Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Existentialism is Wasted on the Youth

You know, existentialism is wasted on the youth. I don't mean the Jean-Paul Sartre variety. They dig that. And, oh well, yes, they find Nietzsche to be pretty hip too. But, the general gist of existentialism.

Take this passage from Albert Camus, wherein he describes one's confrontation with the absurd:

It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Mondy Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm--this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the 'why' arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement.

I read this passage to my Intro students and asked them if they have ever found themselves reflecting on the seeming drudgery of their days. Why attend Gettysburg? Why study Biology? Why go to Dental School? I thought, at this time in the semester, they must be confronting the absurd. Now, of course, before asking them this question, I took away their crutch. "Don't tell me that you are using the talents God gave you and following along in his plan. How do you know what his plan is? He never speaks . . . he is like a lover you pine for and yet never get your love returned, ever." (I tell ya, I was working hard to get them into the last two weeks).

But, alas, the students gave perfectly lovely answers to how to make meaning out of their seemingly meaningless lives. They talked about tending to relationships, caring for others, loving . . . Damn them! Not enough alienation in them.

Well, I recommended to one of my students that he not sell back the textbook so that he has something to read when his midlife crisis hits him. Do you think I am projecting?