I usually don't get an inspiration from the comics page, but I just happened to glance at Arlo and Janis and looked to see a word being said between characters, "Existential!" The funny pages have gone up a notch or two since I was a kid. In fact, I really had no use for such a word -- even to show off -- until I found myself in seminary and a study group assigned to discuss the meaning of life. My first thought was to climb to the top of some mountain and find an old grizzled guy sitting in front of a cave and ask him. Since there wasn't enough time off for adventuring, the next best thing was to sit and listen to my very bright classmates.
They asked questions and, for some reason, looked at me who just happened to be the oldest guy in the student body as though I knew the answers. I tried to look intelligent and said, "I am confused."
Everyone smiled and one guy said, "Finally, we've got an existentialist here!"
"Well, Bressler, who do you like? Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche or Sartre?"
Since I couldn't pronounce the first three, I said, "Sartre, of course. Who do you people like?"
I sat back, waited and listened ... a lot.
All these great thinkers had several things in common: people are not in touch with a world that doesn't make a lot of sense. Most philosophers think about the question or the problem and leave the individual out of the equation. "Yeah," I said. "I'm the one who decides, and when I do, I live it the way I believe it should be lived!"
I had no idea that I said something that Kierkegaard thought, but I did one thing right after class. I ran to the campus library and read everything I could find. I quit looking after I read, "All existentialists say that existence precedes essence!" Years later, I discovered that meant thinking people create their idea of life and how they should live it. Whatever the decision, good or bad, people are responsible for their creation. The big problem is that people are not completely sane.
Let's quit trying to straddle the fence and agree that most of us believe one way or the other and if someone asks us why, we would most likely respond, "Because I do and that's that!" I remember a meeting I had with an executive. After my presentation, he said, "Don't give me the facts. I am not interested."
Quantum leap time. I ran into some stuff about being an atheistic, Christian or Jewish existentialist. I just can't select either of the three. To be a Christian existentialist would mean for me that I have to suspend my beliefs and pick and choose only the doctrines, histories, miracles or commands that the Bible teaches through my wisdom and/or rationality.
I do, however, believe that I have the right to question things in the biblical record that confuse me, disturb me or cause me to be uncomfortable. I am now, at this very moment, reading Ecclesiastes and having that uncomfortable feeling. The "Teacher" sees the creatures of this world chasing after exaggerated expectations. That means that even if we get everything we think we must have, it falls short of our dreams and we need even more stuff to satisfy our desires to conquer, collect or own. Scholars have said this about Ecclesiastes, "How did this book end up in the Hebrew canon?"
Perhaps is was because of the addition 12:13, "Fear God and keep His commandments ... God will take care of the rest."
God will take care of everything we need.