Existential Crisis


By Venessa Wong,

As I desperately attempt to correct and edit my work for the Excalibur blog and do my Literature homework (see Mr Matthew I AM making an effort, no matter how far back I seem to be), I am suddenly struck by the thought – Why am I doing this? No one is truly going to be mad with me nor do I truly care if they were. I have allowed myself to be defined as someone who can play with her words (i.e. debate, editorial) and someone who apparently is ‘smart’ and ‘good’ in her studies. Yet I do no longer believe it to be true. Why then am I attempting to run in this rat race which I care nothing about?

Now replace all the actions and strengths with something you can relate to. Perhaps it is a sport, a particular performing art, personal beliefs or something else which you have used to anchor your life and create a sense of purpose or goal. Then, failure, someone else more talented or a betrayal of trust comes in. Suddenly our purpose is shaken, our existence questioned.

This is what is called existential crisis.

The very value and purpose of one’s life is questioned; similar to what one would undergo during a mid-life crisis or experiencing anomie (personal condition where society provides little moral guidance to self).

Perhaps you do know and have experienced this before and maybe are just unaware of the actual term. Or perhaps you do not and I have just opened your eyes to something terrible. Oh dear – this state of mind is never enjoyable.

However, there comes a time where everyone has to go through such a stage as so to define their own character. As Søren Kierkegaard, regarded as first existentialism philosopher, has written, “What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

The only way to truly settle this issue is to ‘find the idea for which… willing to live and die’ for. Of course the isolation of such thoughts and attempting to distract self with other activities temporarily allows yourself to forget this crisis. However, the realisation of this uncertainty should not cause us to drop everything and wallow in despair.

“No one can advise and help you, no one. There is only one way: go within.” -Rainer Maria Rilke (German poet and novelist)

Instead it should encourage and push us to explore and experience everything new. It is too early to define our existence as meaningless with the little we know about ourselves. Better now we discover than living a safe comfortable life and waking up 20-30 odd years later realising we want so much more (mid-life crisis). As how Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet, has said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

Sometimes, it is not an answer that we seek. However, this does not always mean we are self-destructive persons. It is merely a wish to find companions to talk and discuss about such matters (Refer to quotation below by John D. Caputo, American philosopher, for exact and actual wording). So at any point such worries or thoughts do cross your mind, remember it is important to let it out – may it be to a trusted adult figure, an understanding friend, the God in which you believe in or any other medium that would give you support – then allowing it to fester within, poisoning your mind.

“There is no “answer,” no cognitive solution, to the questions that self-destructive people put. They are, I think, putting questions before which philosophers no less than their analysts (if they can afford one) are struck dumb, the difference being the philosophers’ ignorance comes cheaper. Moreover, self-destructive people do not require an answer so much as companionship. We are all children of the same dark night, inhabited by the same demons, haunted by the same spectres… It is not a question of finding an answer to the night of truth but of sitting up with one another through the night, of dividing the abyss in half in a companionship that is its own meaning.” –John D. Caputo

After note: I hope I have not offended anyone with the thoughts I have chosen to convey and at the same time, I am aware of the limitation of my own personal knowledge. Also, for a more interesting presentation of this matter (since words are not to everyone’s liking) go look up danisnotonfire video on Existential Crisis on YouTube.


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