As slowly as I’m trying to live this summer, I feel like time still slips out from under my grasp…I only have two more weeks in Philly until I return back home to sweet southern hospitality, humidity, and boredom. My suburban home town epitomizes slow living, but I can’t help but grow exasperated and restless when I’m home. I can already imagine frittering my days away, lying in bed until 11am, moving as little and efficiently as possible, and avoiding the throbbing heat of the sun like the plague. Maybe that kind of living is too tranquil for my taste.
I picked up a book called From Socrates to Sartre this past week. Frankly, I fell asleep on a bench outside while reading the first chapter on Plato, so I had some doubts regarding philosophy. But after skipping that chapter, the rest of the book proved quite promising. Interestingly, the line of logic that Descartes used in all his philosophy to prove self-existence and existence of God was oddly reminiscent of the kinds of proofs I wrote for my computer science class this past semester. Logic and reasoning beautifully span several disciplines.
Perhaps I’ll expand on this more in a separate post, but I think I’ve pinpointed an apt label for this void I’ve been feeling lately, and I’ll expand on all this at risk of sounding like a melodramatic teenager–I’ve been hanging around a lot of my Christian friends recently, which has spurred me to reflect deeply on my own belief system. After some website surfing and refamiliarizing with terminology, I would proclaim myself an atheist existentialist, based on my rather shallow knowledge of what these labels fully mean. These past few years, I’ve been struggling to reconcile how lonely my small existence feels, which is what the scholars would deem “existential loneliness” (if you’re looking for the fancy term).
It’s pretty cool and hypothetically liberating that we come into existence without essence/purpose and have the freedom to deem things meaningful for ourselves and craft our own essence. But this experience is so personal and unique to myself that I can’t help but feel so alone in it sometimes. In other words, there’s this huge void that I can’t even fill with friends, food, art, music, literature, beauty, compassion, etc. These things tinge life with color and fill the time in a meaningful way, but when they eventually and inevitably peter out, there is nothing left–and no underlying substance to my life, which I guess is what I call the “void.” I can distract myself adeptly for a while with these embellishments of art and blah blah, but they feel like mere distractions–not the actual substance. But perhaps that’s because I’m not sure what I classify as substantial/meaningful to myself yet. I entirely recognize the possibility that this is all there is. What I consider distractions and sideshows might just be the real deal, the meat of life. But I haven’t come to ascribe personal meaning to these little things yet because I’m still not sure what my values are. I’m reminded of Nietzsche when my mind wanders astray:
What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, ‘This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!’ Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, ‘Never have I heard anything more divine’?
This quote is oddly uplifting because the answer to all the strife is to look life in the face and accept it for all it is: imperfect, lonely, painful, and yet still somehow beautiful. There’s nothing to do but soldier on and embrace this fate (amor fati), inclusive of the good and the bad.
Things I don’t believe in: God, myself.
Today, I am thankful for the robustness of life, the way sunset colors at 8PM reflect off the windows of skyscrapers, and peaceful subway rides that crawl across West Philly under the evening sun.