Existentialism was briefly a rage in the 20th century but seemed to have died out a bit. In short it comes down to this: Existence is the starting point; meaning has to be assigned to it. One big shadow that loomed over the existential movement which might have scared people away was the idea of existential angst than comes from the realization that we are just here for no reason. However it’s not that gloomy as it initially looks. Existential angst is nothing but boredom. Since there is no reason for us to be here, we are free to choose what we want to make of our lives.
Existentialism is the philosophical view of the world that is best aligned with our current scientific understanding of the world. It looks at the universe for what it is based on what we can observe by scientific exploration. It doesn’t assume there is some kind of higher power looking out for us or expect an everlasting afterlife in paradise to make up for the tough existence we experience now. It doesn’t view this life as a waiting room or some test to pass.
It does away with any wishful thinking or false hope. The existentialist looks at problems for what they really are and deals with them head on instead of running away from them or accepting them by fooling himself that it’s for some greater good. Instead of praying for things to change for the better he or she tries to find out what is causing the problem and what he or she can do about it. The existentialist accepts that we are fully responsible for our own lives and actions. It’s up to us to deal with the challenges we face.
The existential view is not a pessimistic one but a realistic one. The universe doesn’t owe us anything; we don’t get what we deserve but what we settle for. Life comes without any guarantees of comfort or happiness. If we want anything we need to make it happen. Yes life is tough, but we can adapt to it and become stronger. We come equipped with a brain that has evolved to deal with challenges; we have to use it if we want to make life as pleasant and good as possible.
We can live a meaningful life by setting goals we want to achieve. Instead of merely surviving we can choose to set out on a quest to realize our dreams. We are free to choose how we spend our lives within the limits that the laws of nature and society impose on us. Even though the possible moves might be limited, they can be combined in an infinite amount of ways.