Existentialists versus Baby Boomers

Since existentialists and boomers don't believe in God or the afterlife, how do they create heaven and avoid hell on earth? Ironically if one follows Jean-Paul Sartre's plan of action and becomes a good existentialist, one is condemned to anguish, abandonment and despair. In 1948, Sartre published his treatise Existentialism and Humanism (London: Methuen & Co.) where he explains why man is in anguish: "When a man commits himself to anything, fully realising that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind--in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility."(126) In other words, every time you do something, ask yourself, what would happen if everyone did it, like cheating on taxes, stealing ice cream, avoiding jury duty to the more dramatic crimes of murder, rape and arson. This is the anguish of responsibility and commitment, an anguish existentialists must feel if they are to be humanists and if they aren't humanists, they will certainly create a hell on earth.

Since man has been abandoned by god, man becomes the future of man, condemned to be free, according to Sartre. "Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or without himself. He discovers forthwith that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one's action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism-- man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behavior. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does. "(128)

With abandonment comes despair because we are limited to a reliance upon that which is within our wills. Our actions are limited by our imperfections, our mortality, our position in time and space, which is another reason we must rely on others, "comrades-in-arms" and why existentialism must become humanism, according to Sartre. But this means that our potential, our hopes, fears, ambitions, desires are nothing:"...a man is no other than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organisation, the set of relations that constitute these undertakings."(135)

Contrast Sartre's philosophy with that of R.F.Laird. In the Book of Willie, Chapter 31, the prophet Harry gives advice to baby boomers caught in the mindless deception of narcissism:
3 Thinking leads to fear and nameless dreads and images of doom that will inevitably come true.
4 Remember that there are no consequences,
5 Because you have no responsibilites,
6 And whatever happens,
7 It's not your fault.
8 Now I can see that you are all nodding,
9 And that you are beginning to understand the rightness and wisdom of my way,
10 But you are also wondering, How is it that I can avoid thinking?
11 How should I make decisions?
12 What may I rely on for guidance in avoiding thought in my life?
13 And, again, I can tell you that the answer is a simple one,
14 Tailor-made for your simple minds.
15 You shall be guided by the great Trinity of Harry,
16 Which encompasses all things of importance to you,
17 And to the conduct of your life.
18 These are the beacons of the way:
19 Desire,
20 Certainty,
21 And Blame.
22 These three beacons illuminate all my teachings and advice.

While Sartre demands that the existentialist become responsible for his actions, the messiah Harry entices man to blame others for his misfortune; Harry's motto is GO FOR IT, no matter what the consequences, while Sartre wants man to be aware not only of the consequences of his actions to himself but all humanity; Sartre's world is uncertain but Harry assures his followers certainty if they avoid thinking. By the way, God was also upset when Eve and Adam ate the tree of knowledge.

Sartre eventually died and was turned to dust, but wrote so many books that his thoughts are immortalized by humanists, for a while at least. Perhaps others will pursue the existential engagement of despair, anguish and abandonment instead of the hell of relying on others' opinions, religion, determinism and other essentialist doctrines. The messiah Harry is living in Rio, after beating a drug rap for his cocaine abuse. He has presumably found heaven on earth. What do you think? Does thinking make your life heavenly or hellish?