Existential Apologetics

By Will Baker


As I pen these lines, the sun is shinning brightly. Here in Vermont, it is a clear and cold mid-winter morning. Over night the temperature dipped to ten degrees below zero and is struggling now to make it into positive territory. There isn’t a cloud in the sky, so the sun is reflecting off of the snow and the light is amazing.

I was recently arguing with a friend of mine over an interesting matter. In response to my assertion that there is value when one attempts to achieve an understanding of the nature of reality, she implied that sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, philosophical thought holds no worth. She argued that when one is busy with going about the business of living, it doesn’t matter one wit whether the nature of reality is this or that—such questions have no real bearing on day to day life. Of course I took issue with her, as they say here in Vermont, "until the cows came home." In addition, at that moment I wasn’t inclined to point out to her that her position could be construed as a statement of Existentialist Philosophy.

The next day, as we continued our discussion I made a partial concession to her argument, when I noted that were a soldier in combat to ponder the philosophical nuances of his situation, due to his distracted state he might very well end up being shot dead. But however, due to time constraints there was an important piece that I failed to add. Yes, it seems to me that going about the business of living is supremely important. In the final analysis it is all we really have, the past is what was, the future is what may or may not be, but we own the "Now," and the time and space within which, it occurs is our treasure. However, I also believe that how we choose to exist within the Now is just as important. It seems to me that life is about choices and one of those choices that we all must make has to do with the degree of awareness we choose to bring to the game of living.

My friend’s words from the other day come to mind. In response to my attempt at interjecting the thinking of the philosopher Hannah Arendt into the discussion, she scoffed at the point I was hoping to make and said: "any 10 year old knows that." As I sit here I have to laugh. Of course my friend was correct. Most ten-year-olds still have a strong sense of wonder and the manner in which they go about the business of living has the attribute of awareness associated with it. That is why some say that children make the best philosophers. They have yet to become jaded with living. They have yet to process and then file away ideas about things for later reference. They have yet to become dulled to life.

It seems to me that as we go about the business of living we can "burrow down into the fur," where it is safe and warm, secure in our comfort of thought, or we can do otherwise. Some would argue that there is great value in choosing to do otherwise. For perhaps in doing so, one might manage to actualize one’s existence.

The temperature is now a balmy 8 degrees and the sun is still shinning brightly. So I think I’ll put on my leggings and tromp around in the wild, deep snow. I haven’t been out back for a while and it may do my spirit some good. But I had better keep my wits about me. For were I to get all caught up in philosophical thought and freeze to death, wouldn’t I look foolish in my dear friend's eyes?



 (Essay Collection)