Sartre admitted in 1939 that he never experienced the existential nausea he wrote about. I feel cheated by this a little. I never really enjoyed Sartre as a person. I've read too much of Simone deBeauvoir's autobiographical material to respect Sartre. A combination of Camus, Kant and fucking Schopenhauer has put me in a very strange head space. I hate hate hate my dreams. Even when they are pleasant enough visually they terrify me. I was floating in the ocean and it was sunny and beautiful and despite this I continued to experience waves of panic, feeling that something foreign and larger than me and dangerous was about to brush against my legs. That's only one part of the sequence that involved lots of people I don't really want to dream about, but I do all the time. Schopenhauer is a very bleak and sad man. Everything is utterly meaningless and absurd and despite that we still possess 'will to life' that results in the fabrication of a 'bubble of illusion' - a fabricated excuse to keep our body moving, to justify reproduction. The only metaphysically respectful form of suicide (according to Schopenhaur) is starving-yourself-to-death because it involves a slow process of waning 'will to life' - when your body shuts down you enter a state of depersonalization where its possible to step outside of your body and detach from its petty concern to remain alive. No wonder I'm feeling groundless and sad. Camus is the same:
"At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia. For a second we cease to understand it because for centuries we have understood it in solely the images and designs that we had attributed to it beforehand, because henceforth we lack the power to make use of that artifice. The world evades us because it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes again what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us. Just as there are days when under the familiar face of a woman, we see as a stranger her we had loved months or years ago, perhaps we shall come even to desire what suddenly leaves us so alone."
This in particular bothers me a lot. The absurdity of seeing someone that I have touched in every way possible, that I spent hours in bed with - now as a stranger. I no longer know them and I never really did. "Knowing" people is familiarity and habituation; association. I want to shake people hard when I feel this way, scream at them, "what the fuck, this is a stupid game, I know you;" I want to sustain that illusion because it makes me feel less lonely. But instead I keep up the stupid vacuous exchange, I continue to let words spurt out of my mouth mechanically, mundane fucking shit. I can't even deal with it. The loss, but also the indifference. It's paralyzing. When I first read Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" (which you should read, by the way) I felt "fuck yeah, I get this" but then I felt, confused, that I can never really reach that state of indifference again. I feel irreparable sometimes, in certain areas. In my seminar yesterday my professor asked: "if, according to psychology, Schopenhauer's philosophizing is the result of a chemical imbalance or psychological disorder, does that devalue what he wrote?" I guess you could ask the same of most philosophers, who, for the most part, either killed themselves or went insane (except for dudes like Sartre who were apparently faking anyways). Of course I don't think so, I am still wary of 'diagnoses.' Maybe some psychiatrists (I doubt mine would, he's become aware of my sensitivity in this area and is generally a cool dude) would probably say, yes, everything you wrote over the past few weeks has been symptomatic of your various 'disorders.' How to reconcile my identity and creativity with this, I don't know. I'm supposed to ask myself a series of questions when I feel this fucked up. "Is anything really broken?" "if you are broken, do you need to pick up the pieces" "is it possible to relinquish the struggle" These questions make me feel nauseous and silly. They feel like stock psychology questions meant to manipulate a certain response out of me. But when it comes down to it: yes, I think most people are 'broken' and yes, I think most of us, including me, try to pick up the pieces, because who the fuck enjoys feeling untethered. Who the fuck wants to feel like damaged goods. As for relinquishing the struggle, I don't really know what the fuck that even means. I don't feel that I'm struggling, I just feel depressed. There is a word for this world-weariness in German that has an untranslatable connotation in English. Weltschmerz. World-pain. I think that this kind of angst probably sounds less trite in German. English words are so inadequate, they betray my meaning. I'm pretty good at life, though. There is no reason for me to feel waves of panic and literal nausea while sitting in groups of people talking about stupid shit. There is no reason for me to feel disgust at people's faces, people that I love or respect. I wish I could control these things. And when it comes down to it, I want to affirm life. I don't think everything is meaningless and absurd, or rather, I find it insanely liberating to feel untethered and disillusioned. According to Camus, thats when consciousness starts. I believe that. But I also believe that philosophy is really, really dangerous, and that its impossible not to swing between those extremes: elation and desperation in the face of absurdity. What I love about most of my professors is that they're all very good-natured, very chill and seemingly content people, despite having read so much depressing material. I admire this, and I want to be like this. I wish I could just snap my fingers and feel less terrified, less sad, less angry. My Dad always told me that happiness is something you can just choose. Simple, just give your problems to God, he used to say, completely serious. But that's not going to happen.


  1. You can't choose happiness. It's a gift.
    I agree that philosophy is dangerous. I took mushrooms once and had a really horrible trip, and a few choice philosophical concepts really destabilized me for some months afterwards due to it, and I still don't like to study them as much. However, there is still structure, agency, beauty, truth... all of them are part of the philosophy game too, even if they are constructs that deserve to be challenged as well.

  2. "if, according to psychology, Schopenhauer's philosophizing is the result of a chemical imbalance or psychological disorder, does that devalue what he wrote?"

    Well, it doesn't make him any less annoying or obnoxious, that's for sure.

    "I guess you could ask the same of most philosophers, who, for the most part, either killed themselves or went insane (except for dudes like Sartre who were apparently faking anyways)."

    ?? Most? Camus and Beauvoir didn't commit suicide or go mad. The former died in a horrible car accident, and the latter died of pneumonia in old age. What about Parmenides, Epicurus, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Kant, Hume, Berkeley, Locke, Paine and Hobbes, who died at the ridiculously old age of 91 in the 17th Century? Freud died of jaw cancer in 1939. He was a bit senile, but not insane. Bertrand Russell died two months to his 98th Birthday, as sharp-minded as can be expected of a man at that stage of the game. Schopenhauer didn't go koo-koo either. He was a bitter, mean-spirited, angry loser, who died at the age of 72, complaining of trouble breathing. Kierkegaard, however, didn't GO crazy...he was always nuts.

    Cheer up, babe. You've got the world on a string and you know it.

    It's funny you should mention a shroom trip, 1979. 4 years ago tomorrow, I had one on 1 gram of BC shrooms and some weed on an empty stomach that completely emancipated me from all my unwarranted religious guilt and perpetual fear of God and his Hell, finally understanding them as nothing but fear-tactics, and I was officially reborn. I saw so much about the mob and their resentment towards each other and the high-minded, not to mention so many other things. A month later I started studying philosophy, and I haven't looked back. In fact, the more I read and study it and psychology, the more my experience and revelations that day - are affirmed.

  3. Kierkegaard philosophized his way out of a potentially fulfilling relationship, though.

  4. Okay Rayme, well, A large amount then. :p Regardless of how they died, a lot of philosophers had tumultuous lives as a result of their intellectual inclinations. ie. Kierkegaard example, for one.
    It's not helpful to just say "cheer up" by the way. That's kind of the point of my post.
    All I'm saying is that philosophy is sometimes difficult, sometimes life-affirming. And generally more of the former.