A choice is not made until acted upon. It’s one thing to decide to climb a mountain but another thing to actually prepare for it and do it. The real choices you make are your actions, whether you are aware of it or not. If you decide to chase a certain goal but end up never taking the appropriate steps to achieve it or give up along the way you have chosen through your actions not to pursue the goal.
Not choosing is a choice in itself. When you don’t consciously make a choice someone or something else will. Of course you are free to decide to let others or the circumstances make the choices for you and see where it gets you. However, when you do so, it doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility over your live. If you choose to let other people and circumstances make the choices for you, you have to accept the consequences of this. You can’t blame others or the circumstances if things don’t end up like you wanted. It was your choice not to take control in the first place. In order to really be free to shape our destiny you first need to commit to making your own choices. This means accepting full responsibility for your choices, both those you made and failed to make.
You are responsible for everything you do and what happens to you simply because you have to live with the consequences. Even when something out of your control happens to you and gets in the way of your plans you are the one responsible for dealing with it. This because it is your life and the unexpected obstacle towards reaching your goals affects you. You can ask for help but you still need to take the initiative.
Imagine I told you that I have an old Neighbor called Jack. Jack is a powerful and rich man who’s personality and life is a bit of a mystery. However I do know this: If you work for him for a year, following his specific instructions which only take about a few hours a week he’ll reward you with a million euros.
Since his ways are mysterious the instructions to follow may sound a bit weird. They require you to wear a green t-shirt at all time and high-five anyone you meet who is named Jack. He also forbids you to eat spaghetti (all other forms of pasta are fine). Furthermore every week he asks you to send him an email about what you like about him.
Now, unfortunately you can’t contact Jack directly, he won’t answer the emails and you can’t meet him in person since no one knows exactly where he is at any given time. However, if you strictly follow the instructions for a full year you will get a million euro. Are you in?
Now it has to be said that there are people claiming to know Jack better and say that his instructions differ slightly. According to some the shirt color has to be orange. Another group claims that instead of not eating spaghetti you should only eat that specific food. But those people are of course wrong, I know Jack better. I have a special relation with him since he’s my old neighbor. I never actually spoke with him face to face since he’s so reclusive and mysterious, plus due to some unfortunate spaghetti incidents I haven’t received the million euros yet. But I know I’m right. I read the notes directly dictated by Jack and knowing him they accurately represent him.
So are you in?
Now you might have some questions. Is this for real? Does this jack even exist? But proving that Jack exists is not enough. You also would like to know whether the reward of a million euros is really given to those following his instructions. Even with those 2 things confirmed you need to be sure the instructions are indeed accurate. The only way to do so is to first find Jack and contact him directly. Unfortunately many people have tried but no one has exceeded in doing this yet. Maybe it would be better to live under the assumption that Jack doesn’t exist or that we at least should avoid making any assumptions of what he wants from us and go on and live our own life.
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.
Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What are we supposed to do with our lives? People have been walking around with these questions long enough now. Time for some answers! Here is a summary of my take on life:
There is no reason why we are here. Life is just there, so are we. We are free to choose how we spend our lives but also fully responsible for our actions. In order to exert free will we need to fully accept this responsibility and act on it.
Life-goals/ dreams we set out to achieve/ realize make life meaningful since it gives us a purpose to live for.
Furthermore, nature in general aims to survive and grow. Everything that stops growing starts dying. By chasing our dreams we align ourselves with this principle by requiring us to overcome challenges, learn new skills and gain more understanding of ourselves and the world in the process. Plus as added benefit, when our accomplishments are big enough we can survive our physical death in the form of the legacy we leave and thus honoring the principle of survival.
So, what is your take on life?