‘Existentialism' is one of philosophy's favourite terms. What does it mean though? Existentialism refers to the thought of being able to make one's own life choices. How these life choices are affected by societal norms and laws is what existentialism focuses on. The two popular aspects of existentialism known are absurdity and nihilism. The philosophy of existentialism has seen various changes through the ages. Let's talk about what existentialism is today.
Let's start with talking about T.V. shows. Have you watched shows like ‘Rick and Morty' or ‘Bojack Horseman'? These are two world-famous animated T.V. shows aired on Netflix that are obsessed over by millennials. Why? Why are millennials so hooked on these shows? Well, one common factor we see in these shows is ‘Nihilism'. Now, what is nihilism you may wonder? Nihilism is the belief that life is meaningless. It has no purpose and no value to it. Why do millennials relate so much with nihilism? Let's take a better look into this.
What do you think is different in the world from what it was a century ago? A declining rate of religion, an increase in atheism, lost importance of culture, the absurd rise in crime rates, declining environment and atmosphere, the emotional void that youngsters now feel may just be a couple of reasons. Now all this sadness and despair would result in people questioning their life. Hence people often find themselves asking questions like ‘What is the meaning of life?' ‘Does our life even matter?' or ‘what is our purpose supposed to be?'. This increase in existential nihilism is what causes people of this generation to relate to such T.V shows. It somehow fills the existential void in them by reaffirming their already present negative views on the world and life in general.
We know how social media has very obviously taken over the world today. Hence It becomes another important factor in one's life to judge their existence. Some of us define ourselves by it. We confuse the virtual world to be our true reality and make it the focus of our existence. The problem occurs when we are not able to satisfy our social media needs, we often find ourselves in a place of ‘existential crisis', where we no longer are aware of what our life's purpose initially was.
We create rules to guide our behaviour so we can live peacefully with other people. But sometimes our lives press up against the rules, the rules seem arbitrary and confining. Sometimes we come to a place of conflict between our inner emotional reality and what society demands of us. This conflict often causes us to question life. Because at the end of the day what society made isn't some concrete proof of how life is supposed to be. It is one of those situations where the phrase ‘to each their own' fits well. With changing times and our changing thoughts of how we view the world or life, society also changes. We belong to a fairly more liberal world now where most people are given the right to live their life the way they seem fit and this makes sense, doesn't it? Why should anyone else have a say on someone's existence?
Evolution becomes another important aspect of existentialism. Without evolution taking place, without human beings having the ability to think or contemplate things, there would be no topic of existentialism. If we were given a defined purpose in life, we would also lose the ability to think creatively and improve life. It would limit our horizons and opportunities. With every passing second, the world is only more involved in finding out what the purpose of life is and that is the only thing keeping us going.
Hence, we can say that existentialism has redefined itself in today's world. From being nihilistic to constantly trying to find a purpose in life we have evolutionized with time and only for the better. What the true purpose of life is we will never really find out but we can constantly try to explore a different aspect of it. So next time someone around you or you have a question like ‘what is life?'.Don't worry. It is whatever you want it to be.
By – Arindam Thapliyal