“JEAN PAUL SARTRE – Dialogues with Philosophers In Coronavirus Times” by Saurabh Todaria
Care Consciously! # DEFEAT CORONA

As I was getting bored because of the lockdown in our city, I started to ponder over the meaning of existence in the current situation. What if the mundane incident of buying a milk packet or vegetable results into the quarantine at some unknown location? How would it feel to be deprived of the basic feeling of touching and touched. Is existence so brittle and meaningless?

Aimlessly, I stare at the ceiling fan which is rotating with full force. After a short respite, my thoughts travel towards the thinker who has philosophized deeply over these issues, Jean Paul Sartre.

Me- Hello Sartre!
Sartre – Hello
Me- How are you?

Sartre – Well, I m as usual as lockdown has not changed much of my routine of reading and writing but yes, I miss my discussions and get-together.

Me- Hmm. Are you still sure of your philosophical ideas esp your famous quote , ‘Man is condemned to be free.’ We don’t seem to be free. Our life is completely under the state control now. We can’t move out even if we like to.

Sartre- Well, I meant by freedom is that man is free at every situation. He has to make choice.

Me- But we don’t have any choice but to stay indoors.

Sartre – The fact that you are staying inside shows that you have chosen life over death. As you wish to live hence you are staying indoors.

Me- What do you mean?

Sartre – See, some people attempt to escape or commit suicide when they are imprisoned. This means that they are choosing freedom over the life of prison. As you are neither running nor killing yourself inside home, this proves that you are prefering it.

Me-Hmm. Why is choice so necessary?

Sartre – Because existence precedes essence! Human essence is not given; he has to choose to ‘be’ in every situation.

Me- What if I don’t choose?

Sartre – Then you are in the ‘bad faith’.

Me- What is that?

Sartre – When you convert yourself into an object.

Me- Literally!

Sartre – In a way. When you fix your essence. Suppose if you say it is natural to be afraid and depressed because of covid then it means that you are behaving like an object. As human, you can behave differently.

Me- You mean to say we should behave positively in the face of danger.
Sartre- No. That again is like fixing the essence. I just say tou have to be authentic in your choice.

Me- Okay. It was helpful. Let me reflect on these issues.
Sartre – All right.

Me- But existence now seems to be impoverished in the lockdown
Sartre – As I always said that the absurdity is the essential part of life. But the very idea of impoverishment derives from some fixed essence of the life.

Me- Come on, I am talking of some basic human dignity.

Sartre – As nothingness is the part of the existence therefore, this struggle would always be the part of our existence. The important thing is that we should anchor our choices in authenticity.

As I was reflecting on these issues, I heard the chirping of birds. Now it is the dusk time. Birds are returning to their nests. Few days back while returning to home in evening, I used to identify with these birds. Now I am looking for some other example…

Disclaimer: The opinions endorsed by the speaker is solely his and not in any way endorsed by the organisers.