Friday, November 11, 2011

Paris Journal: Being and Nothingness

Walking in the rain in Paris after being pickpocketed in the Metro brings to mind the title of Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous  L’Etre et Le Neant, which was the bible of existentialism. You have come away with your being intact, having been artfully dispossessed of your wallet and yet you have nothing. None of the creature comforts are available. You can’t buy or eat anything and since your bank card has also been stolen there is no money to be obtained from the ATM’s which now become a taunting presence, as your stomach starts to growl. Since you now have no dinner reservation to worry about it’s interesting to think about Sartre in comparison to another philosopher Martin Heidegger whose Being and Time was the bible of phenomenology. It’s curious to ponder the fact that Sartre and Heidegger were both concerned with the same thing, being. You don’t have to have to read either of these formidable tomes to think about them, especially considering the fact that you haven’t eaten. Sartre was obviously talking about being as it manifests itself in a universe where there is nothing, ie no God, no intrinsic order, no parameters in which to contain chaos and Heidegger was thinking about being too,  but, if you believe you can tell a book by its cover then Heidegger was interested in considering being under the aspect of time. And what happens over time? Death. You are walking the rainy streets, hoping for some miracle by which your wallet will pop up out of nowhere with your affluence consequently and miraculously restored when you remember reading that Heidegger believed we live an inauthentic existence unless we are aware of the imminence of death.

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