I knew very little about existential thinking until the internet introduced me to a handsome tuxedo cat named Henri (le Chat Noir.) Cat owners know that cats make little effort in pursuing a life of purpose. Therefore, Henri is an interesting representative for the existentialist philosophy. I’ve never lived with an introspective cat but mine appear to grouse just as much as Henri – when they are not napping.
The angst of this persuasive feline encouraged me to learn more about existentialist philosophy beginning with the writer Soren Kierkegaard. Of course, I expected a dour philosophy accompanied by piano music and a bad French accent but was surprised when I discovered that some of Kierkegaard’s work is quite amusing. He had a sense of humor that can be understood in our time. Instead of the fatalistic philosophy that I expected, his philosophy did not always reflect the negative. I read words of hope from Either/Or, “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.” We read stories everyday about people who lose much in their lives but never seem to give up. Some of them go on to accomplish great things. How is it that the person who has suffered the most can see the potential that others cannot? Is it faith? I’m not sure that we have it solely within ourselves to reach our full potential – I think we need the help of others and/or a faith in a higher power.