IRL actions/takeaways: read the damn blog—it’s not that long—and to be fair, existential thinkers were the original leaders of the IRL revolution.
I’m an existentialist.
I didn’t realize that until recently, but I am—kind of an awesome realization I had recently as a result of teaching senior English this year.
One of the books I chose is The Stranger by Albert Camus, a famous French existentialist, and as one would expect, I’ve been teaching my students about existentialism: what it is, what it means, and what it looks like.
Anyway, long story short, after watching a Crash Course video about existentialism, several of my students and I had an epiphany:
“I’m an existentialist,” we all seemed to say at the same time.
So what do existentialists believe?
1) We exist first and find our purpose second.
This seems rather self evident to me as it’s clear many people do not have a clear purpose and never will—they merely exist, satisfying their animal needs as they arise.
2) That life and existence, if we step back and look carefully, is truly bizarre.
Consider the whole phenomenon of SOD (swipe/online dating), which I’d argue is now the default for how people are expected to find romantic partners.
But in actuality it’s pretty weird and gross and inhumane.
Think about what we’re telling people about love today:
- Choose a romantic/life partner based on six to ten staged and likely airbrushed photos and a bio that ranges from non-existent to 500 characters, swiping through hundreds if not thousands of profiles on your phone, likely alone while ignoring the Netflix series playing in the background.
- Moreover, stage photos in your life, using photo shop and filters—potentially even hiring a professional photographer—to present your most attractive self because tens of thousands of people are going to judge 99% of your value as a human being purely on your appearance.
- Additionally, these photos should present you living your best life, because as we know on social media, nothing bad happens and everyone’s always eating good food and smiling and going on vacation.
- These pictures should represent who you truly are: someone who has fun all the time and never takes themselves seriously or has problems or experiences doubt, because that’s super lame.
- On the flip side, don’t post photos of yourself doing anything that could be viewed as even marginally objectionable, including something as ubiquitous as going fishing.
Seriously, we’re choosing people for romantic partners like it’s a slave auction—only it’s virtual—and we accept that as normal. Like, I’m the radical departure from reality–the outlier–the guy who talks to women he finds attractive IRL when he goes to a coffee shop or a bar.
Truly, truly bizarre.
3) Most rules, laws, and social expectations are arbitrary/meaningless and for that reason potentially harmful.
Consider two ideals we adhere to despite their utter lack of value: chastity and monogamy.
Of what value is chastity in the age of contraception unless you’re an extremist patriarchal, conservative Christian or Muslim? Seriously ladies, do you really want me to ask you how many men you’ve been with—and would you be honest if I did?
(Don’t worry I never do–it’s none of my business and I don’t care anyway)
So if that’s the case then of what value is chastity when we can use contraceptives to prevent STIs and pregnancy? None, and yet we take for granted that it’s virtuous to abstain from sex.
Likewise, of what value is monogamy?
In bygone eras it had value as man and woman relied on each other to perform duties the other could not; remember, not so long ago survival was regularly in question and in the patriarchal societies that formed—particularly in regard to the Judeo-Christian West—marriage was both necessary and expected.
Today, however, marriage doesn’t confer any substantial benefits to one’s life that cannot be enjoyed outside marriage except for those the state arbitrarily assigns (ex. a break on taxes), and yet it’s a terrible risk, given that if it fails it can result in financial ruin and even the possibility—particularly if you’re a man—that your own children will be taken away from you for the vast majority of their young lives.
Additionally, monogamy is not and has never been the natural state of human sexuality; polygamy is, and we see evidence of this throughout our past. It’s a biological fact that while somewhere around 80% of women who grew to sexual maturity have historically passed on their genes, only around 40% of men did so, a statistic only made possible if some men mated with substantially more women than others.
Understand: I’m not saying people shouldn’t get married or practice chastity if they want to; I’m just saying it’s arbitrary to do so and neither has any real value. In fact, I’d argue marriage is an extremely risky venture—especially for men—and that anyone practicing chastity in the era of contraceptives is forgoing one of life’s great pleasures for literally zero benefit.
But I digress…
4) In a natural state, we are free.
Obviously, because of societal and governmental rules, in some cases we are not free—but the vast majority of those rules are arbitrarily created and maintained. In any case, most of us in the Western World enjoy a huge degree of freedom and we shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Part of that, however, means that we stop adhering to arbitrary social norms or expectations when they limit our freedom.
5) The universe is indifferent to human joy/suffering.
No one is coming to save us, there is no karmic justice or guarantee things will work out, and life can be terribly unfair. Sorry, but that’s just the truth–although in some ways I find this extremely comforting. It means that if I want something in life, it’s up to me to figure out how to get it, because I know no one is going to give it to me for free.
6) Thinking is meaningless unless it results in action.
This is why I’m so focused on doing stuff IRL. Living a virtual life and spinning our wheels on the internet might feel good, but it almost never results in anything of real value.
7) Reason by itself is insufficient; life requires participation, direct action, and passion.
Again, why ChuckingRocks is leading the IRL revolution.
So yeah… I’m an existentialist.