Existentialism and the Dolan Twins New Video

Social Media is a large part people’s daily lives, in this day and age. It has its positives and negatives as everything does but it also has a connection to existentialism, especially for influencers and people the heavily rely on it. Recently the dolan twins uploaded a video basically saying that they are taking a break from youtube to focus on their lives more and not be pressured to keep up the uploading schedule they were on.

Many influencers have a obligation to upload or post something every day or weekly, to keep interest peaked and continue to gain fame. Some youtubers and social media stars have recently come out and talked about the pressure of social media, which has always been a topic that comes up. Social Media has consumed people’s lives to a point where they only think about how many follows or when the have to upload a video next. The Dolan Twins and Shane Dawson have both talked about how uploading took over their lives and they were never able to truly grow up or do anything else. Their life was consumed and they found meaning in their life by uploading and filming.

Existentialism fits into this because the Dolan Twins found that the purpose of their life for the last 5 years was uploading and posting. They now have no idea what to do. They were controlled by the social structures to believe that uploading was the most important thing in the world. When in all reality it was not and they have reached the point where they realize that and have “broken free”. The Dolan Twins have become unburdened and have taken charge of their lives.

Guilty as Murderer, Convicted as an Existentialist

Throughout The Stranger, Meursault is attacked by society for not valuing family, love, kindness, religion, and friendship as highly as they think he should. Whether it was the death of his mother, his relationship with Marie, or his opinion of neighbors, Meursault’s indifference was, as best, met with scrutiny from the other characters and often from the reader.

This is taken to the extreme when he is on trial. He admits to having killed the arab, but this isn’t enough to sentence him to death. The Prosecutor consistently focuses the jury on Meursault’s reaction to the death of his mother rather than the murder he committed and is on trial for. The death of a close family member is supposed to be something that is important to people and there is an expectation of what the right way to react is.

The court is disturbed by his apparent lack of interest and more ready to find him guilty of murder. As he writes on page 92, it was “a crime made worse than sordid by the fact that they were dealing with an monster, a man without morals.” The murder itself is not what sentenced him to die, but his personal beliefs. Raymond, the only witness who had insight into to the actual murder, was only brought up to establish Meursault’s connection with an unsavory character in an attempt to further establish his character.

In some ways, the trial scene seemed to be a literal representation of the feelings that someone with existentialist beliefs would face everyday in society. People like Meursault make them uncomfortable because they don’t understand his perspective.

Parallels Between “The Stranger” and “No Exit”

For the past week or so, I have had discussions about existentialism for two periods each day. In my AP French class, we just finished reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. No Exit is play about three deceased characters who are punished for their actions on Earth by being locked in a room together for eternity. The three characters become entangled in a love triangle and each create a personal Hell for the two others. While reading the play, I struggled to connect it to Camus’ The Stranger and the existentialist discussions we had in class. I was not sure how the play’s underlying theme- “L’enfer, c’est les autres” or “Hell is other people”- is applicable to the argument that the meaning of life is life itself. I could not comprehend how these two seemingly unrelated ideas were derived from the same philosophy.

After speaking with my French teacher about some of these thoughts, I now understand that Hell is other people because what we fear most and loathe most is the judgement of others. The idea is not that other people are hell because they can be annoying or rude; the idea is that other people are hell because of how they make us feel about ourselves. Existentialism is being free from social constructs and the judgement of others that reinforces those constructs. In No Exit, the characters’ damnation is an eternity of seeking approval from others and never receiving it. Other people cannot provide your life with meaning. I think that meaning is something you have to define for yourself.

Although I agree with existentialism to some extent, I have had quite a hard time practicing the philosophy. I have found that the most significant deterrent that is preventing me from embracing existentialism is in fact my fear of being judged by others. I think that I have internalized too many social constructs to be a true existentialist, but I am open to becoming more self aware like Camus’ Meursault or Sartre’s Ines.

Existentialism in 500 Days of Summer *some spoilers*

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500 Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies, so I was happy to find an existentialist perspective in it. In Mr. Heidkamp’s lecture, he asked us to forsake all of the constructs of life, and just to embrace the absurdities of life. And I think 500 Days of Summer addresses this in a few different ways.

