Existential Bummer?

“Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever”
-Ernest Becker.

So there’s a great essay written by Sigmund Freud called “On Transience.”

And in it, he cites a conversation that he had with the poet, Rilke, as they were walking along this beautiful garden. And at one point, Rilke looked like he was about to tear up. And Freud said, what’s wrong? It’s a beautiful day. There’s beautiful plants around us. This is magnificent. And then Rilke says, well, I can’t get over the fact that one day all of this is going to die.

All these trees, all these plants, all this life is going to decay. Everything dissolves in meaninglessness when you think about the fact that impermanence is a really real thing. Perhaps the greatest existential bummer of all is entropy.

And I was really struck by this, because perhaps that’s why, when we’re in love, we’re also kind of sad. There’s a sadness to the ecstasy. Beautiful things sometimes can make us a little sad. And it’s because what they hint at is the exception, a vision of something more, a vision of a hidden door, a rabbit hole to fall through, but a temporary one. And I think, ultimately, that is kind of the tragedy. That is why love simultaneously fills us with melancholy.

That’s why sometimes I feel nostalgic over something I haven’t lost yet, because I see its transience. And so how does one respond to this? Do we love harder? Do we squeeze tighter? Or do we embrace the Buddhist creed of no attachment? Do we pretend not to care that everything and everyone we know is going to be taken away from us? And I don’t know if I can accept that.

I think I more side with the Dylan Thomas quote that says, “I will not go quietly into that good night, but instead rage against the dying of the light”.

I think that we defy entropy and impermanence with our films and our poems. I think we hold onto each other a little harder and say, “I will not let go. I do not accept the ephemeral nature of this moment. I’m going to extend it forever. Or at least I’m going to try.”

I really enjoyed this video and how Jason Silva managed to discuss this idea of entropy and falling in love etc. Then I started thinking about it… Existential Bummer. The term somehow just doesn’t feel right to me. The term itself seems to contradict. Existence and existing is something wonderful and beautiful – how could it ever carry that baggage of disappointment/melancholy? Then it struck me. The world does not know of this “eternal life” invitation from God that everyone is actually invited to receive. People have nothing to live for but for this life. And I start seeing the secular nature of the term and how much it stems from so much hopelessness. That this is the only life they live and that all things are temporary…. there is nothing beyond. Nothing is constant. Everything is impermanent. That’s why people seek instant gratification and chase after temporary things… because they perhaps do not know of the greater treasures they could store in heaven that are eternal.

This video reminds me so much of how drastically different people’s worldviews can be. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. And sometimes I forget just how different my view of the world can be to another person. Sometimes I struggle to show empathy or compassion towards someone because I just don’t understand their perspective and worldview. And it just reminds me to be aware of how people around me would see the world so differently and thus their actions might be very different or might not seem like it makes sense…. empathy is everything. Only when we are able to put ourselves into someone’s shoes and see through their eyes will we understand them and know how to love them well. I would propose the counter-cultural term “Existential Hope” to the secular “Existential Bummer”. Existential Hope because we are expectant & assured of the great and far more beautiful things ahead. Knowing that this life is temporary but as are our sorrows and sufferings, and there will be no more tears in eternal life. There is so much hope in this eternal life with our Heavenly Father… I am so filled with excitement for the joy ahead. To me, this life is simply training grounds for the positions God would give us when we enter into the eternal. I definitely want to do this well!

Okay, that’s my thoughts for today. Whoever reads this, have a good week! ❤

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