Monday, August 20, 2007

Existential Evidentialism

I went to my stress echo test today. But they couldn't get a good picture because of my twisted organs, and there was fear I may be allergic to the IV stuff they use to highlight people's insides. So they canceled the procedure and unplugged me. I signed a form allowing them to retrieve my previous medical records so they could find out if I can tolerate the organ paint and went home. Perhaps we'll try again in the next week or so.


When I was in high school and college, I was strongly influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre's writings and considered myself an existentialist. I still do to some extent, but not nearly as much. One of the major questions of life, to me, was what the hell anything matters. Whether you're a Cambodian farmer or Michael Jordan, what's the point of your existence when everyone dies? After you're dead, really, what does it matter what you've done? The utter pointlessness of doing anything sunk in deep, and it may be influenced my own lack of accomplishment later in life.

But now that I'm older --- and this really is a recent development; I was swayed by the power of the ideas above well after college --- I think I have an answer. As I get a few health scares and I start to honestly contemplate my own mortality, I feel that there is a point to life. Yes, you will die, and your heirs will die, and the most anyone can hope for --- though it's granted to almost no one --- is to be a name in a history book.

But you'll know what you did. And that, it seems to me now, is the point. The point is to have accomplishments one can look back on. I'm not saying popularity is the key --- obviously, not everyone can have that. Indeed, popularity really is meaningless. I'm saying that living life is not a means to anything, but its own end. It doesn't matter if your poems were ever published, as long as you wrote them. It doesn't matter whether your face launched a thousand ships, as long as you were someone's fairest of them all. And so forth.

This isn't coming out as well as I had it in my head, so I'm going to stop groping for clarity. All I'm saying is that if you're lucky enough to lie on a deathbed knowing the end is near, you'll ruminate on your life. And that's when doing something will matter, and why it does. So do something.


The comic store guy gave me a free Ned Flanders figure, so I glued him on the dashboard of my car. Remember that song in Cool Hand Luke?

Well, I won't get in fender-benders
'Cause I've got me a Ned Flanders
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car.

Wearin' glasses, with green sweater,
Helps me make my driving better,

Take him with me when I travel far.

Goin' ninety all the way to Reno,
Protected by Ned Flander-eeno,
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car.

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