So as part of my MA studies, I decided to read Sartre’s voluminous tome, Being and Nothingness. It is a dense phenomenological investigation of what it is to be. Did I understand every sentence? Every page? Every chapter? Not bloody likely. On the other hand, there was an immense amount that is very easily understandable. I mean, we all exist. We all experience the world from our unique vantage. We all try and make sense of what being alive is all about. So well worth the read then. One paragraph in particular has stuck in my mind, a couple of months after finishing it:
Sliding realizes a strictly individual relation with matter, an historical relation; the matter reassembles itself and solidifies in order to hold me up, and it falls back exhausted and scattered behind me. Thus by my passage I have realized that which is unique for me …
So I haven’t posted for a while. Mainly I’ve been busy. I suppose that that is one of the keys to life. Fool, distract thyself! Mostly it’s been humdrum paying bills, and working for the man. What can I say, I’m not special! On the other hand I have been studying for a part-time MA in Existential and Humanistic Pastoral Care, and it has certainly been everything I had hoped for. Yes, everything is pointless. Yes, the past is done with. Yes, people can be shit. But that’s where existentialism takes off: we are free to disregard and build anew, knowing full well that anything we build will become just as done as anything else. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t life. As part of my MA I have been exposed to a hell of a lot of philosophical …
Anyone that knows me personally, soon learns that I find true crime fascinating. I always have. I spent many an hour as a child reading the horrific tales of serial killers, with tears of complete and utter terror streaming down my face. Part morbid-curiosity, part intrigue. Sherlock Holmes was a boyhood hero, and true crime was the real deal. No neat and tidy endings here. Sometimes the crime wasn’t solved, and we were left wondering who the murderer really was. This week, the extant half of the moors murderers, Ian Brady, died. If you are not from the UK it may be hard to understand just how hated Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were during their lifetimes. The Daily Mail declared just yesterday, that the two would be “burning in hell” (forget that God allowed their crimes to happen)... The pair were responsible for some of the most heinous …
I came across an interesting argument in a book edited by soon-to-be-podcast-guest Jeffrey A. Schaler. The book (Peter Singer Under Fire) is on the philosophy of Peter Singer, with whom I am in a great deal of agreement it seems. However, stimulating this post is the question of vegetarianism, and the accusation that by not abstaining from the eating of meat, we are directly causing the suffering of animals.
Firstly, a personal aside: I grew up with animals, and have a great deal of time for animal lovers. My cat Ziggy gets more attention and devotion than most living things in my life. My mother goes too far though, and this was always my assessment. Some of my earliest memories are of the films of Lassie reducing my mother to a quivering wreck. Or some badger baiting documentary causing howls which could easily be mistaken for a banshee, as a …
[Is this a story, a poem, an echo from the future, a euology, a suicide note, a manifesto, a hate mail?]
Cancer doesn’t care about evolving. Cancer doesn’t care about your genetic predispositions. Cancer is going to grow and consume your body, unless you fight it. You both share the same body. Its cells are your cells. And now you’re in a fight to the death. There will be one winner or none. And that is about as much love as we had for nature. Evolution is a horrid process. Our ancestors hunted, killed, fucked and died. This was never about love or happiness or anything nice. It was a mechanical ratcheting. Think about a crystal growing in a jar. Well this crystal grew the fuck up. And we took charge.
Transhumanists they call us. But really we told biology to fuck itself. The natural world threatened …
So during an (as yet unpublished) episode of The Existential Files, we got into a debate about who (or what) is an existential being? I thought I would clarify my thinking. I rule out categorically any non-human on this planet. I love my cat Ziggy, but I don't believe he has an existential being (a being of sorts he does have but he is not a category A existential being that's for sure). And maybe a category system is what is needed. Category A: Full existential being. Well I'm going to say that I am one and you probably are one too. I joked in that episode, that I count anybody who has read or is capable of reading a Dostoevsky novel as an existential being. Obviously I was being a little flippant, on the other hand it does capture something of what I am getting at. You have to …
Once upon a time on this blog, I used to have an animation of a man falling. Well here it is updated with modern browser technology. See I'm not just a pretty face. The falling man signifies that feeling we get in the middle of angst. The drop in the stomach. The desperate need to dig our nails into the wall of the well, as we slip into oblivion. It may hurt. It may be painful. But the terror of the blackness is a source of greater pain. Why do we flail so?
Another metaphor I favour is that of the floundering fish. The water recedes and he finds himself in the mud, trapped in an alien and hostile environment. What can he do? The only thing he has ever done. Move his mouth in that bobbing fashion or thrash his tail and fins. Behaviours that once kept him alive …
One of my problems is, I feel my angst. It
can grip me, like a terror, and sometimes drive me to tears. And nobody
can help. You can't petition god for a
reprieve, nor expect special consideration from fate. All of our
ancestors are dead, and we're all headed in the same direction...
Yesterday I sat in the bath and read two plays by
Camus. The first,
is the true story of a nihilistic man, made king of the world, and the
absurd acts he inflicts on those around him:
CALIGULA: ... But I'm not insane. In fact I've never been so lucid.
It’s just that I suddenly felt a desire for the impossible.
[Pauses.] Things as they are don’t strike me as satisfactory.
HELICON: That’s a widespread opinion.
CALIGULA: I suppose it is. But I didn't know it before. Now I know.
[Still in the same …
I'm in a super-pissed off mood at the moment (long story -
multiple reasons) but I want to share two stories that I got out of
Colin Wilson's 'The
(which I've just finished reading):
[Tolstoy] cites an Eastern fable of a man who clings to a shrub on
the side of a pit to escape an enraged beast at the top and a dragon
at the bottom. Two mice gnaw at the roots of his shrub. Yet while
hanging, waiting for death, he notices some drops of honey on the
leaves of the shrub, and reaches out and licks them. This is man,
suspended between the possibilities of violent accidental death and
inevitable natural death, disease accelerating them, yet still
eating, drinking, laughing at Fernandel in the cinema. This is the
man who calls the outsider morbid, because he lacks appetite for the
Ever since I began to understand that everything is
pointless, I've started noticing existential angst in
the most normal of places. In fact I'd go as far to describe it, as like
a big pink elephant sitting there in plain sight, only I was just to
stupid to notice it!
And so when I happened across an article which discussed the existential
merits of Charles
'Peanuts', I was shocked that it has
taken me many years to finally appreciate it! From
Existence is problematic and disturbing. In one weekend strip,
Schulz succinctly describes the horror of discovering one’s own
existence in the world:
'Linus: I’m aware of my tongue ... It’s an awful feeling! Every now
and then I become aware that I have a tongue inside my mouth, and
then it starts to feel lumped up ... I can’t help it ... I can’t put …