Note: Sorry this post is a few days late! Been preoccupied with real life, so internet life has been on the back burner.
I once went to the Johnny Rockets in the Palisades Mall with my friends Emily and Hiram. Our waiter was a self-proclaimed existentialist who drew faces with the ketchup bottle. I was in Intro to Philosophy, so I decided to ask him what he thought of Kierkegaard. And he had no clue. He was not a real existentialist. Le sigh. So what is a real existentialist? What does that even mean? If being a cynical nihilist isn’t the same thing, then what is an existentialist???? Dictionary.com provides this answer:
noun. Philosophy.a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
If you want an in-depth definition, the Wikipedia page seems pretty legit on this one. So, with that being said, how the heck am I supposed to date one of these absurd people? Have no fear, some guidelines are here!
Guideline #1: Always be authentic. This is a big deal with existentialists, because authenticity (aka being true to yourself and your spirit/character/personality) is the compass by which all human activity is guided. Thus, the most attractive quality that an existentialist is looking for is authenticity to oneself. This means that you should not lie about yourself in order to impress your date. You should also be honest about things you like or dislike (whether or not they agree with you). I’m also guessing that existentialists are probably not all that big on damaging secrets.
Guideline #2: Don’t freak out over existential angst or despair. In my opinion, people are drawn to codified existentialism because they already suffer from existential angst and despair. What that translates to for you, is that your partner might have bouts of frustration with society and depression (this is especially likely if you are undergraduates, because undergraduates are the whiniest, most confused people I know). Even an existentialist is likely to hide such social faux pas as a mental instability (because even she feels the pressure of stigma, despite her authenticity), so this is a problem that will probably only arise in serious relationships. When your significant other goes through these phases, it is important to handle them well, which means keeping your calm and not using is as fight fodder later.
Guideline #3: Watch movies and discuss existential qualities in them. Of course, by now, you should have realized that when dating any type of academically or philosophically bent person, films by Wes Anderson are a must. Go for The Darjeeling Limited. I also recommend the chronology of films by Woody Allen (especially the stuff before Mia Farrow). Sleeper is a good choice, so is Midnight in Paris.
Guideline #4: Existence precedes essence. This concept says that the most important thing about an individual is the fact that that person is an individual. If you are a sociologist trying to date an existentialist, I can tell you right now that it is not going to work out. To a sociologist, a person is largely the product of society, but to an existentialist, a person is herself (or himself) an individual primarily. An existentialist is defined by her own consciousness, the fact that she is a thinking, breathing being, as opposed to the assumed roles and stereotypes that society tries to throw on her. The actuality of her life is her essence, not what society uses to define her. What this means for you is that you should stop studying sociology if you want to date an existentialist.
Guideline #5: Embrace the Absurd. The Absurd is a key concept in existentialism. No meaning (according to the Absurd) can be found in the world except the meaning that we give to the world. So, basically, it’s the opposite of karma. Both good and bad things will happen to good and bad people. Why? Because life is absurd. We create meaning. To really embrace the Absurd, I recommend that you explore the philosophical teachings of Monty Python. They are experts in the Absurd (and in philosophy (and in soccer)).
Guideline #6: Take things as they are. This comes from a concept created by Sarte called facticity. Wonderful, wonderful Wikipedia explains facticity in terms of the past. Your past is a part of who you are, but it is not all of who you are (which would negate the present and the future). You are not never your past, because it is what it is, but you are also not only your past. Denying the past would be inauthentic. Facticity deals with things that simply are how they are, and you can’t change them (where you were born, for example), but they are not the definition (essence) of you. Accepting facticity will help you to relax with your date, go with the flow. Sometimes things are how they are. Adjust for it. Have a date and it’s pouring rain? You can’t control the weather; but you can control your reaction. And if you just accept that things need to be modified to accommodate the uncontrollable flash flood, then you will be able to relax. And a relaxed person is an attractive person.
Guideline #7: Live theatre is a must. Still haven’t seen Waiting for Godot? Are you hoping to catch the local troupe’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead? How do you really feel about No Exit?. You are finally able to go to these plays without feeling like the most pretentious person you know! Take your existentialist date with you (and they can be the most pretentious person you know!) and enjoy the drama and comedy created by some of existentialism’s greatest thinkers. Sarte and Camus were both playwrights as well as philosophers.
Guideline #8: When bored, play a game of Questions. Nothing to do with your existentialist honey? Fancy a game of Questions? Why would you want to play that? What’s the point of the game? How do you win? How do you lose? Is losing a bad thing? Why do people put so much emphasis on winning? Why can’t we pursue things for ourselves? Why is the world so competitive? Do you fear failure? Do you fear death? Do you fear life? Is life good? Is God good? Is God real? Is reality real? Why do you go on? When do you stop? How do you keep asking questions? Would you like some concrete rules for the game?