Life is a drama in acts you write,
But you cannot live and blurt it.
Life is a drama in acts you write,
But you cannot live and blurt it.
If you save the lives at sea,
Then will you lend a hand
To those in need of thee,
Drifting in tears hither on land?
Lord Byron famously professed his taste of fame thus: “i awoke one morning and found myself famous.” Well, not exactly famous, but my new day after a long Thanksgiving holiday weekend began with such a delightful pleasure of likes cast upon by Dr. Suglia, a profound scholar of literature and philosophy and a sui generis writer par excellence, for my posts on my blog! I am so elated by his appreciation of my humble work! Thank you very much!
“Hey Ed! What are you up to this Sunday? Aren’t you going to a regular Sunday morning Mass with your wife and daughter?” Ralph asked his ever affable chum who stopped by his fruit stand early on the morning of an ordinary but blissful Sunday. Non-conformist he may be, Randy is a deeply faithful man who believes in the existence of God and prays for his divine guidance in his heart, never proselytizing his belief and forcing it on others. He is like Henry David Thoreau, who never went to church in his lifetime but practiced Christianity in everyday life by appreciating the beauty of nature and the love of humanity in its pristine essence in his poetic sensibilities. Ralph is proud of being a bohemian poet/fruit vendor as a confirmed bachelor, who has disembarrassed himself from the burdens of attending martial responsibilities and duties. That being said, seeing his married friend Ed Beaver gives him an associated feelings of sympathy and curiosity, of confinement and comfort, all packaged in the Pandora’s Box of Conjugal Life.
“Hey, Ralph. Well, I am coming from the church after dropping them off there. I would rather bask myself in the Sunday morning sunshine than sit on the dreadful pew and suffer an hour or so by enduring the fidgeting and disquieting of the little ones who have not reached the intelligent age of learning the Catechism preparatory to their First Communion. These kids… are recalcitrant urchins! Moreover, the parents are complacent about teaching their children how to behave properly in church! That would be no point of hearing a Mass amid the shambolic commotion! That would be a sacrilegious irreverence!” Upon decanting his subdued disaffection toward the uncivil, Ed felt his mind was taken off the anxiety and anger. It’s always so reassuring to talk to Ralph, who’s at once a good listener and reliable friend, thought Ed, who continued: “By the way, do you know Andrew Redfox just opened his mobile hotdog shop? He started it a couple of weeks ago on Grand Avenue, and it got quite successful! The newspaper covered a favorable article about his business a week ago, and people have been talking about his hotdogs and waffles, all handmaid by his wife Monica. Did you try any of the food?”
Ralph heard about the news but did not venture to try the proverbial hotdog or waffle yet because although Ralph was a benign character well balanced with intelligence and humor, he’s quite lazy, succumbed to the habitual routine of staying put in one place, which is his fruit stand. Ant yet, as a self-professed bon vivant, Ralph’s spirit was willing to fly over to Andrew’s hotdog van and have a bite on it, for a hotdog is one of his favorite food in the world. “Yes, I knew Andy’s new hotdog business. Do you want to go there later today? I am planning to wrap it up at 4:00 PM today. Hope Andy’s open today.” “That sounds great, Ralph! Yes, Andy is on the counter today because Andy said he would need to reach his projected profit by the end of this year to pay off his overdue rent fees. You know Andy had been out of job for eight months, and his unemployment benefit was on the brink of being exhausted when his daughter Julie had also lost her job… So this is his big breakthrough in his drifted life, I presume.”
Hence, both Ed and Ralph went to Andy’s hotdog van and saw it was a success by a glance at a long line of customers to buy hotdogs or waffles, all handmaid at home by his wife Monica according to her honest-to-goodness family recipes passed down from her Belgian maternal great-grandmother. The men were happy to see their friend starting anew once again from the bottom of his existential dilemma beset by economic deprivations and hoped that this new fortunate chance to right the ship of his reinstated life accompanied by his family would sail through. After all, helping a friend in need is what good friends can do because friendship can double the joy and cut the grief in halves. Isn’t that what friends are for?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jean Paul Sartre was something of a celebrity in the European Intelligentsia in the Swinging Sixties; despite his rather homely exterior equipped with a pair of thick horn-rimmed spectacles covering the squint eyes, Sartre was brought into celebratory limelight with a panoply of illustrious epithets- L’Enfant Terrible of the European intelligentsia, a precursor of modern existentialism, and husband of Simone de Beauvoir, a trailblazer of modern feminism – The truth of the matter is that Sartre loved the attentions bestowed upon him. In fact, he thrived on it. On a question of fame relating to his celebratory statue as an intellectual, Sartre answered with forthrightness: “Fame is good, even at forty or fifty is desirable; there is happiness, an intense enjoyment, in pushing one’s way into the spotlight like this.” It is this unusual, feisty frankness in conjunction with his audacious existentialism vis-a-vis Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotheraphy that inspired me to find out more about the man’s school of thought in this book written by Sartre himself.
This light volume of essay collection draws on Sartre’s exceptional knowledge of the arts and the creators and yokes it to the tenets of existentialism, which means that the reader should have at least rudimentary knowledge about existentialism. The substratum of existentialism is the experience, the action taken by himself, which constitutes a man’s identity in the world. This might sound materialistic and even bathetic at first blush. However, do we not tend to judge our own self or other people based upon the manifested achievements or deeds, regardless of the character, personality, and/or other planes of circumstances pushing the doer into such actions? With every one of our actions, we particularize our self, thus creating a ‘self’. It is this realization of the abstract self existing as an abstract essence that results in the following dictum: Experience precedes our essence, establishing our own self identity in society.
In terms of existential analysis of a meaning of life or a sense of purpose in life, our actions becoming our experience make us responsible for our own lives, including our missteps and achievements. In other words, this explication of existence shows us how we look and what we are like as the touchstone of our existential selves in everyday life, as the Russian writer Anton Chekhov once said: “”Man will become better when you show him what he is like.” In this regard, existentialism coincides with Logotheraphy, which identifies a meaning of life, freedom of will, and will to meaning with fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks, to achieve ego qua meaningfulness.
In sum, Sartre’s existentialism strikes the zeitgeist of our time convoluted with reality shows, fake news, selfies, social media approbation, and grand collapsed narratives in which we often find ourselves uprooted in the midst of inflated self-aggrandization, however overtly and incorrectly exalted. Sartre tells us: “Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself in the midst of his infinite possibilities without help.” That is, the purpose of our life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost by actualizing our purposes amid our daily lives, for we are what we do and create our own reality of the world by acting out our ideation. This book will be a good primer on more in-depth world of Sartre’s existentialism with his no-nonsense perspectives on the nature of humanity and proverbial touchy-feely approaches to the real world and a man’s place as a human being therein, all marked in his literary craftsmanship that is all the more enjoyable to the reader.