You are ‘thrown’ into this world.
This is the idea put forwards by the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Thrownness (German: Geworfenheit) . (It’s also called Facticity in Existentialism)
It describes the arbitrary nature of our existence. The awareness that our life is not a choice. We can’t decide when we are born, or where. We don’t choose our genome, or parents or our siblings.
Many of us, myself included, wish perhaps we were born in the future. Imagining that the world would be a better place.
Or that we are born into a more wealthy family. A life with a little more privilege.
To be more beautiful, more charismatic, more powerful and wealthy.
But it’s not the case.
We can only use the hand we have been dealt with.
Try a thought experiment:
Say you were transported to an alien world.
You don’t speak the language, you don’t know the rules of society. You even think differently than the natives. The perceptions and thinking patterns of the aliens may be very different from your own.
You can’t understand the world unless you have some kind of basis to make sense of things. To make causal links, to know how something works. To interpret the world around you need a framework, a method.
Without it you are lost.
This is thrownness.
It’s a lack of any kind of foundation with which to understand the world and operate within it. We have it when we are babies.
Yet this framework is not objective, it can be called into question.
So it seems in one way that we have no ties, nothing to that holds us down to anything. Nothing we can count on or be certain of. Like the metaphor suggests.
‘We have been cast out into the sea and expected to sink or swim.’
There’s no human users manual for us to refer to. An ultimate all-encompassing guide to the truth of our existence and how to behave whilst we are here.
Yet it’s a paradox. Despite a great deal of fear and doubt, despite the fact there are things we can’t change.
We still remain free.
Free to make choices, without the past defining who we are.
The real question is, ‘how do we respond to this?’ Of being ‘thrown’. As a species as an individual.
Some thoughts on this.
A passionate existence
To live, is to live with passion.
To be thrown into existence is to live in confusion and doubt. To suffer the hurt of not knowing, of having nothing that can be counted upon. Of having circumstances thrust upon us without any choice in the matter.
But it’s also here that we can live with a passionate desire for it to be different. To not just endure life in this storm, but to prosper.
So we chase idols of wealth and beauty. Accumulate possessions, and status.
It’s the desperate struggle for our lives to have some order and meaning.
To find…. something, anything we can count on.
Uncertainty isn’t going to go away. It’s our lot in life to suffer the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’
It’s in this struggle that we will find out who we are and what we want. To find that direction and purpose we want so much. To make a difference.
To be alive is to live with the passion and the suffering. Full of doubt, fear, and yearning. Life is that struggle on the sea of uncertainty.
One thing we do a lot of is search. Search for truth, how things actually are.
We want answers.
Clarity over what is important in life. So we can stop wasting time and focus on efforts that are more likely to succeed.
We want to know how to be rich, powerful, successful.
So we read books, as watch videos, listen to podcasts. Buy products and services to meet our needs. Ask our friends, and peers what we should do.
We explore the planet, study the heavens, the atom. We try to understand ourselves, and who we are.
We never stop asking questions, and never cease trying to find the answers.
We build homes to feel safe from the elements to keep us warm and dry, clothes too. From caves to brick houses. Animal skins to denim.
We create whole bodies of knowledge, religious, philosophical, scientific. All to help us understand the world. Make us feel special or important. Give us the ideas to help us operate and thrive in this world.
We create systems of morals, and jurisprudence to create some semblance or order and justice in the world.
We create communities. Bond together in families, tribes and organisations. So we don’t feel so alone in the struggle, and to keep us safe from predators and threats.
We create art, literature, narratives, that reflect our existence. But are also used to teach and inspire others.
We build cities, roads, networks of information, transportation, and ideas.
We create goods to sell, in return for wealth.
Humanity can be defined as one massive creative enterprise.
All with the aim of finding safety and security, meaning and purpose. I call this Homo Sapiens Grand Project.
We have been thrown upon the sea of uncertainty. Left to cast around trying to figure things out for ourselves.
Our response as a species has been little short of world building.
As individuals our struggle against uncertainty is the same. We are taught to chase after idols like status, power and vitality. Our desperate pursuit is the source of our drive, but also our suffering.
But to you I ask. How do you deal with the doubt, the uncertainty?
What are you building in response?
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