Stored personal memories along with handed down collective memories of stories, legends, and history allows us to collate our interactions with a physical and social world and develop a personal code of survival. In essence, we all become self-styled sages, creating our own book of wisdom based upon our studied observations and practical knowledge gleaned from living and learning. What we quickly discover is that no textbook exist how to conduct our life, because the world has yet to produce a perfect person – an ideal observer – whom is capable of handing down a concrete exemplar of epistemic virtues. We each draw upon the guiding knowledge, theories, and advice available for us in order to explore the paradoxes, ironies, inconsistencies, and the absurdities encountered while living in a supernatural world. We mold our personal collection of information into a practical practicum how to live and die. Each day we define and redefine who we are, determine how we will react today, and chart our quest into an uncertain future.
Humans recognize the duality, autonomy, and latitude range of the mind and the body, and all humans comprehend their impending mortality. Unlike other animals, humankind knows despair brought about by understanding the inevitability of death of all living creatures. The radius of human thought touching upon the longitude of our transient existence causes infinite pain. Seeking to ameliorate existential anguish incites us to ponder spiritual matters, and this sphere of mental activity spurs us to contemplate the perimeter of unknown frontiers. Our ability to understand the compass of life and death allows us to view the circumference of the world as consisting of a past, a present, and a future in relation to our own lives. How a person views the range of their earthly life and how a person rationalizes their march towards a deathly outback creates a system of beliefs that separate people into classes, and the variations amongst class members’ belief systems supplements who we think we are.
Existential anguish derives from the human freedom to think and act, experience love for life, and fear death. We must decide whether we wish to embrace all experience and encounters in life or seek escape from various aspect of human nature. How we resolve to address existential anguish becomes a large part of our personal story.
We can combat existential anguish – the unbearable lightness of our being – in a variety of ways. We can choose to work, play, destroy, or create. We can allow a variety of cultural factors or other people to define who we are, or we can create a self-definition. We decide what to monitor in the environment. We regulate how much attention we pay to nature, other people, or the self. We can watch and comment upon current cultural events and worldly happenings or withdraw and ignore the external world. We can drink alcohol, dabble with recreational drugs, play videogames, or watch television, films, and sporting events. We can travel, go on nature walks, camp, fish, and hunt, climb mountains, or take whitewater-rafting trips. We can build, paint, sing, create music, write poetry, or read and write books. We can cook, barbeque, eat fine cuisine at restaurants or go on fasts. We can attend church services, worship and pray, or chose to embrace agnosticism or atheism. We can belong to charitable organizations or political parties. We can actively or passively support or oppose social and ecological causes. We can share time with family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances or live alone and eschew social intermixing.
Every road leads to sorrow. All aspects that make life beautiful – friendship, love, art, and truth – will end. All aspects that make life hideous – pain, poverty, illness, betrayal, hate, crime, war – will also end. The fact that human life is a mere blip on a cosmic scale is no reason for personal angst as we came from nothingness and will return to the great void that birthed us.
A life of hardship and personal suffering is unavoidable. A person must endure many humiliations of the mind and body, and expect persons whom they trusted to someday betray them. People inevitably witness the death of their loved ones. We also witness acts of depravity committed by criminals that lurk in every society and rouge acts of scandal committed by government officials in charge of the public welfare. A person must nonetheless resist personal discouragement, sadness, dejection, and despondency. I must reach an accord with pain, suffering, and anguish, or forevermore be tortured by reality while constantly seeking to escape from the inescapable agony of being.