At the beginning of the movie, Tom is immediately established as a hopeless romantic. Working at a Hallmark-esque company, he is praised as one of their best employees. He dreams of the day that he will meet his perfect soulmate. One day, Summer gets hired at the company, and he immediately identifies her as his soulmate. By doing this, he falls into one of the binding constructs of society: love.

Summer makes clear from the beginning that she thinks true love is bs, and is looking for nothing more than something casual (sounds a bit like Meursault). Many see Summer as a stuck up jerk. But many viewers fail to realize that Tom isn’t in love with Summer, he’s in love with the idea of being in love. With the construct of love. As they get closer and closer, and Summer began sharing her more intimate secrets with him He saw these intimate moments more as accomplishments and milestones in what he thought true love was, rather than actually becoming more and more fond of Summer. He starts out the movie with his own idea of what love is based on movies, TV shows etcetera, showing how the “love as a social construct” plays into the movie and to its commentary on existentialism as a whole.

Where 500 Days of Summer gets the most existential is near the end where–spoiler alert– Summer breaks Tom’s heart. Tom becomes very depressed; not eating, drinking excessively, and underperforming at his job. Finally, he snaps and quits his job, which seems to him to be too ironic for someone falling out of love, to become what he had always dreamed to be: an architect. He spends time developing his portfolio and improving himself. When he goes to the interview, he is waiting with another woman named Autumn. Unlike when he asked Summer out, he does not build himself up, he does not declare Autumn his soulmate. He just spontaneously asks her out.

The essence of the message of existentialism in the movie is in how Tom has broken out of what he thought of love to be, the constructs that society built for him. That one person is meant for another. That there are destinies. Once he breaks out of this construct, he is able to embrace the absurdities of life, such as spontaneously changing careers, or spontaneously asking Autumn out. Through his relationship with Summer, Tom was forced to change his perspective on what society told him what love meant. By embracing absurdities rather than confining himself to constructs, such as love, Tom was set free.

 

Existentialism: Every man is an Island

Existentialism is profoundly individualistic, and I think that is part of the appeal to some people, but I think that intense focus on the individual is what makes the existentialist world view so sad.

The image of the lone hero standing in a sea of absurdity may have romantic appeal, but it isn’t real. The world isn’t absurd. There is order. Natural laws are followed, even if we don’t fully understand them, and the universe keeps spinning.

Image result for first photo of universe
The Andromeda nebula, photographed at the Yerkes Observatory around 1900

Does that mean life is fair? No. I don’t think that those natural laws care much about fairness but it does mean that we are part of something far bigger than ourselves.

Is that the meaning of life? Probably not. To be honest, I don’t have a clue what the meaning of life is, and I think that is ok. But I do know that even if every man is an island, underneath the waves we are all connected. 

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

John Donne, 1624

The Dangers of Existentialism

The Stranger, written in 1942 by Albert Camus, portrays existentialism as dangerous and unproductive through the protagonist, Meursault, who is a caricature of existentialism. Throughout the story, Camus reveals that Meursault is apathetic to most if not all people he encounters. This indifference to the world leads him into murdering a nameless Arab in cold blood. After being sentenced to death by guillotine, Meursault comes to terms with his death and accepts it while finally understanding the “gentle indifference of the world”.

At this point, the reader may feel that Meursault’s existentialist or possibly nihilistic views allow him to live his final hours in happiness. And although that may be the case, the reader has to pause and remember why Meursault is facing his execution; Meursault’s own nihilistic views resulted in him murdering a person due to realizing that he “could either shoot or not shoot”, and that it did not matter. Meursault himself does not know why he shot the man, which hints at his lack of self analysis. At this point, Camus is demonstrating the most exaggerated form of existentialism, which is nihilism, along with the most extreme situation possible, murder, practically telling the reader that existentialism leads to nihilism which destroys any morality in a person, which eventually results in him commiting murder.

