The Human Situation – The necessity of meaning in life – the problematic nature of human existence – a thing that must be done by everyone – to have a human life we must philosophize. To live is to find meaning in this world and to decide what we shall be, what we shall believe, what we shall do with the life given us.
“To sensitive spirits of all ages life is filled with cruel contradictions and bitter ironies. Human experience is capricious and our finite minds are not able to see enough of life at one time for us to know for sure what is going on. We see only fragments of life and never the whole … Just under the surface of the active human enterprise implicit in all we think and do there lies the eternal question: What is the meaning of existence?”
J. S. Christian
Our life is a perennial surprise. The very fact that you and I exist at all is a continual surprise. But there is more to it. This life we are given, or are thrown into, is full of cruel contradictions and it does not lack the element of tragedy. Only a complete fool can live or rather vegetate and not see that we are appearing on the scene together with a host of other beings of all sorts: the universe, completely unprepared. We are not told beforehand that we are going to live. Nobody asks us whether we want it or not. Thus we are ‘thrown into existence’ willy nilly to be always puzzled by this “thrownness “and finally merge into the mystery of death. Mystery is our origin, mystery is our life and mystery is our death.
From the Unknown we emerge, in an unknown we exist, and we go into an unknown. We are given few moments of surprised existing only to disappear into another sea of the mysterious past… Very soon we realize that we are imprisoned in many ways. We are ‘boxed in’ for few moments of time which is given to us – our lifespan. It is short and there is no escape from this prison of time. We are also imprisoned in space, because we are body – whatever this means – and every body is imprisoned in space. This spells our limitations: very little time in little space. We cannot do anything about it. We are doomed to be carried towards an end and we do not even know when this end will come. As Heidegger would say, we are “beings unto death.” Our experiences are so short and limited that it seems to be ridiculous to try to know, what is going on really. Then there are the contradictions we face: our absolute desire for “happiness” and the cruel disappointments, the frustrations. We realize that the brief moments of satisfaction leave us only thirstier, more dissatisfied. All our dearest strivings are often smashed against the inexorable wall of suffering, misunderstandings, cruelty of life and its transitoriness. Everything moves fast in-between our fingers: we cannot catch any moment of our existence. It will pass. So will we. The desire for more experience is denied. I have only this: my few moments of my existence and no more. I live now at this time, in this country, in this spot of the world. All this is given to me only once. I do not have much to say here. This is the element of fate in my existence.
My awareness is limited, my mind is limited, my knowledge is painfully small, and my whole existence seems to be a brief awakening to mystery without enough time or possibility to get a closer look…
This is the riddle of my life. The basic fact of my thrownness and brief co-existence with the world. The world will not let me rest for a while. I am someone who sees and loves, hates and desires this world. I move within it, I suffer it, I fight it… My life is given to me. It is finding myself in the world for a little surprised awareness. I am carried by this mysterious passing, which we call time, towards the unknown…
This wonderful surprise of my bare and puzzling existence. This is my life. I am in it, I am it. I am my life. This is my human situation. It is exciting and mysterious, it is painful and sweet, it is comical and also tragic. It is wonderful, that is full of wonder! For yours and mine basic experience is wonder and surprise! Everything is a problem for a human being.
Being what we are, we want to know. All men by nature desire to know, said Aristotle many centuries ago. To be human means to ask. A stone does not ask questions. It exists without knowing that it exists. In a way of speaking it exists only for me, but not for itself.
It is radically different with humans. Enclosed in everything we do, suffer or experience in any way whatever – at the very roots of each moment of my existence – consciously or subconsciously there is the eternal question of all humankind : What is the meaning of existence?