Tag Archives: time


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A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes what could be called his or her “essence” instead of there being a predetermined essence that defines what it is to be a human. Thus, human beings – through their own consciousness – create their own values and determine a meaning to their life.  Although it was Sartre who explicitly coined the phrase, similar notions can be found in the thought of many existentialist philosophers from Kierkegaard to Heidegger.

It is often claimed in this context that a person defines himself or herself, which is often perceived as stating that they can wish to be something — anything, a bird, for instance — and then be it. According to most existentialist philosophers, however, this would constitute an inauthentic existence. Instead, the phrase should be taken to say that the person is (1) defined only insofar as he or she acts and (2) that he or she is responsible for his or her actions. For example, someone who acts cruelly towards other people is, by that act, defined as a cruel person. Furthermore, by this action of cruelty, such persons are themselves responsible for their new identity (a cruel person). This is as opposed to their genes, or ‘human nature’, bearing the blame.

As Sartre writes it in his work Existentialism is a Humanism: “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards.” Of course, the more positive, therapeutic aspect of this is also implied: A person can choose to act in a different way, and to be a good person instead of a cruel person. Here it is also clear that since humans can choose to be either cruel or good, they are, in fact, neither of these things essentially.

The notion of the Absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning to be found in the world beyond what meaning we give to it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world. This contrasts with “karmic” ways of thinking in which “bad things don’t happen to good people”; to the world, metaphorically speaking, there is no such thing as a good person or a bad thing; what happens happens, and it may just as well happen to a “good” person as to a “bad” person.

Because of the world’s absurdity, at any point in time, anything can happen to anyone, and a tragic event could plummet someone into direct confrontation with the Absurd. The notion of the absurd has been prominent in literature throughout history. Many of the literary works of Søren Kierkegaard, Franz KafkaFyodor Dostoyevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus contain descriptions of people who encounter the absurdity of the world.

It is in relation to the concept of the devastating awareness of meaninglessness that Albert Camus claimed that “there is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” in his The Myth of Sisyphus. Although “prescriptions” against the possibly deleterious consequences of these kinds of encounters vary, from Kierkegaard’s religious “stage” to Camus’ insistence on persevering in spite of absurdity, the concern with helping people avoid living their lives in ways that put them in the perpetual danger of having everything meaningful break down is common to most existentialist philosophers. The possibility of having everything meaningful break down poses a threat of quietism, which is inherently against the existentialist philosophy.

Read more about EXISTENTIALISM at Wikipedia.org


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Recently, I’ve become addicted to Tom Waits.  He’s the existential zen master of musical eloquence.

Well the smart money’s on Harlow and the moon is in the street
And the shadow boys are breaking all the laws
And you’re east of East Saint Louis and the wind is making speeches
And the rain sounds like a round of applause
And Napoleon is weeping in a carnival saloon
His invisible fiancee’s in the mirror
And the band is going home, it’s raining hammers, it’s raining nails
And it’s true there’s nothing left for him down here

And it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time

And they all pretend they’re orphans and their memory’s like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget
That history puts a saint in every dream

Well she said she’d stick around until the bandages came off
But these mama’s boys just don’t know when to quit
And Mathilda asks the sailors “Are those dreams or are those prayers?”
So close your eyes, son, and this won’t hurt a bit

Oh it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time

Well things are pretty lousy for a calendar girl
The boys just dive right off the cars and splash into the street
And when they’re on a roll she pulls a razor from her boot
And a thousand pigeons fall around her feet
So put a candle in the window and a kiss upon his lips
As the dish outside the window fills with rain
Just like a stranger with the weeds in your heart
And pay the fiddler off ’til I come back again

Oh it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time
And it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time.