The lecture/discussion on the idea of Existentialism held a significant place in my mind this weekend. I tried to play it off in class as if I haven’t thought about it much. I wouldn’t consider it troubling to me, rather it has reminded me of stuff that I learned this summer.
This summer I went to Ecuador for two weeks through a program called Global Glimpse. In the program, I and several other students from around Chicago were sent to Riobamba, Ecuador and were provided with glimpses into the lives of those who live there. Riobamba is a fairly large city in Ecuador, four hours outside of Quito.
One of my biggest takeaways from the trip was the understanding of the cultural differences between the United States and the locals of Riobamba. A common question in the United States is “what are you going to do when you grow up?” In Ecuador, you are born into what you are going to do. You live, you work, you provide, you eat, and you go on with life. There are those who do want to socially climb, but for the majority of Riobamba life is about just making the best out of what you have. Whereas in the US, we definitely give many systems the power that they run on: “success”, celebrity, etc…
When I came home, the biggest difference that I saw in myself was that I was significantly less worried about the systems of power that always seemed to be the “be all end all”: friends, college, success, sports….. Not that I didn’t care about these things or people, I just didn’t constantly worry about them. I was way more willing to take risks since I didn’t think about what others would think nearly as much as I had previously.
If you know me, I am a very, very, very methodical person. I like to take in all the information that I can gather before I ever make a decision. Ever since I came home from Ecuador, I have regressed back into that normalcy, especially since school started. Almost everything that I gained in Ecuador I have tossed out the window. This may be due to college apps, just always being around people, or the fact that it is hard to change a mindset that I have had all my life.
But the discussion we had on Friday threw all that I learned in Ecuador back into my face. Because of my experiences in Ecuador, I definitely agree with Existentialism far more than most of my peers.
However, there are still points of emphasis within Existentialism that I question. One being, I do not think that work is always a system of power. I have seen how work can give tremendous meaning to life. I met a man who owned a leather shoe factory, who only charges what is needed to break even. He could over price his product, and make a huge profit but that isn’t why he gets up and works in the morning.
Doing what you love is not giving power to a system, it gives power to you.
The system of work only gains power when people work in a field that they are not passionate about working in. If a person becomes a doctor for the money, then that would be giving power to the system.
Existentialism is going to continue to be on my mind even after this blog post, and I hope to exhibit what I find to be the best parts of it as well as question things that give me pause.