Existential Terrorism

Last week, I finished up a book that’s nudged itself to the top of my recommended reading list: “The Courage to Be Disliked.”

Since finishing, I’ve begun to see a lot of tears in the fabric of my thought. Decisions being made in favor of a non-existent other that I tricked myself into believing was sitting in the chair across from me. Staring me down. Judging me. “How could you, Ryan?!”

It’s a jarring realization. You think that your decisions are your own—and, not to scapegoat I do believe they are—but seeing how your decisions are influenced gives…pause. While I may be a lone psychotic, perched on a horse spitting down sunflower seeds, my gut (and several candid conversations with friends) tells me I’m not because I so often see myself and others make decisions on the premise of “well that’s what everybody does” or “that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

But who defines this supposed list of “do’s” and “don'ts?” To the best of my knowledge there isn’t an ordained Chancellor of Social Congruency, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel that way. In essence, there’s a presumed shared consciousness of which we’re all obedient but to walk into a bookstore and ask for the rule book for it would be a faux pas.

This is what Courage illuminates: our deep desire to be liked or aligned with others consistently leading us down a path of discontent. Conversely, it’s in the willingness to not give a damn what others think that true freedom exists—the hypothesis being that if you’re always doing exactly what you want (without concern for how that’s observed by others), then happiness—or at least, existential peacetime—is a given.

The lesson it seems is to be aware when you’re engaging in activities that are the equivalent of strapping a ticking time bomb to your soul. Are you doing this because you actually have to? Or is it just an act of self-sabotage, disguised as “what people do” or “how people should behave?”

Realizing that a lot of my personal malady can be attributed to this, I wonder moving forward what life will be like. I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian, but haven’t had the balls to un-dip my toe from the pool of acceptance completely, a la cave-dwelling Buddhist monk.

Perhaps disengaging from the constant tug-of-war and adopting a well-groomed “fuck it” attitude is the answer. Not one that’s caught up in nihilism, but one that lives life for life’s sake—in perfect pitch with one’s own desires, beliefs, and reason.