In the second part of the book, Camus describes in detail Meursault’s existentialist views allow him to come to terms with both his incarceration as well as his execution. Meursault asserts in his head that he “was always right”, and clearly shows that he has no remorse for his actions. Unable to come to terms with his mistakes, Meursault has deluded himself into happiness as well as a sense of victory over society. In the second to last sentence of the book, Camus reminds the reader that Meursault was happy before his incarceration, revealing that Meursault does not need existentialism in order to feel happy, implying that his existentialism only led him to sadness and suffering even though he himself cannot realize it.

Is Absurdism Inherently Atheist?

All human beings seem to desire meaning and purpose in their lives. Religion may be the most popular source of meaning for people; believing in God, an afterlife, or just an overall higher power makes life meaningful for many people. 

According to absurdism, religion is constructed by society in order to give meaning to a purposeless existence. Acceptance of religion would mean that humans effectively escape death in a sense because of the hopefulness/reliance on the idea of afterlife.  Absurdists think this is a self-destructive belief, because only the realization and acceptance of impending death allow humans to live life fully. 

In Camus’ The Stranger, Meursault often states his denial of God and the possibility of an afterlife. He directly accuses the chaplain of “living like a dead man” (120). Meursault refuses religion even before his own death, stating that he had little time left and refused to “waste it on God” (120). 

The chaplain expresses confusion at Meursault’s seeming lack of care for his own situation, but Meursault is unwavering in his beliefs. He does not attempt to explain his position to the chaplain to the fullest extent possible, merely answering the questions that are asked of him, and later getting annoyed at the amount of questions being asked. He believes that there is no life after death, and the fact that there is no life after death does not concern him.

Additionally, Camus is often described as an absurdist philosopher, believing that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence while also continuing to explore and search for meaning, for many, this meaning is religion. 

Camus suggests that while absurdity does not lead to belief in God, neither does it lead to the denial of God. Camus notes, “I did not say ‘excludes God’, which would still amount to asserting” (Myth of Sisyphus). 

With the absurdist belief that religion is created by society in an attempt to bring meaning to a purposeless existence, is absurdism inherently atheist? Based upon Meursault’s atheism and Camus’ absurdist perspective, do atheism and absurdism go hand-in-hand? 

Imprisonment vs Existentialism

After reading The Stranger and thoroughly discussing Meursault’s style of narration throughout the novel in class, I think most can conclude that Meursault has many traits of that of an existentialist.

After murdering the Arab in Part I of the novel, Meursault is taken to prison, where he must stay as he awaits his trial.

Throughout the entirety of Part I, it very clear that Meursault feels almost essentially nothing, and the reader lives the story through almost solely his observations and concrete events.

But as you dive deeper into Part II, we begin to get into Meursault’s brain and thinking process. For example, Meursault has the desire to smoke cigarettes while in prison, and “couldn’t understand why they [prison guards] had taken them away when he didn’t hurt anybody. Later on he realized that too was part of the punishment” (Camus 78).

Through the example of Meursault’s desire for cigarettes, the reader is able to see the his seemingly indestructible existentialist ideals deteriorate as he is in isolation and has lost essentially all of his freedom.

Existentialist ideals focus around that all of our learning comes through our experiences. While in the company of others and having freedom in doing whatever he pleased, Meursault was able to hang onto his existentialist ideals firmly. But as soon as this freedom was taken from him when he went to prison, we being to see the cracks in Meursault’s character as he is isolated from other people and the free world.

Existentialist base their entire off of freedom, and once this is taken from them, their character often changes and their normal dis attached tendencies seem to slowly fade away, as in the case of Meursault.

Works Cited:

The Stranger by Albert Camus

If Meursault is an existentialist, then he is missing some of the key points

What I got from the discussion on existentialism was that the true meaning of life was life itself, that everyone could decide how they live their own lives and what else they would give meaning to. I would argue that Meursault has existentialist qualities, but he lacks some that are very important.

By killing the Arab, Meursalt doesn’t give the Arab the chance to have a meaningful life. If Meursault believed that life was important, then I think he would have restrained himself. How I see it, an existentialist would understand that other peoples lives have value, even if there is no value to the existentialist. Furthermore, at the end of the book Meursault says, “But everybody knows life isn’t worth living.” (page 114) If Meursalt was a true existentialist then he would have found meaning in the fact that he was alive.