Existentialism

One rainy afternoon, I had a conversation with a friend about the mysteries of outer space, and how the world is so much bigger than it ever seems.

It was an unusual, strange topic to be discussing, but it inspired me to write about existentialism. We hypothesized: ‘what if oxygen is poisonous and takes 80-100 years to kill us?’ and exclaimed: ‘we have no idea what we’ve forgotten!’. When one takes into account the dauntingly immense magnitude of this universe and compares that to the frighteningly small size of one human being, it isn’t hard to be faced with a minor existential crisis.

Existentialism, defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a philosophical movement…centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who [assumes] ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any knowledge of what is right or wrong,” obviously has an explanation that goes beyond one piece of writing. It talks about everything and nothing, emptiness and totality, psychology and astronomy…It covers a lot of topics, some of which involve space.

When you see a star in the night sky, you’re actually looking back in time at a star that’s countless light years old. According to a message that’s been circulating via social media, NASA intercepted a distress call from an alien civilization, one that’s exponentially superior to ours, from somewhere in the vicinity of the Andromeda galaxy. Unfortunately, it’s a hoax of epic proportions, but that does not deny the vastness of space. Scientists have proven, multiple times over, that it isn’t a small world after all.

The uncertainty and fear of the unfathomably large unknown leads to existential crises which make individuals feel hopeless and lost  not knowing the purpose of life but knowing that life is not endless. That fact can be terrifying to some people; yet, is being faced with an existential crisis an actual, legitimate crisis? Studies have shown that it can, in fact, be beneficial to the mind. You can either take it negatively, or you can be positive about it, by reminding yourself that your time on this planet is perpetually ticking. Don’t spend it by living up to others’ expectations, doing things that make you unhappy, or letting others’ opinions muffle your own voice.

It’s hard to believe that something like existentialism — something so intangible, ethereal, and initially difficult to understand — can have such an enormous impact. One human being may be but a mere speck on an overall diagram of this world, but if we change our perspectives, then we’ll start thinking instead about how we can make a little change in our infinitesimal corner of the universe.