Quora answer: Which character was deemed as the first existential crisis in literary history?

Jul 09 2011


Quora: http://www.quora.com/Which-character-was-deemed-as-the-first-existential-crisis-in-literary-history/answer/Kent-Palmer?__snids__=22508750#comment470265

Topicmarks Summary: http://topicmarks.com/d/1BQKs1HrJrtMYKrvrCOE26640

Existential Crisis?

There is no existential crisis per se, but a crisis that occurs when one comes out of Being and realizes that its projections are illusions.

But this situation is muddied by the fact that many of the so called existentialists never make it out of Being and so what is called an existential crisis is a catastrophe within Being.

If you mean realization of anomie or lack of meaning in existence when it is realized that the projections are empty, then the crisis itself is implicit in Being as an illusion, seeing existence where value projections cease has no crisis. You don’t have a crisis when you pick up a rock beside the road and then lose it. You have a crisis when you find gold then lose it. But ultimately gold and the rock beside the road are the same except for our valuing Gold due to its relative rarity.

The better example are diamonds, the only reason they are considered valuable is that there is a monoply artificially maintained that takes the worlds surplus of diamonds and stores them to create an illusory scarcity which then allows what is essentially worthless to have a high price. That and advertising like “Diamonds are forever” seems to work to maintain this illusion of their worth.

The person who realizes that diamonds are worthless and does not invest in them has no crisis. The one who has crisis is the one who buys of lots of diamonds and because he believes the advertising, or because his bride believes it, and then realizes he was gypped because they are actually worth as much as sand, well maybe a little more. Artificial Diamonds are colored and are too perfect and so they are differentiated from so called “Real” diamonds. But we can essentially produce as many diamonds as we want, everyone could have real diamonds rather than paste because diamonds are worth about as much as paste, well perhaps a little more.

The tragedy in all this is of course Blood Diamonds, i.e. a few diamonds that escape from the monopoly due to the arms trade. People actually die because these renegade diamonds are worth quite a bit due to the artificial scarcity created by the monopoly. And of course the whole idea of Blood Diamonds is par of the advertising crusade to keep the Monopoly as tight as possible because these leaks could make people realize that diamonds are worthless. So the advertisers create an artificial difference and blame the drug and arms traders for a situation that need not exist. We don’t talk about blood gold.

Anyway, the fact that diamonds are in reality just like the stones beside the road in their actual value is a real irony. But it points up the way we create illusory values, like printed money for instance, and then these illusory signs of possible exchange that are given value, and then that shapes the constraints on our lives that otherwise would not exist, but also opportunities that would not exist. The constraints and opportunities can be very real to us in spite of the fact that they are founded on illusory distinctions that are instituted in Being but do not really exist.



Answer [to who is the first “existential” character] is Achilles who is the first character in our tradition who reacts to nihilism. But there is no existential crisis as such but a crisis with respect to Being.


Achilles redeems himself from this accusation[of being a brute]. It is the river that is the “brute” and to which he is contrast. But he redeems himself when his humanity returns after his berzerker rage after then death of Patroclus and in which he killed Hector. He gives Hector’s father the body of his fallen son, and in that we see the fact that Achilles will never see his own father again, as does Odysseus. Understanding the pathos of the situation requires that we go back to the marriage of Thetis his mother, and recognize that only she and Demeter wear the black cloak of greif one for the son and the other for the daughter, and so these two stories are parallel. All the structures of our worldview are exemplified in these epic, structures we have forgotten about, or that have been lost in oblivion. These stories are free of the anxiety of influence because they are the primordial epics of the Indo-European worldview which we only see properly when we compare them carefully with the later and not as deep Mahabharata. But in the Mahabharata we get the whole picture that is missing from the Iliad and Odyssey. We have to go back before the anxiety of influence to the poems that were preserved because they were perfect, but perfect in relation to what, perfect in relation the structure of the indo-european worldview, because they exemplify its structure perfectly. “Existential angst” in most cases merely is a confrontation with the contradiction, paradox, and absurdity of Being itself. It does not reach to the nonduality of existence that is beneath the superstructure of myriad veils of Illusion (Maya) produced by Being (Sat). There is no crisis of Existence only a crisis of Being when the illusion is shattered, but you can only have illusions in contrast with reality and reality is an aspect of Being as well as Existence. But existence is neither aspect nor anti-aspect while quintessence is both aspect and anti-aspect. Quintessence is the key, it is the philosophers stone. In Achilles in his realization of the nihilism of the war (i.e. Trojans and Acheans are the Same) then Achilles exemplifies passivity, that then causes his “friend/lover” to be killed, and then he switches over into the Indo-European bezerker rage and becomes like a force of nature, killing indiscriminately, and it is this rage that allows him to overcome Hector. But passivity and the bezerker rage are artificial extreme opposite actions that are the reaction to the realization of the nihilistic situation and the consequent loss of meaning of Achilles. We must remember that Achilles is a tragic character with one weak spot, otherwise he is like a god.


No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog