How then does one maintain hope, let alone desire? How does one escape the undertaker that is time? What’s an existentialist to do?
You didn’t choose how you were born, or with what endowment you were born with. The only thing you really can choose is whether or not to go gentle into that good night. Why not choose when to leave? It’s gonna happen eventually.
However tempting that is, Camus and his ilk deny that argument. After all, only optimists commit suicide. Nihilists without any remnants of optimism simply forsake the metaphors of the world and create their own meaning.
But if one is not dogmatic towards skepticism, and so believes in an objective world, this is not a valid option. It’s a reductio ad absurdum, as shown by Chesterton:
“I saw an almost startling example of … scepticism in a paper the other day. A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, and added that he had often wondered it was not a more common philosophy. Now Solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it.”
If one doesn’t retreat as so, then maybe one will retreat to the past. There is a comfort in nostalgia, even if painful or bittersweet. As put by a fictional shrink:
“Simpler times in boatyards with dad. That life is an anchor streamed behind [you] in heavy weather. [We] need anchors.” – Hannibal Lecter
On the other hand, place too much emphasis on the anchor and you’ll drown.
Which path do you choose?
Doesn’t matter. You’ll rationalize it either way. But in moments of clarity and honesty, you’ll ask yourself whether you would have chosen differently, or at least hope you could have.
Here’s to hoping that everything can change on a New Year’s Day.