Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Exit"-tentialism


"Hell is other people."
Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit
I can't walk by an EXIT or NO EXIT sign without thinking about Jean-Paul Sarte. I read Sartre's play, No Exit back in my high school advanced humanities class thirty years ago. It was my introduction to existentialism.

The plot is pretty simple. Three people are sent to hell. Hell, however, was simply a room, probably not unlike the hotel room at the Shilo Inn near the airport in Boise last week. At first each person denies why they have been sent to hell. As the play progresses, each character reveals their true personality and why they are in hell. Suddenly, the door opens, but none of the characters leaves. It was not the door keeping them in hell, but themselves.

That is existentialism. Sartre was one of the pioneers of the philosophy. To oversimplify what existentialism is, it's a philosophy based on individualism and free will. Essentially, an existentialist believes you are free to do what ever you want, but responsible for whatever you do.

I was kind of taken with existentialism at the time I read No Exit, or at least with my 17-year old understanding of it. I guess I am still kind of taken with it. It's trite, I know, to say we create our own hell, but I do believe that. Conversely, I believe we create our own heaven, so there.

The operative phrase here, is "I believe." One thing that fascinates me about philosophy in general is that it tends to be created by people sitting around thinking about abstract things and coming to concrete conclusions. Nothing makes me more skeptical about a philosophy than an absolute declaration that it is fact. I prefer to be presented with suppositions and then come to a conclusion myself.

That's why I like No Exit. Sarte doesn't come out and tell you that you create your own hell. His characters demonstrate it for you.

Why all of this talk about No Exit and existentialism? I took a photo of an EXIT sign at the Shilo Inn in Boise last week. Couple that with all of that stuff about the devil and 666 yesterday and you get a good idea of how my thought processes work.

By the way, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays lost to the Los Angeles Angels on 6/6/06 by a score of 2 to 12. Twelve divided by two is...six.

Coincidence? You are free to draw your own conclusions.
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