We sometimes mistakenly believe that we are granted some fortune of providence if we follow the lessons of our faith. Problems often arise when we start to ask why do we have to endure such misery when contrary circumstances admit themselves into our lives and show us that all is not peaceful in the realm of man’s governance. At times we shut down our inquiries into leading happy lives, and become shadows of ourselves when we disband our alignment with trusted values and become lost in the pursuit of false promises. A loss of meaning may become dominant in our thinking if we allow these elements to take our attentions away from the qualities that bind us as human beings.
We may become lost in following a path that takes us away from recognizing the beautiful gifts we often neglect or fail to see in our lives. Thus when we suffer from some condition that causes us discomfort, some disease that causes us pain, we will appreciate the times when our bodies did not have to suffer under such conditions. This is an awakening that may or may not come to us, but if it does, it is as if a new door of discovery has opened again to us.
When you open your world up and begin to see just what you have been missing, you will immediately appreciate the feeling of what you are experiencing because it was sorely needed. A healthy environment, in opposition to an unhealthy one is a prime example of how we benefit in many ways from such distinctions. Disallowing the simple things that you can appreciate is not unlike starving yourself of nutritional values that nurture the soul. We sometimes become intensely focused on our careers, or some other focal activity that distracts us from the essential nourishing elements in our lives, and the result is the failure to see the forest through the trees. If this distraction is not attended with the presence of a balanced perspective within our lives, than we risk loosing sight of other amazing features that qualify a life as being fulfilled.
The affirmation of receiving our sight back after having an outdated prescription updated, as we re-experience the world with much more clarity in our vision is a tale that comes in many forms. We have ignored these illusive features right in front of us because we are engaged in other aspects in our life, and therefore we lose appreciation of some of the more fundamental yet beautiful things in our everyday lives.
The scent of our loved ones hair, and skin, or the sound of our children’s laughter are a point of contention. When you stop enjoying these basic human experiences, you have descended into the lowest kind of existence. You have inadvertently turned yourself against important human functions that ties you to the rest of humanity. This sacrifice may turn your perceptions that will lead you to question your former beliefs.
Take the examples of thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche or John Paul Sartre. Nietzsche created much of his philosophy when he lived his formidable years slowly succumbing to general paralysis of the insane (GPI; tertiary cerebral syphilis). Influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, his claims were in direct contradiction to the values of the time. His ease in the world became clear when his philosophy projected himself outside of the world he was living in. One free of physical torment, and mental anguish.
Nietzsche’s enthusiasm for what he called “the transvaluation of all values” stemmed from his contempt for Christianity and the entirety of the moral system that flowed from it: indeed, “contempt of man”, as Nietzsche states near the end of The Antichrist. Nietzsche perceived the moral framework of Christian civilization to be oppressive: reproduction derided as sinful; life as a mere investment for the hollow promise of an illustrious afterlife; and death valued over life. The transvaluation of all values would mean the exaltation of life rather than the exaltation of suffering, and an acceptance of every instinct or lust as organic and therefore valid, and so beyond the scope of moral condemnation. What one desires would be merely what one desires, rather than either sinful or pious. What one desires would be the product of stimuli rather than the product of “will”.
With J.P. Sartre, we see another way of thinking by predicating meaning from existence. Much of his philosophy resulted from the influence of the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and his incarceration by the German army during his service in WWII before the French were liberated by the Allies.
Herbert Marcuse criticized Being and Nothingness (1943) by Jean-Paul Sartre for projecting anxiety and meaninglessness onto the nature of existence itself: “Insofar as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory”.
In Letter on Humanism, Heidegger criticized Sartre’s existentialism:
Existentialism says existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which, from Plato’s time on, has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it, he stays with metaphysics, in oblivion of the truth of Being.
Looking at the life works of such authors within their encapsulated “mindsets” has much to say about how they felt, and what they believed. So too is the average person’s philosophy when dealing with most topics that involve human emotion. We will find relevance in the arguments we subscribe to by relation of our influences, our logic, and our feelings. How that translates into how we live in the world will also be a challenge for us to undertake. A choice we must make either consciously or not. The dividends it yields in a life are contingent upon the philosophy that is exercised the most. Surely some things may not come to be in our expectation, but surely, some things just might be valued with proper perspectives and make life all that more enjoyable.