“Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is only what he wills himself to be after his thrust towards existence.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Earlier this morning, I was at the library studying some topics regarding Electronics for the board exams when I suddenly spotted this book entitled “Essays on Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre”. I immediately dropped my calculator and went to the shelf to retrieve the said book. I read the introduction then after a few pages moved on to Sartre’s first essay. In this essay he explained how the meaning of the word existentialist/ism became “so broad that it does not mean anything at all”. In modern language, I think Sartre would’ve said that the word existentialist/ism has got a lot of posers.
The so-called Epiphany
While reading his first essay I came across the quoted phrase above, and it struck me. Deeply. For me, I think that line would be the perfect meaning of existentialism as part of how human beings think. I immediately stopped reading and pondered on that quote a little bit more. Closing my eyes, I realized that for a human being to be completely happy he should be the one to dictate the his terms of agreement with life. He should be the one to create a plan for himself. He should not let the others guide him through a path different from what he wants. To be able to do this, he should have the willpower to stand against the conformities of his era. And that, my friends, is exactly what I am trying to do for four years now.
A little background about me and my working knowledge of Sartre.
I’ve heard of Jean-Paul Sartre during my classes in INTFILO (Introduction to Philosophy) and I always knew he was an existentialist, just like Nietzsche. Those days in my INTFILO classes awakened the existentialist in me. I realized that the philosophies regarding existentialism is similar to my outlook in life. It’s a sort of epiphany on my part because ever since I entered college, I was trying to explain to myself why I think the way I think. I guess taking philosophy classes on the latter part of my stay in the university helped me realize and find and understand myself better. It also didn’t help me that I was beginning to struggle with my religion at the same time I was taking philosophy classes. I have been trying to ponder, with huge effort, to understand what the priest says during his sermons every time I attend mass. In the end (or should I say in the present time) I regarded myself as a believer of multiple dogmas.