Saturday, April 16, 2011


"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy."
~ Albert Camus, 1955, The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays, p. 3

"I would say that our patients never really despair because of any suffering in itself! Instead, their despair stems in each instance from a doubt as to whether suffering is meaningful. Man is ready and willing to shoulder any suffering as soon and as long as he can see a meaning in it."
~ Viktor Frankl, 1961, Logotherapy and the Challenge of Suffering,
In Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 1, p. 5

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The existentialists could really clear a room. Not exactly cheery bastards, you probably wouldn't invite most of them over for dinner. Okay, Camus I'd have over. And maybe Sartre. We could always have fun hiding his glasses. But Nietzsche? Forget it. He thought he was beyond good and evil and he'd stuff his pockets with your silverware. He'd never bring anything. The rules didn't apply to the Superman, after all, and the cranky old nutter would drink all your booze and probably rifle through your medicine cabinet for drugs. He could've used some drugs, actually--If only anti-depressants had been invented back then a huge swath of philosophy would have been wiped out. Same with the others. To hear them whining, you'd think abandoning the comforts of God in the face of chaos was something to complain about. Crybabies!

Then again, maybe the existentialists were just ahead of their time. Maybe we've finally caught up with them. Depression seems to be the order of the day. Look around. The world is in flames, war is raging, earthquakes and tsunamis rock our foundations, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Depression might be the appropriate response. We're all going to hell in a shrimpboat, so stop rearranging the deck chairs and get depressed!

Fooled you, didn't I? What's the matter, Bunky? Can't tough it out? Nobody said this would be easy and now you're moping around in a bathrobe and slippers like somebody just shot your dog. Buck up. Lots of people had it worse than you and they never said a word. They just grew ulcers. I'm not suggesting simple stoicism--which is basically the flipside of the self-involved coin. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go outside and smell the goddamn flowers. The best revenge against death--and isn't that the underlying fear of all fears, the root problem of all trivial problems?--the best revenge against death is living, really living. Don't fall for empty peptalk--that's not what I'm saying--but get out of your shell and connect with people, real people, and recognize that they, too, are experiencing such an onslaught. Connect! Regardless of what Nietzsche may have told you, you're nobody special. At the risk of seeming ridiculous, therein lies the key.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the cranky old soup-strainer stayed home a lot

If you're still filled with existential dread this rare expressionistic cartoon may cheer you up. That's the voice of Peter Lorre (from the Fritz Lang classic, "M") with music by Andy Prieboy, and of course the cartoon is Quickdraw McGraw. The whole mash-up was envisioned by Merril Markoe. Brilliant.

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