I have been having an existential crisis for quite a long time. By this, I mean that I have found myself questioning what the point of life is. Despite how long I have been pondering over the meaning of life for, I am still yet to find an answer to it. I still don’t know why I am here, and in many ways, in fact, in every way, that’s incredibly daunting. Not knowing my purpose, not knowing what the point in any of this is, is terrifying. It makes me lack motivation and causes my depression and anxiety to intensify. It’s something that I desperately want to get over, hence why I am writing a blog post about it today. I hope that if you are feeling the same way, you will find this post helpful.
To start off with, let me define existentialism:
‘A philosophical theory which emphasises the existence of individual people as free and responsible agents who can determine their own development through acts of free will.‘Oxfordreference.com
To put it simply, Existentialists believe that we are born without purpose into a world that makes no sense. They believe that each person has the ability to create his or her own sense of meaning and peace. In other words, everyone is free to shape their own life.
Whilst we are all born lacking meaning, as we grow up, we have endless possibilities that we can choose from. As humans, we must therefore take personal responsibility to define our own meaning in life. We must seek to make rational decisions despite living in an irrational world.
‘The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.’Albert Camus.
We look for meaning in many different places. Whereas some people choose sport, or academics, or religion, some people struggle to choose anything at all (I am currently in this latter category.)
Existentialism VS Essentialism
Existentialism differs from essentialism. The former believes that life itself lacks any real sense of purpose, and are of the opinion that it is down to individuals to create meaning for themselves by the choices they make.
‘Existence proceeds essence.’Jean-Paul Sartre
The above quote points to how we must first exist before we decide what kind of life we want to live, something which must be decided in our consciousness. No god or higher power cares about what we’re doing, and therefore there is no moral code that governs our life.
In contrast, essentialism is focused on the belief that everyone is born with a purpose, with that purpose being predetermined by some higher power (God/The Universe.)
‘Essence proceeds existence.’
The above quote highlights how our purpose is present before we even come to exist. Essentialists therefore conclude that we are all here for a reason.
Absurdism is another philosophical perspective. It is similar to existentialism in that it believes that life itself is inherently meaningless, and that we must seek to find our own meaning, however it differs in that it doesn’t consider finding meaning to be the ultimate goal of our existence.
Absurdist’s believe that the meaning we discover will most likely be totally irrelevant to the human experience anyway, for the universe and life as a whole is something that we cannot even begin to comprehend.
As the name suggests, absurdist’s view the world as an absurd place (i.e., senseless, and illogical), and I would have to agree with them. We are, after all, living on a giant rock in the middle of an infinite universe only to one day die. One must question the reasoning behind it all.
Why are we born in the first place, if we are all destined to die? It just doesn’t make sense- it is, as absurdist’s conclude, senseless and illogical.
Despite this belief though, absurdist’s emphasise our need to find some sort of meaning anyway, so that we can make the most out of being here, whatever our true reason for being here really is…
Unlike Existentialists and Absurdist’s who believe that people can create their own meaning in their lives, and essentialists who are of the opinion that everyone has their purpose predetermined before birth and are therefore born with meaning, Nihilists (Latin for ‘not anything’) believe that in a meaningless world, there is no point in even trying to create meaning. This is an incredibly bleak view to hold, and one that, even the thought of believing in, causes my mental health to falter.
To end this post, I thought it would be a good idea to give you my own stance on the widely debated topic of existence…
Having done extensive research into existentialism, essentialism, absurdism, and nihilism for today’s blog post, essentialism is the theory that I relate to the most. The reason why I ‘lean towards’ this theory is for one simple reason; I find it hard to believe that life is meaningless, and that we were all born for no reason. Why do I find this such a difficult concept to comprehend? Because the fact that we are here at all, when the probability of us being born was so incredibly low, tells me that there must be a reason for that. Even thinking back to the creation of the universe, however that came to be, it didn’t come out of nothing. That’s impossible. It must have been created for a reason. This therefore banishes the Nihilist stance that everything is meaningless, as well as the existentialist and absurdist view that believes that nothing in this universe is here for a reason.
My overarching view is in opposition to the theories outlined above (Nihilism, Existentialism, and Absurdism), because I believe that everything does happen for a reason. I believe that my birth, and the birth of every single person on this planet, was not just a ‘happy accident’, but a minute part of a colossal plan that is far beyond human comprehension.
What reason there is for any of this, I have no idea of, just like I have no idea what reason there is for me being here, but what I do know is that, in my opinion, essentialism is the only theory that makes any sense…
I’d be really interested in hearing different perspectives on this complex subject, so please do feel free to use the comments section to let me know your views on any of the mind-blowing things that I have touched upon today.
As always, take care.