Existentialism and the Meaning of Life

One of the things we all ask ourselves at one time or another is what the meaning of life is? Some might say it is loving and being loved. Others view the earth as a huge spiritual school in which we all learn and grow through experiences-good and bad. For those that believe in reincarnation, it is a stepping stone to growth so we may eventually not have to incarnate into the world again!


The key to discussing and viewing existential films is to examine nature of existence through a lens one may not experience personally, but views in a film, reads in a book or watches through the eyes of a friend.


Some of you know my friend Debi who has had existential crises through the illness of her granddaughter. Her view on life would decidedly be different than ours due to the magnitude of her granddaughters suffering and her resolve to pull her through 6 transplants at the age of 9.


Viktor Frankl’s work “Man;s Search for Meaning” is an example of an existential crisis, as evidenced by a mans suffering at the hands of the Nazi’s in a concentration camp, and his consequential resolve not to let himself be beaten by their treatment of him. Frankl explains that no one can take away our memories, even if they succeed in taking everything else from us.


Camus’s book “The Stranger” is an odd book for many to read as the protagonist is an absurdist. The first part of the book sets up the second part of the book, whereby people judge us forour character instead of the crimes we commit.


What is your existential moment? When did you question your place in the world and what your life meant?


Another wonderful book is “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Tolstoy. Although we know the protagonist will die, we see the process he goes through in order to come to terms with his life and what it means to him. Yes, these books are not particularly “cheerful”, but examining ones life is not necessarily a cheerful experience, and to neglect taking time to reflect on it, we lose out on extrapolating meaning that comes in suffering and do not always show gratitude for the good times.



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