It feels odd to think that this will be the last blog post for class. As the class really begins to hit a stride with more people grasping the content and applying it to their life experiences and views, we end so abruptly, or anti-climactic, like a crescendo that never rises. It is a shame, however, when put in context to the magnitude of the subject matter, it is hard to imagine it ending any other way. Though it is a shame it must come to an end, that end is met with a content feeling as the experience was enjoyable.
There were two specific instances in class that were rather flattering and admittedly more eye opening than I really would have anticipated them to be. They both apply very much to the content of our final class as well, which I do feel brings that crescendo up an octave, though still not to a climax. At one point in class, while I was explaining how the language used between Sartre and Heidegger on being-with-others and being-for-others explained the content more explicitly than perhaps noticed, Thad stated that he “loves hearing me talk.” I wasn’t certain of the sincerity at first, as I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly. Then he made it clear that I heard him correctly and it was not facetious, but sincere. The second came at the end of class when I went to thank him for the experience and say goodbye, he said something I find both very flattering and rather humorous. He said “it was a pleasure to have you in class…… I’m not sure why you took the class as it seems like you already took the course before.” Now, before I tie this into our discussion of bad faith and being-for-others, I need to give a little back story of what brought me to the class.
I am an engineering major and received my associate degree in IT Networking Security, after switching my major from Music Business/Audio Engineering. I chose this course because I needed an upper level elective, and I needed a fun course I knew I would enjoy to offset the stress sure to come from the heavy load of coursework I placed on my shoulders this semester. I have discussed tragic experiences of my past in class, and to a large degree in my posts. I have also stated that it lead me to question many things about life at an incredibly earlier age than is typical. I was never explicit with what it was that I studied however. In regards to philosophy and existentialism, these were not the books I was researching. I spent most of my life reading religious doctrines such as the bible (Old/New Testament, ANKJ, NAB, etc), Masoretic Text (Torah, Tanakh, Nevi’im), Islam (Qur’an), Mormon (Standard Works), and the Book of the Dead (among a number of others). Aside from very dry religious doctrines, I also read many books on psychology, evolutionary sciences, social criticism, political criticism/studies, religious criticism (Sagan, Dawkins, etc), and religious propaganda (ala Kent Hovind). Who I am philosophically derives from my studies of these various books, years of religious discussions/arguments, reflection of the events of my life, conversations of the life of others, and an almost constant internal discussion of life and existence. Over time however, the discussions became more bothersome than interesting as the problem of one’s age became obnoxiously apparent. Others my age hadn't given the subject much thought and had a tendency to either show they had no interest to do so, or simply became instantly defensive the second a belief or view was questioned. Those older than myself either paid no mind to my interest as I was “too young to understand such a topic”, or fell into the same defensive nature as described. To find someone who had equal care for the subject matter became too time consuming when combined with working 2 jobs and narrowing the things in life I was passionate about so I could focus on something to essentially become my “career”, to use the word more loosely than the definition. Around this time, a lot of people began to question the topic more seriously, and wanted to talk of the subject more often. Being that I was still young, and most of the people around me also were, existentialism was constantly thrown into the topic forcibly (though not always) and described in a manner that seemed as though the authors were simply bloating concepts that seemed obvious and simple with overly complex language and guide maps of understanding in order to mask the lack of understanding of the concept they were preaching. Obviously, it caused me to shy away from existentialism entirely as I felt I was past debating the obvious from pseudo-intellectuals that cared more about others acknowledging their “unique” intellect and foresight in order to qualify their existence (the irony is not lost).
With all of this being said, I feel it is probably apparent to anyone who was interested in my points during class, has read my blog or who has had discussions with me, that I have a very Nietzschean point of view. So it should be no surprise who my introduction to existentialism was. While I did not study philosophy, it is almost impossible to study religion and not come across some amount of philosophical texts. Nietzsche was someone I noticed was quoted incredibly so, and his quotes seemed to have more applications than really possible; as those quoting had a tendency to be polar opposites and the words were clearly out of context, as the words seemed to resonate my own views regardless of how bastardized the context seemed to be, or clearly was. So, I decided I would read one of his books and see if I had been wrong about existentialism all along. When I was 27, 3 years ago, I read my first existentialist book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I absolutely loved it! It was filled with so many ideas and concepts that mirrored my own, only put in such a beautiful and eloquent prose that it remained an echo in my brain for months. I then realized that my notion of existentialism was incorrect, when applied to the authors. It was simply the people who truly didn’t grasp the intent and meaning of the authors that confused the content and worded it in a manner that made it very undesirable. From here, I studied a number of other mainstays in the proverbial existential must reads. With that said, I must add that it did not alter any of my views or beliefs, perhaps in regards to strengthening my views, however it did not have the impact on my life that so many other people tend to have when they really delve into the content, because I had gotten there on my own much earlier in life. I felt that I truly did understand the content. I never really had to re-read the material and struggle with it in order to get it. I felt that my history on the subject of existence was far removed from most other people, so my mentality was more on par with the authors than the audience (in most cases).
I fully understand how this may imply an egotistical context, however I can assure you that is not at all the reality. To any who have read my previous blogs, I hope it came through very clearly how much of my life I have dedicated to the subject of existence and meaning, and also how important the discussion is to me. As discussed in class during the topic of being-for-others, Thad beat me to the punch when he said that we all care about the judgment of others and in some manner live according to this. It seemed that more people than I expected did not agree with this. I am not among that group. Everyone in that room made the choice to go to college in order to get a degree so they can begin careers. Well, college is not required to learn a skill or trade. With the internet and incredible access to learning material, one could easily use their off time from work to master a skill or trade. However, we all chose to get a certificate that shows someone else that we are qualified to fill a position over someone else who does not have that certificate and also put ourselves in great debt in order to have the opportunity to outshine other people.
To conclude my history of self-studies and personal reflection with why these seemingly small compliments were actually extremely flattering and met with a very strong feeling of pride, I say be empathetic. To come to conclusions to concepts you figured out on your own by studying material that did not present the questions being discussed in the same context by dedicating much of your life to the subject matter. Then to have someone else who has also dedicated much of their life to the subject matter, loves the discussion as well, has a very deep knowledge of the works in question, and a Ph.D (as stated, that does matter to me, as it shows a passion), to view the amalgamation of my experiences, the choices I have made from them and the conclusions I have drawn from them in a manner he felt qualified the exchange of those compliments. That absolutely meant a lot to me, and most certainly added qualification to the light in which I view myself. Of course, this is also because through the semester, he provided his insight and views of the concepts very well and typically stated ideas that I felt were well thought out and I mostly agreed with. This earned a great respect of him philosophically and intellectually for me. Had I disagreed with him because I felt his thoughts were not thought out very well, perhaps just regurgitating the opinions of others, his compliments or grievances really would not have held any weight, as I would have felt no respect for him intellectually (not necessarily personally). As my judgment dictates what and who I apply value to in this life, so does the judgment from others upon me. My “self” is my responsibility, and even though others also shape my being, I am the person I am because of the perceptions I have allowed to define who I am from others, as well as from myself, and those all derive from the choices I have made within the confines of my attributes of birth.
I say thank you to Thad for structuring the class so well and creating a very open environment for the discussions. Thank you to everyone who regularly participated, and others that simply had interest and took in what they could. Hopefully you all enjoyed the experience as much as I did.