The Much Admired (By Me) Beer Mug Sitting On A Shelf Above The Bar At Saloon No. 10
Inside The Oldstyle Saloon No. 10
Doing Homework In Saloon No. 10
Perhaps I had too much fun. Not only was I using the bar for
home base, I also did my studies there (sometimes, I also did my
studies up where Bill and Calamity Jane were buried side by side).
I wanted to get some pay back for reading Sartre in Hawaii, so I
enrolled in an Independent Study course on Sartre. Back when
I dropped out of school, my Professor gave me a year to complete
the class by the mail. It’s hard to say if it was worth it or not.
I got a B in the class.
Critiquing Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being And Nothingness
“But Jimmy isn’t like that! He couldn’t have thought of such a thing,
let alone taken part in it. I’ve known Jimmy since he was crawling on
all fours. He’s a good boy.”
yesterday he brought me some of his mother’s apple jelly. Now there’s
a good woman, bless her heart. No! For Christ’s sake, Jimmy is a good
boy. If you want to spread rumors, go find someone who wants to listen
And there we have a classic example of “failed communication.” Being
And Nothingness offers little to satisfy the questioning mind, (except
perhaps, an explanation of the question itself). The above dialogue,
however common, is stripped of its content when considered from
Sartre’s existential point of view. His work opens the door to a
behavior where there are no more “good boys.” But, how many people
will even listen to the man who deprives them of “all the good boys.”
Sartre gives everything to the individual, but when all is said and
done the individual is left with nothing. Psychology has identified
much of what constitutes the modern personality, but Sartre has
reduced all that complexity to the free choice of the conscious mind.
Behaving thusly, I choose myself, now until death. The police chief,
the mayor, and the kid down the street are no more, or no less, than
the choices they act upon. What’s new about that? “Nothing,” Sartre
would say, except he also would probably add, “That’s all you are!”
In a way, Sartre’s “choosing of oneself” has an affinity with the
story of the Midas Touch, only here it’s not gold that overwhelms, its
freedom. We are free, and freedom is perhaps our most cherished
possession. Yet, does this freedom bring joy? What exactly does
freedom bring? Are we free to not be free? Is freedom truly worth the
praise lavished upon it? Midas possessed the one thing that he thought
could make him happy, but it didn’t. One could probably say the same
thing about Sartre’s freedom.
The consequences of freedom comprise the bulk of Sartre’s work. What
he revealed, in my opinion, is more of a “Pandora’s box” than a gift
to humanity. The gold Midas got almost killed him. He was lucky enough
to wish his predicament away. We, on the other hand, are not so lucky.
To be free does not mean to obtain what is wished for. Rather,
according to Sartre, it means to “determine oneself to wish.”
Nothingness resides deep within our psyche because of this freedom. It
haunts our being and provides us with an unconditional response to
existence. We are always given back to ourselves. There is no purpose,
reason, or faith associated with this freedom. It is, for Sartre,
simply a condition of existence.
The cliché “Is that all there is?” pretty much sums up my take on
Sartre’s freedom. Because of this freedom we are without
meaning; we are adrift in a void. We have freedom of
nothing, and this nothing leaves us with no conclusion. It is a
nihilation of our rational being. It is the negation of whoever we
are. It leaves us with nothing, yet we are not free not to be it, and,
as a consequence, we, as decision-making human beings, must be
responsible for the choices we act upon and make. Sartre traces this
“bottom line” back to the negation found at the source of our being.