…I am condemned to be free. This means that no limits to my freedom can be found except freedom itself, or if you prefer, that we are not free to cease being free.
…I am responsible for everything, in fact, except for my very responsibility.
…I am abandoned in this world…in the sense that I find myself utterly alone and without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.
…I cannot ask ‘Why was I born?’ or curse the day of my birth or declare that I did not ask to be born…I am condemned to be wholly responsible for myself.
~ Jean-Paul Sartre, “Being and Nothingness” (L’être et le néant)
Existentialist philosophy often has connotations of high-brow intellectualism and a certain detachment from everyday living. The questions that it articulates, however, may be among the most common of human experience, even if never explicitly spoken—why am I here? what should I do? what does it matter?
Or, in short: what is this life that I am beholden to?
Spoiler alert: there are no answers (per se)