Lately, I have have been studying various theories and ideas about existentialism, but I have also been formulating my own interpretations.
By the mere fact that I have begun to form my own opinions about the existential experience, I realized something about one of the very fundamental ideas surrounding it.
First, I must say that my opinions and interpretations are individualistic, or in other words, I am the only being who can have the exact same opinions/interpretations as myself. In that way I believe that existentialism is by nature a very individualistic entity. But the question I keep coming back to is this: is existentialism as an individualistic way of life universal, or does claiming it to be universal contradict to the basic idea of existentialism itself?
For me, I can only understand my life and existence in an individual way. Who's to say, however, that other people might be able to identify themselves primarily by a group they belong to or as possibly a member of society at large? In this way, maybe some people truly do believe and feel that their life is created and existent because of a particular purpose or essence. I can't know whether or not this is the case with other people.
That brings me to the fundamental idea of existentialism I have been questioning. Sartre claimed that "existence precedes essence." By saying this, he claimed that we are here as people primarily for our individual existence, and any purpose we have for ourselves is man-made, or in other words, not inherent. This principle works very well for my life. I believe my life is an existential experience first, with my own experiences and thoughts giving me the ability to form my own essence.
However, I believe it would be ignorant and close-minded of me to say that this Sartre idea is UNIVERSAL. Who knows, right? Maybe everyone is born with a purpose. Maybe my essence is to exist and create my own path. Maybe other people believe firmly enough that they are born with a specific purpose that is becomes true. In that way, maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy is an integral part of the existence/existentialism debate.
All things considered, Sartre's original idea of existence preceding essence still works best for my life and my existence, and while I can ponder other peoples' existences, I can never know for sure. Hence all the 'maybes.'
Maybe one day I can figure all these things out in my life.