Father to a 7-year-old existentialist

Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, half-length ...
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Last night, we were eating dinner at a stargazing gathering in the Mojave desert. Anatol made a comment about death, and I commented, “That’s my little existentialist.”

Anatol: “What’s an existentialist?”

Me: “Existentialism is a school of philosophy which was big after World War II… you know, Camus, Sartre… OK, it means that even if life seems absurd, you have to create your own meaning…”

Anatol: “I don’t understand.”

Me: “Suppose I were to ask, what’s the pupose of life and why are we here?”

Anatol: “We’re here because of the explosion of a supernova!”

At this, the scientists at the table from NASA and JPL pricked up their ears.

Me: “No, I mean… let me put it this way: A lot of people believe in God, and that’s OK, but suppose you don’t – what do you think, then, is the meaning of life?”

Anatol: “The meaning of life is 42!”

The whole table laughed.

Anatol: “Daddy, can I go roast some marshmallows now?”

My 7-year-old is quite proficient in finding his own meaning and living sincerely and passionately, and I’m here to help him roast those marshmallows.

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6 Replies to “Father to a 7-year-old existentialist”

    1. Actually, it’s the opposite. It’s good to remind scientists, philosophers, and adults in general that the sprit of a child is open by default, with no dogma, expectations or other baggage. We should all view the world with innocent eyes.

  1. He was upset by the ending of that film when he first saw it at age five, and he became angry that I showed him the film, as the ending seemed to him to be a cheat. As one who believed that the universe has a moral center, he was quite distressed that the hero got it in the end. I think I should save a re-screening of that film for him till when he’s a little older (say, eight).

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