Husband, Father, Cofounder of TERIFLIX, Founder of VCreate Logic, Trainer – Qt/OpenGL, Fan of Existentialism
I have been a avid explorer of existentialism since 2010. I have read several books on that topic. However one person I am fascinated by is Sartre. I have attempted to read his “Being & Nothingness” and made some progress. Gary Cox’s books have helped me comprehend several aspects of Sartre’s complex ideas and make them my own. Here I share some ideas that appeal to me.
The words freedom and responsibility mean different things to different people.
When someone says “Sam is free to do xyz“, it could either mean “Sam can choose to do xyz, if he ‘wants'” OR “Sam is not ‘banned’ from doing xyz, so he can potentially do it” OR “Sam can try out xyz ‘for size’ and discard it if it doesn’t suit him.”
When someone says “Sam is responsible for xyz“, it could mean “Sam caused xyz” OR “Sam is to blame for the mess that xyz has become” OR “Sam is accountable for xyz, should something go wrong.”
In my opinion both these words are poorly understood. Alteast not understood properly enough to leave one with access to action and integrity required to “make something happen”.
In my view, there is no such thing as freedom. There is only responsibility. Freedom is that feeling one has while being responsible. Freedom cannot be exercised, it is can only be felt as an outcome of being responsible. One can only exercise (or assume) Responsibility.
Tight rope walking is scary because there are no rails to hold on to while walking on the tight rope.
So, it causes an obvious anxiety about walking on the rope. Anxiety stems from the fact that, without support, one might fall off to the left OR to the right OR forward OR backward OR slip from both legs and crash land on the abdomen OR many other possibilities. If only there was a railing that one could hold on to, walking on the tight rope would be much easier.
Each and every one of us has at some point in our lives paused to ponder over questions like “Who am I?”, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the nature of reality?”, “What does it mean to exist, to be?” and so on. As we pondered over these questions we came up with answers or more broadly speaking ideas. Some of us continue to keep the question open and enjoy the inquiry along with all the insights it opens. Some of us are clear that we have in our possession the perfect answer or the perfect bundle of ideas for an inquiry into these questions. Nevertheless, we continue to be fascinated by these questions. I don’t think humanity will ever get tired of inquiring into these questions.
Pardon my cheap shot at free publicity. I couldn’t resist naming this blog post after Stephen Covey’s magnum opus “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. It was one of the first “real self help” books I read in my life. Up until then I was mostly reading books on personality development, which taught me techniques for manipulating myself and others in an effort to produce results. This was one of the first books that boldly spoke about getting real and genuine. I loved the book. It helped create a lot of value, substance and results in my life.
Having said that, I dont like the idea that there are 7 or 8 or 20 or any finite number of ways in which people can be effective, or authentic in the case of this post. There are plenty of ways, perhaps a lot more than we can discover in one lifetime. Each person striving to live an authentic life can and for the most part does invent ways to be authentic. In this blog post, I share some of the strategies I have learned from books, seminars, other people and also those that I have invented for myself to live an authentic life. My excitement about sharing what I have learned about Existentialism comes from the very real possibility of learning from others about the strategies they invent (or adopt) for living an authentic life. Knowing that no one can ever simply be authentic, offers unlimited opportunity for personal exploration and growth.
Sartre and others carve a phenomenon called being-for-others, that leaves a human being with an experience of being an object along with other objects in a world of objects, with fixed properties, labels, behaviour etc. Given that people are seldom, if ever, truly alone these days, each person constantly confronts the existence of other people, not simply as objects in his world, but as subjects who see him and judge him and reduce him to an object in their world. To be an object for the Other is the meaning of being-for-other. My being-for-other is the awareness I have of my own objectification in the eyes of the Other.
In this post, I want to explore being-for-other by enumerating common being-for-other experiences.
Bad-faith, or inauthenticity, is living a lie that we dont have freedom to choose in the face of situations and realities that we encounter in life. Existentialists, Sartre in particular says that as human beings we are condemned to be free. Our fundamental nature, he says, is to be a free transcendence of our facticity, for which we are required to willingly take responsibility.
In a previous blog post I have shared ways in which one can slip into bad-faith. More recently, I have also shared about an inquiry that I indulge in as to whether bad-faith directed at another, is my own bad-faith or not. In this post, I want to explore anxiety & commitment and how some amount of bad-faith is healthy and even necessary to live in this world.
According to existentialism, authenticity is living life with willingness that who I am is a free transcendence of my facticity. Therefore, I willingly own-up my facticity and make choices & take action by being fully aware of my freedom to do so. I also take note of the fact that my choices & action lead to consequences that I must willingly take responsibility for. The key here is willingness.
Inauthenticity (or bad-faith) refers to modes of being and behavior that has me not being a free transcendence of my facticity. Basically I am inauthentic if I am not willingly owning up my facticity, or willingly take responsibility for my choices & actions, or crib about my lack of freedom and so on. In a previous post, I have shared my understanding of bad-faith and also enumerated a few ways in which people run project(s) of bad-faith. I strongly recommend that you read that post, if you haven’t already.
In this post, I want to explore the question – “Is bad-faith directed at another person an act of my bad-faith?”
When we go about the world, we have expectations which are often not fulfilled. For example, I go to meet an old friend. I imagine that he will be happy to see me after all these years and that we chat for hours sharing about our lives. I go there and I find that he doesn’t recognize me at all. At that moment my friend begins to appear to me as ‘not-him’. All of a sudden the ‘being’ of my friend has become the ‘non-being of the friend from my expectation’. Everything about him will be reflecting that non-being.
So as Sartre claims in his book on ‘Being and Nothingness‘ – “It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation.”
Non-being is an illusion because it occurs only in the consciousness of an individual. The world always consists of beings. Our conversations about the world creates non-beings and bring them about as realities in our lives. Non-beings create a weak relationship with reality for us – by that I mean reality consists of beings, but my expectations create non-beings. Hence I end up dealing with the unreal non-beings in addition to the beings. Overtime I would have created sufficient non-beings to occupy my time and energy; that I would be disconnected from the beings in the world. I am living inside of an illusion, so to speak!
I am thinking of all the conversations I have in my mind about – ‘this should not have happened’, ‘he/she should not have said this/that’, ‘I should not have done that’, ‘I should have waited a bit more before committing to this/that project’, etc… All of these conversations (though valid) create non-beings. And I can notice how much energy and time I am spending on those. “It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation.” – this is giving me yet another view of life.