“A story, for example, something that could never happen, an adventure. It would have to be beautiful and hard as steel and make people ashamed of their existence.”
-Antoine Roquentin (Protagonist of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre)
The depth of meaning that can be derived from this quote is enormous. I, like Sartre’s character, can anticipate feeling an ultimate satisfaction if ever I were able to create a story such as he describes. Only, I would not explain my intention as to make people ashamed of their existence. I would want, rather, for people to question their existence, and not only in relation to the physical world, but also in relation to the living beings around them. Then, if under the most honest scrutiny individuals find elements of themselves about which they should be ashamed, the opportunity for growth and constructive change will arise. The probability that most people would find such elements is not the point though. What is crucial is the possibility that this exercise of self-analysis would result in a positive outcome for some (if not a majority) of the individuals who made the inquiry into themselves.
In observing the world I sense that people are constantly building barriers around themselves. But what is it they fear? One key source of this phenomenon, and a viable answer to the question of fear, is the extreme level of [unnecessary] competition that exists between individuals and groups. Unnecessary because the competing parties almost exclusively pose no threat (implicit or explicit) to one another. Yet a threat is still perceived (almost uniformly) amongst strangers, co-workers, friends, and even family. Daily interactions are at the point where people develop a cynical bent in order to maintain their status within their communities. This is a tragic situation.
If people focused on developing their own self-esteem and establishing their own self-worth, independently of relativistic comparisons, society could be transformed monumentally. It is always refreshing to meet people that possess simple but well-founded confidence, and general poise. People with a sound foundation often have these characteristics. Also, honesty and generosity are typical hallmarks by which this nature can be recognized. Sadly, few people can be described truly with these terms. By specifically seeking out emotions like fear, anger, and envy it is possible to overcome such weaknesses. The reality that they are baseless can lead the way to a more peaceful state of being. Perhaps an endeavor such as Antoine Roquentin conceived could help people restructure their lives in a positive way. And that, I do believe.
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