Existential Life


‘Living is hard, dying is easy’, goes a rock’n’roll cliché. By living I don’t mean the mundane, everyday routines like paying bills, maintaining relationships and watering the garden but living in the face of a short lifespan, with only a relatively short time left to go before it’s all over. And why exert myself at all if it’s all so transient? Sartre theorized that it’s ok to constantly be challenged by life, be forced to make daily decisions, be afraid of the dizziness of life. There is no golden rule for a successful life, no guarantees and no single path to fulfillment.

Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Everybody can decide for themselves. That is freedom. Of course, there are genetic dispositions, as well as environmental and geopolitical factors that determine our chances for a good life. That’s why our freedom to decide and choose is so important and makes us what we are. Sartre also claims that we can even decide how we meet our death: with fear or courage; with eyes wide open or with denial. His conclusion is that we are only what we decide to be at any one time, which follows that we can do what we want with our lives. He deduces that each individual has the possibility to find his or her own way but that entails confronting one’s own fears first. Sartre thought a lot about the meaning of life and death and came to some very encouraging decisions.

The idea that it is possible to find meaning in life, despite its short span and every-day absurdity is somewhat comforting to me. My existential challenges are a lot more mundane then Sartre’s, mainly because I have managed to divest myself of responsibilities like work and dependents, have downsized to necessities and some keep sakes; keep no pets or houseplants and I’ve made no promises. My partner in life, Clare, is thankfully independent and tolerates my mood swings and high flying theories with a stoic assurance that all will be fine in the end and if not, then it’s not the end yet. A quote she borrowed from a movie.

This week I have to drink my Thursday pint by myself because Camp and Muriel are on a ‘honeymoon’ to the Okanagan.  ‘Muriel has rented us a B+B and plans to visit at least a dozen wineries a day – there are over 260 wineries in the region – and dine every night at another gourmet restaurant, most likely adjacent to a winery,’ Camp told me when he handed me the key to Coast Books. I offered to look after the store until he gets back and since it is summer and the tourists are flocking to the Sunshine Coast in droves, it promises to be a busy week.

When I first met Camp we would often philosophize and ramble on  about the meaning of life and all that it entails, especially if our minds were lubricated with a few pints. I did ask him once if being alone makes him lonely. ‘No, he said, it leads to introspection and that can lead to loneliness, but I decided it’s a privilege to be by myself. It is after all a choice of sorts.’

‘I had no choice,’ I said. ‘I fell in love.’

‘Lucky you,’ he said, ‘love has so far eluded me and I try and keep it that way.’

Well that was then but circumstances change, which is the only enduring thing in this life.

‘Must be lonely without Camp,’ Vicky said when she set down my second pint without my prompting.

‘Not really. I do miss his company but I know he is having the best time of his life,’ I said.

‘Because he is on his honeymoon?’

‘Yes, and because he is in love with the one who loves him back,’ I said, ‘he is a lucky man and I’m happy for him.’

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