Continuing the theme of our role in the world… As opposed to Martin Heidegger’s view of humans as the “Shepherds of Being” introduced in the previous blog entry, Jean-Paul Sartre believed we were masters of our existence, and that we could mold life to our own liking. The sum of our actions makes us who we are. In a way, we draw a portrait of ourselves by the choices of actions we pursue.
The idea of being masters of our own existence is beautiful and liberating, but I do not believe it alone defines our lives. While Sartre points out that we exist before we will or do anything, unwillingly I must add that our life circumstances are, to a degree, preceding our existence. For instance, we may be born in a mud hut, in a mention, to parents who are amazingly caring or absent. And to a large degree, these preceding circumstances, which we have not chosen for ourselves, define our lives as we grow up. We are born, therefore, as “Shepherds of Being.”
As we grow up, I do think that we become aware of our circumstances and then yes, we do make our own choices. But since life takes us in different, unexpected directions, and throws us into unwanted situations, like diseases and accidents, the moments when we simply have to stand back and observe what is going on, rethink our choices, reflect who we are and who we want to be. And it is the constant tension between standing on the sidelines of our existence, observing and accepting it, and reshaping it, that helps us become more empowered, knowledgeable and sensitive people.
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