Existentialism, I maintain, is a dangerous philosophy for the lazy mind. The most vocal of its proponents cannot deny that it has a definitive nihilistic overtones in the beginning and only with a complete understanding can that ‘beginner’s hangover’ be overcome.
One must take care to distinguish between ‘existential angst’ and this ‘beginner’s hangover’ that I am talking about. Angst is neither positive nor negative. It just is. Angst is being painfully aware of one’s own existence together with its limitations. On the contrary, this beginner’s hangover that I am talking about is a completely negative idea that clouds a mind which has been able to only partially comprehend the philosophy of existentialism. Anyone who lives by or around the existentialist life has gone through angst at some point or another, that’s a pre-requisite. However, beginner’s hangover is not everyone’s bad luck but is present quite often.
Existentialist’s job is to strip human condition naked. It is only after the realisation and acceptance of human limitations and its inherent tragedies that an existentialist can move on. Like they say, destruction of traditions is sometimes essential to building new values. It is at this point that the beginner’s hangover starts. Anyone who is convinced by the underlying existential values is first convinced about all the failings and limitations of the human condition. The truth of the tragedy of human condition establishes itself as undeniable by its repetition in the real world. To a mind that has been made aware of this condition I as naked a manner as existentialism does, the real world manifests the tragedy too often and too painfully. That’s when a young or half cooked existential understanding breeds the ‘beginner’s hangover’ where all the tragedies of life become too evident to let any life affirming value close to it.
However, if one moves past this initial dilemma, and studies the existentialists theories beyond their exposition of the human condition one can see a clear ray of light that makes life worth living. I term that ray of light as ‘passion as value’. I have seen that light at the end of Nausea , at the end of The Myth of Sisyphus, and hidden here and there at a lot other existential texts and literature. I have been through the Beginner’s Hangover and have finally moved beyond it. Believe me when I say that all the trouble is worth crossing over to this side of understanding. This post is a reassurance and a pat to those who are facing the existential beginner’s hangover – put a little more effort and you will be on this side. Going back is not an option because you are too aware of the human condition now, therefore keep moving – you have nothing to lose.