I was thinking about Existentialism and Absurdism yesterday, and decided that it was a good day to shave my head. Perhaps I should back up a bit...
Granted, I think about Existentialism every day, but I was specifically considering the notion l'existence précède l'essence. Translated, means existence precedes essence.
In many philosophical views, the essence of something is more important than its existence; that it is a thing does not matter as much as its nature. Existentialism on the other hand argues that human consciousness is what gives our lives meaning, as we must create a life of value, form our own identity, and have the free will to do so. By creating our own existence through our beliefs and actions, we thus make our existence more significant than our essence.
Many Existentialists, such as Albert Camus, were atheists. Yet I've found that Existentialism can be an integral part of a religious life, especially a Judeo-Christian one, where the notion of free will is a core component of the faith. God does not compel belief, and in America, we are not mandated to practice a belief in God, but the dual components of religious free will and the First Amendment protection of religion, dovetail to create a space where the Christian Existentialist can thrive.
Jean-Paul Sartre's and Albert Camus' writings influenced me while I was earning my French minor in undergrad. Dr. Mickey Smith assigned works by both authors in French Literature class. It was actually a few years later, while reading Joseph Campbell, G.W.F. Hegel, Immanuel Kant, Frederick Nietzsche, and Jean-Jaque Rousseau in Dr. Ken Campbell's "Great Writings in History" class my first semester of grad school, that I was able to embrace the Hegelian dialectic and found myself reaching my own Existential conclusions. The hero's journey, the notion of the world spirit, Nihilism, the essence of man, and the idea of a maxim all made me an extraordinarily cynical optimist about life and the meaning of it.
We are all still bound by the human condition, and the laws of biology and physics still apply, but within these constraining forces, we are able to determine our own destiny. Sartre argued "we are condemned to be free." He also wisely noted that crappy situations are not the problems, but rather the feeling that one is unable to be anything but oppressed by it is when it becomes a problem. Basically, even when things suck, don't be a f*ucking victim.
One thing I can't control is that my hair is falling out. But before it all goes, I have the opportunity to sport a She-mullet, a Mr T Mullet, and a Mohawk, before sporting a USMC regulation hairdo.