What is my purpose in life, and what am I doing here exactly? Jean Paul Sartre, pioneer of existentialism, which I happened to have studied at school, believed in the power of the human being to be and do exactly what he wanted to do, and overcome obstacles by the sheer potential of willpower. According to him, human beings were “condemned to be free”. One of his famous quotes Jamais nous n’avons ete plus libres que sous l’occupation allemande (We have never been freer than under Nazi occupation) is one of my favourites. From my understanding, he means that it is only in the face of adversity that the human being can truly exercise his freedom of will to overcome this adversity, experience the true potential of his choice to act on them, and achieve whatever he sets out to do. This is why I think some people get such a high from activism. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela were all pioneers of existentialism, they believed in something and set out to achieve their ideals. This is what I think epitomises Sartre’s quote.
So, what is my purpose in life, and what am I doing here exactly, and what for? Is it worth it? In earlier times, your craft was determined by birth: if you were royal born, you were born to rule, if you were born a forger’s son, you were born to forge. Then came education, which gradually opened access of practically all crafts to everybody. So how do you choose? Very few of us were born with natural talent, even fewer had the chance to have that talent manifest itself in an obvious way. For example, I am currently listening to Birdy on repeat. That 15 year old something girl was born to sing. Like was Adele. Shakira was born to dance. JK Rowling was born to create an imaginary world. Luc Besson and Spielberg were born to make movies. Steve Jobs was born to create sleek gadgets. I don’t know these people personally obviously, but it seems to me that they knew their calling, sensed it maybe, at an earlier stage, and just sort of followed their instincts. Fate? Luck? Existential freedom? Maybe all three.
So, what about the rest of us normal people? Maybe we love doing something but do not have enough faith in our abilities. Maybe we like the comfort of a secure and more conformist office job. Maybe we are just interested in too many things. Maybe there is no money in what we love doing or maybe we just need money to subsist in this complicated material world. Maybe we just need to strike the balance between making our parents happy, being accepted by society and respected by our peers and buy that shiny car that we always wanted. While at the same time trying our best to keep our sanity at work. And then for most of us we get married and have kids and now it’s just a question of working to pay bills and loans.
Jean Paul Sartre would never have accepted these pathetic excuses. I guess it’s a good thing that he is dead and buried then. He never married, had a funny left eye, and never looked happy, but still, was one of the greatest philosophers of his time. Indeed, what could be more inspiring and hopeful than the possibility of the infinite power of the human mind?…