Sunday, September 16, 2012

Self-Consciousness and Existential Angst

I was watching this video, and a thought occurred to me. Self-consciousness, by that I mean not simply the feeling of being overdressed for a social event, but more generally being aware of your state of being, reflecting on your own existence, is generally an unpleasant feeling.

It's not exactly an original thought. Buddhism came up with it 2500 years ago. In order to achieve enlightenment and hence nirvana, you have to let go of your ego. It's also a fundamental part of existentialism, the idea of angst.

It's odd that one of the few things that seems to be uniquely human is so apparently negative. It makes you wonder why that is. I have a couple wild ass guesses, but they aren't worth mentioning without further research.

It also makes you wonder what you can do about it. The simplest answer I can think of is to maintain a state of flow as much as possible, to do things that are engaging and challenging, so you can think more about it than yourself. (And it is apparently possible to achieve a state of flow by philosophizing about angst, paradoxically enough)

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