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Darkest Obstacles Are A Gift And Not A Curse

1345 words - 5 pages

The irony connected with the obstacle in achieving happiness is the pursuit of happiness. Those who pursue happiness with deliberate effort find themselves having to work harder and harder over time to achieve their ends. By trying to pursue happiness, we look for obvious, insubstantial objectives to achieve the happy life. Existentialism, however, may provide both the antidote to this vicious cycle, and give direction on how to find happiness-- by filling our lives with what T.S. Eliot calls real substance. Purpose is not easily found and comes with a costly price tag; we must look into ourselves, find the hollowness that exists in each of us, and dive into the abyss of our inner self. Most people are easily discouraged by the idea of shining a light into the shadowy realm of our mind and heart. We do not want to discover what may lie in the shadows, but if we have the courage to grope in the dark, we may discover our truest self. The darkness is a gift and not a curse.

Making the decision to act is the fundamental idea of existentialism. Choice is sacred in, and in choosing to create a positive perspective, we lighten the load that negativity brings. Albert Camus, in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, finds the classic tale of Sisyphus’ punishment as an existential masterpiece. The rock that Sisyphus has to push for all of eternity, to most, is viewed as an infinite imprisonment. Instead, Camus does not view this as a curse, but as a form of self-absolution. Similarly, Jean-Paul Sarte, author of “Existentialism”, explains existentialism as a way of taking responsibility for all of mankind and stresses the importance of choice. Man has the ability to shape his fate with making a choice and acting upon it. Choice is power. David Foster Wallace also elaborates more on this idea of choice in his speech, “This is Water”, in order to fight our natural instincts. Our natural instinct is to view the dark as a curse, and not a gift. Existentialism illuminates every dark situation, as long as we find the courage to confront the darkness. The moment we realize emptiness within ourselves is our “hour of consciousness”. Recognizing the dark parts of our lives gives us the opportunity to act and change. We have the ability to move forward and face reality for self-improvement.
Shadows come in various shapes and forms: self-doubt, failure to act, and lack of commitment. Shadows are obstacles in life such as Sisyphus’ increasingly large rock. Self-doubt is evident in O’Brien’s actions early in his novel: “I imagined myself doing things I could not do - charging an enemy position, taking aim at another human being” (The Things They Carried 42). There’s an overwhelming uncertainty in O’Brien’s decision making, which leads him to doubt his own capability. Not only does O’Brien have to overcome the troubles of war, he now has to overcome the shadow he has unwillingly created. Here as well, O’Brien fails to act off of his doubts, explained in Eliot’s excerpt: “Between the...

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