It may or may not be obvious by now that this article is more self-analysis than cultural analysis, and if it’s valid cultural analysis, its ideas have probably been articulated much better a thousand times over by writers much more legit than me, probably ~10 years ago.
The other night, using my cell phone’s handy calculator function, I determined I had 676 months left to live, presuming lung cancer or a man willing to kill me for the unregistered Panera card I have in my pocket don’t drag me to the grave earlier than the average American lifespan would dictate.
When I was a kid, I was overwhelmed by the concept of infinity. I’d lie in bed at night, in the dark, and try to picture the infinity of space, each limit in my mind giving way giving way giving way until I achieved a kind of vertigo and my skinny little body would tremble as if in orgasm, a conceptual tantra. It was exquisite.
“Existential awareness” will denote a certain, conscious recognition characterized by a) consistently reminding oneself of the impermanence of oneself, others, and matter, b) the belief that cause and effect and the laws of physics govern reality, c) God and other supernatural beings are myth, and d) the universe does not actively “prefer” or “decide,” rather, it “unravels.”
We will never outrun the night, my feathered friends, and we were fools to try for this long. We must accept this inevitable fact, just as we have accepted our eventual deaths and an understanding that our tiny wings will never grant us the true flight we’d need to escape this relentless archipelago prison.
Is it problematic that I haven’t ever really done anything rebellious or teenager-ish? Is it going be like people say, where the kids who never did anything bad are the ones that go crazy and lose it in college? Shouldn’t I be working on my final English paper on Nabokov instead of writing this?
Consider the following fact. You — and everyone you’ve ever known and loved — will die one day. You can read what I just wrote, and even understand and believe it, but it still doesn’t seem real to you. That’s the magic of denial. Denial is better than booze or drugs or even sex.
But normal is an impossible, undefined ideal. While it feels decadent, possibly destructive, to only worry about being happy with yourself or at least happy with the ways you are unhappy, you can’t exactly go around comparing yourself to all the people who have no better idea of the holy-normal than you do.
Probably neither of those. We define ourselves through our relations to other people. We are mother, husband, lover, sister, teacher, friend, son, enemy. Without links to other people, we disintegrate. We need anchors to society. To label someone is not to negate them. Even derogatory labels, whilst unpleasant, acknowledge a place in society, somewhere to belong. An identity.
Uh-oh. Did someone just discover the inherent paradox of human consciousness within the context of limited lifespan and the physical laws of the universe? Is someone going to be our next Sartre? This 6-year-old existential poet is Julian, the son of a redditor, and soon to be among the ranks of Camus, Pessoa, et al.