How glorious to wake in a pink dusty glow. The sun is forging its way in through the chink in my drawn curtains to transform my pink and yellow bedroom into a nest of feather and down while outside the open window the birds chirrup and chirp. My early morning dream was full of disturbance and incoherence so waking to this blush of day and the distinctive early morning fresh scent was pure pleasure.
Unlike the dark woods of Heidegger’s Black Forest, clearing or no clearing, or the stormy streets of Paris where the pundits of Sarah Bakewell’s Existentialist Café hang out. I have been enjoying the company of Heidegger, Sartré, Hurssel, Morceau Ponty, De-Beauvoir in Bakewell’s latest book, The Existentialist Café . It’s been like being at the end of in a kaleidoscope, with my eye watching the changing patterns of philosophic thinking as time and ideas evolve as war and politics play their part. Sarah Bakewell projects a colourful pattern reflecting the different strands of existentialism and phenomenology, and she deftly weaves the lives, and influences on the individual thinkers in an ‘epoch’ where intellectual thought about life, liberty, freedom and being was a popular past time.
How extraordinary, I thought, to have the ego, the self-regard, belief and determination to spend your life discovering its meaning. It was a little like watching a movie with the dreamy film stars of the forties, fifties and sixties. The world appeared to be an interesting place, engaged full of love, protest, endeavour, failure, bravery and scandal, writers and music. I felt jealous. I want to be an existentialist, I thought. Life appeared to be lived. Things happened. Moments were momentous. Men and women struggled. Every article and action had its own origin and meaning, even the teapot. Each man and woman was the product of his or her own thought or action. In existentialist parlance, every step we take, we turn the world a little more. It is our footsteps that revolve the earth, not the heavens, the stars, the universe. Yes, I thought. I like it here in the existentialist café. There is everything: discovery, excitement, mania, self-indulgence, drink, drugs, madness, hedonism, courage, humanity, love, hubris, isolation, fear, power. But, then again, I thought, as I closed the book, the existentialist takes on a huge, lonely duty to accept responsibility for his or her actions in a world that is not of his or her making.
From my bed, I looked around my golden nest. I would find the weight of responsibility too much, I thought. I agree with the existentialist concept but in the current heady torrent of world life, I find myself reluctant to accept responsibility for it all. But I can do my bit, I thought, through my poetry. In each of my poems or short stories, I try to express my understanding of life, or capture the essence of a moment which, surely, in itself is an existentialist act. And, with that, my thoughts meandered into my day, looking after my mother, the food I would cook, the garden I would weed, the blog and the poem I wanted to write. Yes, I decided each of these small actions would guide me in my new path as an existentialist. I was happy to accept responsibility for them.
Talking of the universe and phenomenology, my son and I were browsing a star app last night and discovered the names and characteristics of three bright shining stars that he, my daughter and I call ‘our stars’. They are in the centre of the Orion constellation below Beetlegeuse, and above Saimh. They are called Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak (all possible names for my grandchildren, me thinks). They are thousands of light years away and burning hot. How magical that they will burn bright long after I have left this earth and create a space for my eternal being when my children look at the night sky between October and February in the northern hemisphere. A different definition of existentialism, maybe.