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The Angst of Individuality

by Dr. Sushil Fotedar

Whenever I am in a relatively neutral state,  with nothing to be happy or sad about, I become conscious of a baseline but constant feeling of angst, appearing as bursts of anguished awareness and thereby defining me as an individual. The feeling is, of course, an unpleasant one, welling up like saliva in my mouth, a low-grade nausea of sorts. Probing deeper, I find that it is related to my being limited to my body, there being a despair at not being able to concretize this existence of mine and living it ‘inside out’, as it were, combined with a sense of being incomplete and, therefore, not in command of anything. When I look back in time, I come to the conclusion that I have already secreted my past out and it is no longer within me and gazing into the future also, I encounter the same inaccessibility, the same exteriority, the same opacity multiplied infinite times owing to the infinite possibilities out there . I see myself reduced to the infinitesimal present moment, converting the future into the past feverishly through a nihilating movement in a sort of total but painful freedom—a ‘liberum arbitrium’ of sorts.

Sartre has defined this anguish as arising out of the gratuitous facticity of the ‘being-for itself’, i.e., the utter meaninglessness of my own self . Everything is ‘de trop’, just there, for nothing. There are similar beings ‘out there’, outside of myself, the ‘beings-for-others’ who in the solitary confines of their existence encounter a similar feeling yet cannot reach out to me. Additionally, according to Sartre, there is this ‘being-in-itself’, the world of objects, that exists completely in itself, impenetrable to the other two states of being, yet defining their existence. This is curiously similar to the Samkhya Philosophy of Kapil at least to a certain extent. Kapil believes in a multitude of ‘Purushas’, supremely isolated like the being-for-itself and the beings-for-others, and the opaque ‘Prakriti’, of course the being-in-itself. However, further on the two philosophies become totally divergent. Sartre, Camus and others of their school of thought
, believe in an atheist existentialism wherein there is no escape from this gratuitousness whatsoever. Kapil's philosophy though also atheistic at least offers some relief for these poor purushas in the form of 'Kaivalya'!

however, make a ‘leap of faith’ here as Kierkegaard puts it. ‘Being’ is only one, at once immanent and transcendent, permeating, and coextensive with everything out there and yet beyond-- call it Para-Brahmn, Shunyata, Para-Bhairava, or whatever. Multiple ‘moments’ in this Being get coloured by certain groups of tendencies, the ‘Vasanas’, and thereby arise various individuals in their own worlds of objects, conscious because of the underlying life-giving ‘drops’ of Being yet painfully inadequate due to their misplaced identities, not aware of this underlying Unity .I perceive myself separate from other individual consciousnesses and, therefore, in constant dread of the ‘other’; totally incomplete yet trying to fill my emptiness with something or the other knowing deep down that I am bound to fail. The angst continues… .

… Till the ‘I’ bursts and loses itself into the infinite Being!!



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