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Fiction: An Existentialist Monologue

The following is an imaginary monologue of a depressed existentialist who seeks therapy to overcome the dread of death:

One of Jean Paul Sartre's characters says, “Nothing happens while you live. The scenery changes, people come in and go out, that's all. There are no beginnings. Days are tacked on to days without rhyme or reason, an interminable, monotonous addition.”

I shared the character's mood until, that is, I sought psychotherapy. But let me first explain my neurosis.

It was a problem with time. My time to be precise. How I am related to it. What, if any, meaning there is for a life lived in linear time which never seems to slow down or stop to take a break? And how to face the dread of where time leads: to death.

You can see the future even if you can't see what will happen. It is there. I don't like the way it is moving under you like the water on the crest of a wave. The movement stays the same. In pace that is. But its meaning changes every day. It brings me closer to death. That is the inevitable break of the wave. The future, for me, is only dread. It is certain extinction.

The past is lost. I don't mean I don't remember it. I mean it is lost to me. I have lost it. What has happened cannot be altered. But something so fixed cannot be meaningful. It cannot be made sense of since it can never be revisited. It is lodged in grayscale tones, like historical film. At least film can be seen by everybody. No one will watch my past. Only me. It has no real meaning for me.

All I have left is the present. The present is that fleeting moment of color, of presence. But it is so quickly lost. No sooner have I come to the moment than it slips away. If I attempt to grip it it is like trying to trap a tomato seed under my finger. It is illusive.

Yet the now is all that there really is. This is my despair: That which is meaningful is also is so small. It is wedged like a knife blade, sharpened ever more by those twin tenses. And the sharper the knife, the more unpleasant my life.

In therapy I blunt the blade, to extend the now. After all, it is only I who can determine the breadth of the present if not its duration. I learn to live in an extended present, to infuse it with color. These are my colors and I can paint the moment anyway I choose. I make the moment, the moment does not make me. This is my freedom, it is my time. Time itself is all mine. It belongs not to the forces of nature, but to me and me alone. It may dictate the certainty of my demise, but it can never determine who I am.