Searching for Ways to Straighten Our Crooked Timber of Humanity

By Richard Cirulli

This is my first of a series of columns that will take a tongue-in-cheek approach to applying philosophy as a means to help us improve our mental outlook on life in the hope of using humor to unite us in our divided and perilous times.

I will forewarn my readers: I have a disdain for clichés when people resort to them for making serious life decisions, though will insert them for the purpose to make humorous observations on our, at times, frail and fickle human condition.

Many philosophers, author included, believe philosophy is medicine for the soul, to be prescribed along with psychology and psychoanalysis. Existential philosophy, in simple terms, is a tool to help us chart a life project to transmute our life from mere existence to that of essence. No easy task for sure. Though we can approach existential philosophy as a kind of guide for our perplexed minds.

To make it through this gauntlet of life, maybe we should take the time to contemplate by looking through the many windows of our minds to examine our interior self to ask ourselves what am I really looking for in life? Where am I looking? What am I seeking and what is my ideal?

In light of the fact that our emotions stick to us as shadows, forever setting up obstacles to our logic, rationale and at times truth. Emotions that are comprised of the seven capital vices – pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Not to mention the fact humanity at times can be ungrateful, fickle, fake, cowardly, covetous, selfish and hypocritical – just to name some. It doesn’t get better than this.

Well, it does make us want to think at times that the term humanity in itself is a bit of an oxymoron, existentially speaking. We are human, but do we always act with a sense of humanity to our fellow humans?

To prove my point, take good old Torquemada, the grand torturer of the inquisition. I must confess, if I found myself on his heretic’s rack, I would be hard-pressed to imagine how I can transmute this painful existence into essence. Though on second thought, I could find my essence by being stretched to more than six feet tall, have a tapered waist and have a great BMI thanks to a diet of stale bread and water. I could patent it and call it the Waist Wasters Diet. (Weight Watchers look out!) Nothing like a little competition to help find our essence.

Then I could bring out a line of designer sack cloths for repentant heretics complete with designer ashes to apply to my scarred body. Ok, I know it’s a stretch, but I did make the point. Well, the devil does wear Prada.

And just take a look at good old Joan of Arc, war hero and saint. For her noble deeds, the English held a barbeque in her honor. Holy Smoke! I hear Rouen is a real hot spot for heretics and existentialists. Well, I have to admit, I still carry a torch for her.

I guess in life, we all at times, in our attempts to find our essence in life, run into a grand inquisitor or two. I’m sure Dostoyevsky has something to say about this. Well for some, their essence is found in trying to straighten our crooked timber of humanity.

Philosophy is a tool that we can use to help straighten our crooked timber of humanity, as opposed to using our frail human condition as a tool to construct stakes to impale our human advancement on.

Be safe! Be well! Be happy! Be nice! Amor fati!

Dr. Richard Cirulli is a published author, playwright and retired professor. His body of works can be viewed at He looks forward to your comments, and can be reached at


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