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Will the New Normal Make Us All Existentialists?

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“Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself”
— Jean Paul Sartre

By Richard Cirulli

For us to better navigate our attempts to find meaning in our lives, we may want to consider our lives in perspective of time and space. This will help us to better cope with the “new normal” we have been experiencing since the outbreak of COVID-19.  

With such uncertainty facing us, we are now looking in hindsight to those pre-COVID days with a sense of nostalgia as our halcyon days, days we may have taken for granted. We are now faced with times that consist of new COVID outbreaks, inflation, an increase in street crime, a war in the Ukraine and environmental disasters. The more we experience our new normal the more we begin to think more existentially about how to live a more meaningful life.

The existential model is “man is condemned to be free,” where freedom is not just independence in the sense of independence, but being able to decide who and what one should be.

One way to approach this is to avoid taking an egocentric and self-serving perspective on life. For instance, as we complain about our high gas prices – no doubt it has negative impacts on all of us, author included – we can place this in perspective of all the suffering being experienced by the Ukrainians at the hands of Russia.

In contrast, our lives are a bit idyllic, though we should not find consolation in others’ suffering, the better-them-than-me mentality, as a means to find our essence. We are fortunate that we are not waking up in the rubble of our homes and dodging missile attacks. It would be fair to state the Ukrainian people are not finding their essence in life and much meaningfulness.

Our new normal has placed our being on negative overload making it more difficult to find our essence and meaningfulness as we navigate the absurdity of life. We strive to navigate the new normal in our existential monologue with ourselves that dominates our thoughts – for better or worse.

It is fair to say we are living in challenging, and to a degree, disheartening times. This we can’t control nor escape for the most part. But we can take a more existential view of life as a guide to try to find some meaning to secure a form of essence. Certainly, we will never find it by lamenting and denials.

Life is a lottery that is drawn at our birth. With this said, we must learn to grow successfully within ourselves. We have little control over most events in our lives, though existentialism can assist us to better respond to life’s adversity, as absurd as it may appear to be at times.

Be well. Be safe. 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 www.demitasseplayers.com. He looks forward to your comments and can be reached at profcirulli@optonline.net.

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