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55984Existentialism acknowledges soft things too

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  • Mary
    Jul 14, 2011
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      Although slightly offended that you suffer no softies here, I nonetheless find your assessment that an existentialist requires courage quite on the mark. I accede to your insistence that competition is necessary, though for different reasons.

      Survival of the fittest is for the benefit of the group, not just the individual. As a naturalist, I recognize the struggle to survive also includes the essential components of nurture and play. Intellect has evolved to aid competition, and normally, predators don't eat one another. They are selected because they develop new strategies for finding sustenance shelter, not by relying on previous unsuccessful ones. There is a tipping point at which destruction of habitat and inhabitant destroys the destroyers.

      Sporting is more properly a vestigial function between persons who recognize the potential to earn a living, the sheer joy of movement, and yes, even competitive spirit. (This week, for example, I'm watching films The Hurricane, Ali, and Million Dollar Baby.) There are rules of engagement for fair sporting, but in life there generally are none. Competition between ideas is surely in a no holds barred venue, but one where skills like reason, finesse, and gentle strokes likewise ensure victory.

      To find truth, to achieve freedom, to attain culture, all require a "stern strife" against our immediate and arbitrary passions. Our planet is capricious enough without the need to maim and slaughter one another. The uncertainty of the first doesn't automatically determine the second. What it should determine is philosophy in earnest, whether fierce or gentle. Existentialism, like sports, is unique in uniting personal and cooperative aspects. Like the hero quest, it requires a courage which ultimately serves the whole.


      by Anne Sexton

      It is in the small things we see it.
      The child's first step,
      as awesome as an earthquake.
      The first time you rode a bike,
      wallowing up the sidewalk.
      The first spanking when your heart
      went on a journey all alone.
      When they called you crybaby
      or poor or fatty or crazy
      and made you into an alien,
      you drank their acid
      and concealed it.

      if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
      you did not do it with a banner,
      you did it with only a hat to
      cover your heart.
      You did not fondle the weakness inside you
      though it was there.
      Your courage was a small coal
      that you kept swallowing.
      If your buddy saved you
      and died himself in so doing,
      then his courage was not courage,
      it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

      if you have endured a great despair,
      then you did it alone,
      getting a transfusion from the fire,
      picking the scabs off your heart,
      then wringing it out like a sock.
      Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
      you gave it a back rub
      and then covered it with a blanket
      and after it had slept a while
      it woke to the wings of the roses
      and was transformed.

      when you face old age and its natural conclusion
      your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
      each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
      those you love will live in a fever of love,
      and you'll bargain with the calendar
      and at the last moment
      when death opens the back door
      you'll put on your carpet slippers
      and stride out.
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