Existentialism

It’s been almost 27 1/2 years since I came into existence; 10 and 1/2 years since my father passed away. The things I have learned in past 10 years; sometimes I wonder if my father would have been here, would I have been the same person as I am today? Passing of my father made us choose certain things that we wouldn’t have done in his presence. I wouldn’t have taken a job immediately after engineering. This would mean I wouldn’t have joined Accenture. And that would mean I would have never went to US of A and ultimately I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

More importantly, I wouldn’t have gone to the world of philosophy to get answers to the questions about my existence, my life, the universe and everything. I don’t know how else would I have found a reason to seek these answers had my father lived today and we didn’t had to go through the things that we have gone through in past 10 years.

I was always an atheist. Even though my family wasn’t. We had a big temple just in the backyard of our house. My father and mother both knew it and never forced me the dogma of religion. Although I don’t remember my father talking about Gods and Goddesses except on couple of occasions. The most memorable is when we had the mass miracle all over – idols drinking milk! That didn’t change anything in me since the news channel had already reported the capillary action was the reason behind this “miracle”. But my father spoke passionately. Although I don’t quite remember what was going in my mind when I heard him talking – was I thinking my father is just crazy to believe in this or I was just being a 10 year old naive kid sitting and listening to “elder’s talk”. I do, however, remember some flashes of their conversations.

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Look at that mustache! How can you not take this guy seriously? :p

As I grew up and read books on various subjects and became more aware about the world outside home; the more convinced I was that I
didn’t need to follow any religion to lead a good life. Morality shouldn’t be defined as doing good deeds just so that you don’t get punished by any God.  This comes up more than one time in all the Existentialist philosopher’s writings. Nietzsche’s declaration “God is dead” in Zarathustra was a critique  on the association of morality and divinity – that Christian notion of God can no longer server as the basis for morality. However, Nietzsche, was also concerned about the growing atheism and feared it would lead to nihilism – a state where nothing has any value and human existence has no meaning and purpose.

It is indeed a crisis. What do we believe in if we remove higher metaphysical entity and what do we really base our moral principles on? Nietzsche was very concerned with this question and set out to find the answer. It was his own personal crisis that led him to publish his thoughts in the book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. He claimed “God is dead” and by that he meant the idea of God can no longer serve as the basis for all values. He replaced God with the concept of Ubermensch – a goal for humanity to set for itself. Ubermensch serves to provide the value in one’s life – how? we shall read more of it.

Before I end this post, I want to say that Nietzsche was very critical about the idea for the search of the ultimate truth – the objective truth. In his book “Beyond Good and Evil”, he criticized past philosophers for perpetuating the dogma of finding truth as something out of this world. He was so against this idea, that he even went to criticize science  in the context that it does not really help in making us humans feel exceptional about ourselves – after all the more we find about the world around us, the more insignificant and tiny we feel in relation to the rest of the universe.

Nietzsche’s this viewpoint is what makes me read more and more. In essence, it says there is no point in knowing the ultimate truth. Instead of  asking why you exist, you should ask, now that I exist, what can I do with my life? What value can I provide to me and people around me.   This is the first step towards becoming the Ubermensch. When one is able to grasp this, the idea of meaningful life without the need of religion and God becomes apparent.

…to be continued.

PS: I am writing this series as I myself progress through reading and re-reading and understanding and un-understanding this philosophy. I can’t say now how frequently I will update, but I am sure I will keep thinking about these ideas until my brain ceases to function. Also, please don’t think one post or even one blog will do a justice to the concept of existentialism. Nietzsche is just one of the many philosophers and sometimes regarded as an existentialist-before-his-time.   There is lots to read about – Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus among the major existentialists.

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