3 June 2017

Existentialism and Modern Life

With the recent accident rendering me incapacitated and homebound I spent a lot of my free time reading. Before falling into the trap of overestimating my reading ability and ordering a number of new books from Amazon marketplace, which, inevitably sit collecting dust on the shelf only to be picked up when the next accident occurs, I selected a few books from my tiny collection to finish. After finally completing my year-long journey of reading Fitzgerald’s’ ‘The Great Gatsby’ (I don’t read nearly enough) and Wilde’s ’The Importance of being Earnest’, I decided to reread ‘The Outsider/Stranger’ by Albert Camus, an author who has always intrigued me but never fully appreciated until now. I implore anyone who has the slightest interest in social commentary to read 'The Outsider/Stranger'. Although written over 70 years ago the novel is still as poignant and relevant to today's society.

This then led me down the deep rabbit hole of exploring philosophy and existentialism, focusing primarily on Camus and Montaigne, who largely lean towards the Absurdist school of thought. In short, Absurdists proclaim that the pursuit of understanding our existence is futile as the answer is unreachable and unprovable, rather, it is better to live the life you're given in the present and to the fullest.
While one can see this notion as being extremely attractive and liberating, living out one's desires with full disregard of the impending notion of death, one thing I would argue they neglect is the importance of the other.

In this modern time, it has never been easier to escape from others and live in our own worlds', fixated on what could be considered 'time-wasting activities', social media, computer games, apps, TV, Youtube. An absurdist would simply argue 'who cares?' Part of the absurdist notion is that no one can determine what the right or wrong way to live life is, not psychologists, politicians or society. Nevertheless, the notion of achieving and protecting happiness is an evolutionary trait in all of us.

Yet, in this new interconnected world where travel and communication have never been easier, everyone contains the power to bring this happiness to others. How you go about and to what extent you utilise this power will always be down to the individual. However, the first step will always be to commit the ultimate sacrifice of stepping away from our own worlds. While at first, that may seem difficult for many, you shouldn't underestimate the power of out of sight out of mind. It's surprising how less likely you are to check your social feed or play that game for 'just five minutes' when it's just a little bit more out of reach.

So delete that app, hide the bookmark toolbar, unsubscribe from that mailing list, turn off the notifications (all things I've done recently) and start living aware.

Luke T.

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