The clarity that can be found through following the principles of existentialism allows people to find their way in the world around them as well as allowing them to find meaning in the life they’ve been given. It strips away the veil of positivity and removes the idea of fate, forcing people to face the world’s trials and create a personal destiny. Existentialism allows people to see how absolutely, fully alone they are, but in this solitude, control can be found. Each person is responsible for themselves and only themselves – this gives the chance to see an individual’s own light and follow it with intent instead of blindly following the word of a faceless God. With individual goals and hopes and without predetermined limitations to what a person’s meaning in life may be, any person can find their own clarity in life, their own direction.
Of course, there are ways to oppose this view: many people believe that existentialism is a depressing, atheist philosophy that leaves people without direction and meaning in life, asking “If our lives are meaningless, why bother living them?”. It’s a simple answer: life is not meaningless, it simply does not come with a predetermined meaning – each individual must find their own meaning in life, find what life means to them. Existentialism is only depressing if the individual is stagnant, without any attempt to find their own way – this is when a person may feel lost or abandoned in this philosophy. However, with an attempt to move forward in one’s own life, the feelings of abandonment will fade back into the exploration of one’s own self.
Without the vagueness that comes with the concept of “fate”, people are forced to face the world they live in, forced to live through the trials ahead of them, forced to create a personal destiny because life is nothing more than a series of choices that shape character. Existence amounts to possibilities from which one may choose and convey the choice they made. A human is not defined by anything other than themselves – all humans are beings of Da-sein, or “there-being”. A person is defined by the fact that they exist – if they did not exist, they would not be a person. This seen in Sartre’s first principle of existentialism: “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism”. (Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre, p15)
From there, there is also the argument that existentialism allows one to see that they are fully alone and truly in control of their own fate – no one else is in charge of their fate, and they are not in charge of anyone else’s fate. Further, no one can make another pick a certain option. Even if the choice is to violate an individual’s personal morals, or to be killed, there is still the choice. A person may choose to die and preserve his or her morals. It is in this way that every person is free to decide upon their own fate. There is no pre-decision, there is no “fate” that predetermines our path in life. Many may argue that God decides the fate of each person externally, that each person has a predetermined idea of the world and what’s right and wrong, good and evil. The key word in their argument is “externally” – if human existence is the creation of self and the liberation of self, then each person is his or her own God. Whether or not God exists is not the question: the question is whether or not you believe God is within yourself or external to yourself – and you are free to believe either. To believe that God is external to oneself is to create one’s own belief and is, in a way, one option an individual may pursue to free oneself. However, even when making this choice, a person is continuing to define their own life: the choice to believe in God leads to the choice to follow the word of God, and to pick and choose which word to follow, therefore creating a religion in and of themselves according to personal morals.
Take Christianity: the Bible is chock-full of do’s and don’ts that have been pre-approved by the Lord – but it is the individual’s choice to follow them. There are many “forgotten verses” of the Bible that most-all Christians do not follow, such as Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which reads: “18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
This passage of the Bible gives instruction for the parents of a stubborn son to have him stoned to death if he refuses to listen to the word of his parents. It is the choice not to follow this word that shows the creation of oneself and one’s own morals – and supports the existential belief. Human existence, when shown as a problem is seen as the ability to create oneself and be free from the expectations of a ‘higher power’ – one is one’s, own God.
Existentialism is opposed to any kind of maxim that views reality as something predetermined to be solved by the likes of man. Reality is not something created that humanity has to ‘figure out’, it’s a canvas with an sketch, but a cacophony of colours for each individual to chose from and illuminate their own sense and meaning from the painting, from life. Existence is made up of choices and possibilities presented to individuals – this is how they represent themselves in the world. One defines oneself by making choices, big or small – existence is based on relationships and extends beyond the individual in a way similar to that of transcendence.