Weekly Thought Snack: Where can we find existential thought?
Woody Allen once said, “I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.” However amusing Allen’s quip, more than any other recent philosophical movement, the existentialists communicated their ideas through creative expression such art, plays, novels, film, and short stories. Rather than the often abstract and dense academic texts associated with philosophy, the existentialist thinkers throughout time and disciplines used cultural mediums to reach a larger audience.
That is why today, when posed with the existential question, “why should I go on living?” I cannot help but think of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and “To be or not to be,” Hemingway’s Clean Well-Lighted Place embedded with the prayer, “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada.” And, the absurdity of situations as illustrated in the disease ridden kingdom of Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, timeless hell of Sarte’s No Exit, the scripted play of Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, and post-apocalyptic world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
Where is existentialism? Everywhere. As long as humanity experiences struggle, artists, poets, and writers will reflect and create from the chaos. Existentialism will be wherever you see or read about someone trying to make sense of life…as in literature, art, and film. Consider Ernest Becker’s observation that “man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”
- Caroline (Carrie) Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. is thetragicoptimist