialism in tenth grade is that Life itself has no inherent meaning, whether or not there is a God is irrelevant, and we may as well have a good time as long as we're stuck here. More importantly, though, is the idea that if anyone - human or alien life form - in the future looks back on your time, you better have done something to prove you exist or you were never here at all.

Let's assume that since Jean-Paul Sartre and all them wrote volumes on the topic, there is a lot more involved in Existentialism than my limited understanding. Nevertheless, this understanding has guided me through most of my life, especially the Have a Good Time part. It goes hand in hand with my idea of ethics:

Party on, Dudes. Be Excellent to Each Other.

Note George Carlin in the still from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (above). Since he's grave yard dead, he's a perfect example of Existentialism. The other day I was reading an interview with George Carlin in Psychology Today. He mentions that Richard Dawkins, the biologist who writes on science, God, etc., referenced him for a chapter heading. Carlin says, "When you're a drop out and the culture accepts you and begins to quote you and teach your stuff in class and text books . . . there's a little feather in my cap" (PT, Oct 2008).

No doubt about it: George Carlin existed.

I'm not saying that we all have to exist as visibly as George Carlin, or any other famous person, in order to prove we were here. I felt safe as soon as I signed in to vote for the first time because my signature was in that gigantic book. From that moment on, I felt free to have a hell of a good time.

The point is that we all have to decide what constitutes "existence" for ourselves. It's kind of like Freud saying a person can't be happy without meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Each individual may have different definitions of Meaning for him/herself, but if someone is focused purely on his/her own financial and personal gain, they suck in my opinion.

We should all be working to make the world a better place. Granted we may have different ideas on what a better place is. Like John McCain thinks it would be a better place if there were troops in Iraq until we "win" which sounded remarkably like Richard Nixon talking during the Vietnam war. Did anyone else notice just how much he sounded like Richard Nixon? Same shit different day - if we don't win in Iraq, there will be Taliban everywhere. Just like if we don't win in Vietnam, there will be communists all over the place. Has anyone forgotten that Henry Kissinger was up to his ass in Vietnam and now John McCain is calling him an advisor and a friend?

But I digress. I'm thinking it's a good time to read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvior. I haven't read anything of hers, and it's likely she was even smarter that Sartre just like Zelda was, according to some biographers, more talented than F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Karlo said...

Second Sex is a good book, although at this point, all I remember is the main idea and several more bizarre reflections (de rigeuer for any book by a French philosopher). I'll be interested in hearing your take on it.

Kitty said...

But there is a real difference, don't you think, between existing and living?

I did too much 'existing' in my life, and my aim is to try - from here on in - to live. I think to some extent having a loving family is a big stepping stone on the quest to exist/live, but you're right - there should be something more - something 'bigger', something personal.

Do we know when and if we've done it? Or does that only manifest when we've gone?


P. E. Nolan said...

I think we manifest ourselves - who we are in our souls - every single moment.

Gail said...

Hi Trish-
Well, maybe this will sound like I am full of myself. I believe I matter every day. I believe, in my world, I have purpose and place. I also have come to understand that the more I value others in their purpose and place the more magnified I and they feel until it can look like one big explosion of living. The word I use, far simpler than existentialism is "CELEBRATION", I celebrate myself and those in my world, no matter what.
Oh, one more thing. This took a long time to come to and live and I weed out the non-celebrators.


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