Category: Existentialism

You Are What You Eat

Fancy feast
Fancy feast

Ernest Becker, the quintessential optimist and sometimes life of the party had a thing about worms. It’s possible that he was also an avid fisherman or gardener, although there was no mention of that in his biography.

One of my favorite of his worm quotes is from a book he wrote that won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1974:

“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food?”

Reflecting on this has got me through many hours at the lake when the trout weren’t biting. But I think David Gerrold said the same thing in a better way: “Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.”

Food for thought.

The Existential Horse

The Existential Horse
The Existential Horse

So I’m out early this morning taking pictures and I pull up to this horse that seems to be deep in thought. I talk to him to try to get him to face the camera but he ignores me, so I took one of him thinking about whatever it is he’s thinking about.

Then he turns to me and says: “You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”

How did he know?

Did you see a white duck?

The Fog
The Fog

I was standing by the water thinking of nothing in particular when a guy pulls up and asks me if I saw a white duck. I said no, why? And he said: I’m looking for him. At that point I knew it would be just another ordinary day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The rest of the morning was spent in a fog, literally, only now my thoughts went from thinking of nothing to thinking of nothingness. I waited over an hour for the sun to come out and took a few photos of nothing.

I was about to leave with nothing when I thought of something Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in Being and Nothingness: “It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”

Note to self: don’t buy that book and think of complaining that it’s too hard to understand. My uncle warned me about that almost forty years ago.

A Stop at Willoughby

A Stop at Willoughby
A Stop at Willoughby

Willoughby? Maybe its wishful thinking nestled in a hidden part of a man’s mind, or maybe it’s the last stop in the vast design of things.

Or perhaps, for a man like Mr. Gart Williams, who climbed on a world that went by too fast, it’s a place around the bend where he could jump off. Willoughby? Whatever it is, it comes with sunlight and serenity, and is a part of The Twilight Zone.

Existentialism Anatidae

Existentialism Anatidae
Existentialism Anatidae

“A kind of joy came upon him, as if borne in on a summer breeze. He dimly recalled that he had been thinking of failure-as if it mattered. It seemed to him now that such thoughts were mean, unworthy of what his life had been.

There was a softness around him, and a languor crept upon his limbs. A sense of his own identity came upon him with a sudden force, and he felt the power of it. He was himself, and he knew what he had been.”

John Williams, Stoner

Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness
Being and Nothingness

Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre has been called the bible of existentialism. It’s a long, difficult book to read, and depending on who you ask, it’s either a work of pure genius, complete nonsense or both.

It might be worthwhile to look at some other things that Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in order to understand existentialism and his perspective in general.

For example, he said: “All I really want to do is go to the book store, drink coffee and read.” Back in his day book stores didn’t even have Wi-Fi, so you know he was serious.

Another thing that’s crucial to understanding the man and his philosophy is this: “I do not think therefore I am a mustache.” Well, obviously.

And possibly the most important thing he ever said is: “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”

This is especially true of most outdoor photography unless you plan to shoot wide open, convert to black and white, and call it something obscure like being and nothingness.