Friday, 7 November 2014

Thoughts on the ‘Existence Precedes Essence’ Philosophy

I was sitting in class, minding my own business, daydreaming, when something my teacher said compelled my ears to perk up and listen intently. He digressed in a bit of a tangent and delved into an extremely fascinating topic. I’ve never studied or even willingly researched philosophical matters but it seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

Let’s start with a bit of background so that I don’t confuse you. The first prominent existentialist philosopher was called Jean-Paul Sartre and he stated:

‘Existence Precedes Essence’

In simpler terms this means that our existence overpowers the hopes and dreams we may originally have planned for us as miniscule particles of dust.

Take a rose for example. The essence inside the seed determines what it will become. It contains the essence of a rose therefore it will become a rose. Nothing can change it because it is its destiny. However Sartre believed that this is in fact the complete opposite for humans. We are all born the same, we arrive alone, naked and helpless. Yet the beauty of humanity is that we can break free from that and decide for ourselves which path to take. We can create our own identities through the clothes we wear, the music we listen to and our mannerisms.

Source: here

Our lives and how we choose to live them are in our very own hands. Perhaps a rose has its fate set out for it like a strict manual but we don’t. Us as human beings are conscious, independent and individual. Essence in other words are the labels and preconceived categories that society so easily defines us with.

What’s so beautiful about this concept is that the ball is in our court. If you wish to be a vegetarian you can, if being a dancer is what you desire to be then no one is stopping you. We can develop our own persona, our own values and live by them. I strongly believe that the omnipotent God has a plan for us but I also believe life is a huge demanding test. How we choose to answer the difficult questions and pass it with high grades is up to us.

So as I sit in class and my teacher continues with the lesson I realise the incredible power I possess. I hope that ten years from now I retrospect my many tiresome years of education and know that I’ve learnt at least one meaningful thing.

I, a microscopic seed in a field full of roses, refuse to remain a mere essence in a universe filled with infinite opportunities to become the epitome of existence.

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